Craft Brewing Leads Surge for U.S. Hop Fields

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As the number of breweries in the U.S. rises, so does the need for hops. And while demand has increased, the U.S. hop industry has continued to deliver. For a fourth consecutive year, acreage in the U.S. has grown, this time up an additional 18.5 percent to a total of 53,213 acres, an increase of 8,303 new acres from 2015.

Although a surge in numbers is nice, hop growers are warning brewers that hop growing cycles aren’t an overnight success. The fields are there, but crops are yet to mature to peak performance and a demanding market is always on a fine line.

“We’re very pleased with the U.S. hop industry’s ability to respond to the demands of a burgeoning craft brewing industry,” said Hop Growers of America President Kevin Riel, adding there is a “fine line between ample and over-supply which causes instability in supply and prices.

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“Given the permanent nature of planting additional hops and the significant investment required to do so, restraint and an understanding of long time partnerships will be required from all involved to ensure a steady supply in the near and distant future,” he said.

The Pacific Northwest led the way in acreage expansion by planting 17 percent more acres of hops (7,482 acres) along with adding additional production capacity. According to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service, Cascade — a popular craft beer hop — continues to hold the lead with 7,371 acres, while Centennial overtook bittering hop CTZ for second place with 5,009 acres.

Washington’s Yakima Valley leads U.S. production with 37,475 acres, representing over 70 percent of the country’s acreage. Oregon and Idaho follow with 7,669 and 5,971 acres respectively.

The 2016 crop in the Pacific Northwest looks good according to a release from the USDA. Pest pressure is normal, however erratic weather has resulted in higher disease pressure from downy and powdery mildew while water supplies are currently projected to be adequate across the region. The USDA added that with efficient drip irrigation systems, growers are expected to have minimal impact unless future weather conditions result in further reductions.

Michigan, the leader outside of the Pacific Northwest, has an estimated 650 acres in production with more under development. The total for Pacific Northwest producing states increased in acreage by 64% this year, with 26 states reported 2,098 acres in production, collectively.

“The US hop industry has been in catch-up mode in recent years as the supply of craft-popular U.S. aroma hops has lagged behind the dramatic growth of the craft brewing sector in both domestic and overseas markets,” said Pete Mahoney, Vice President, Supply Chain/Purchasing at John I. Haas. “The 2016 acreage expansion is once again a direct response to market demand and does not happen overnight. It requires significant planning and commitment of industry resources.”

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