Good Beer Hunting

Hop Acreage Outside Pacific Northwest Grows 75%

The amount of hop acreage planted outside the Pacific Northwest has grown 75% this year, now topping 2,100 acres. The vast bulk of American hops are still grown in Washington, with Oregon and Idaho batting clean up, but a number of states throughout the country are starting to blossom as legitimate hop markets.

Even as the U.S. has leapfrogged Germany to become the number one hop-growing nation on earth, prices are still up and demand still outpaces supply. But given how a mere three states account for more than 96% of all domestic growth, there is also ample room for any number of states to invest in the hop to alleviate that load. According to what we remember from Econ 101, that should, in turn, increase supply and level prices. Hell, even Florida’s getting in on the game at this point.
A couple weeks back, we reported on the Pacific Northwest’s record hop harvest this year, and there’s a reason the PNW is king. The region is geographically blessed in relation to the equator and the harvest climate is ideal. Secondly, it’s also possible that hops grown in, say, Maine or Michigan, will have different aromas and flavors than hops grown in Washington, including the many now ubiquitous varieties that inform hundreds of the most popular beers from all over the country. “In new areas, you’ve got to keep your ear to the ground,” Stone COO Pat Tiernan told the Portland Press Herald.
And that’s not a bad thing. Open roads only encourage innovation—and if you can’t get your hands on Cascade en masse, a handful of a new unnamed varietal from Virginia certainly represents an open road. Beyond that, it enables more breweries to proudly wave the flag of locality. Small craft brewers have long touted their use of locally sourced, small-batch ingredients from neighboring producers—chocolatiers, vintners, coffee makers, etc.—as an edge. So when the hop itself, the genuine soul of the beverage, becomes a truly local product, don’t be surprised if it fundamentally changes what we consider to be a “local beer.”

—Dave Eisenberg

As thirst for craft beer grows, Maine hop production ramps up [Portland Press Herald]