Have Your Hops Contracts Come Up Short?

With contracted hops the norm for breweries and the hops shortage of 2008 well in the rear-view mirror, the spot market isn’t exactly what most breweries use to thrive for daily brewing life.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, Odell Brewing buys very few hops on the spot market, relying on its forward contracts for core needs.

“Contracting provides the hop growers and handlers the information and security they need to ensure a sustainable supply chain,” said Odell COO Brendan McGivney.

There is always the happenstance that a certain hop could be needed, and at that point, especially for smaller and mid-sized breweries, finding hops on the spot market can become a reality.

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Most hop brokers have sales people available to work directly with brewers throughout the country. They are also well represented at brewing trade shows and seminars. Sometimes, reaching for the phone can be all that is needed. Many breweries form co-ops among local hop growers and other breweries to ensure that needs are taken care of as well.

“We have made lots of friends throughout the brewing industry in the last 27 years,” McGivney said. “Fort Collins has a tight knit local community that is very open to helping each other out in a pinch. We have both received and supplied materials to keep things rolling.”

Odell has been shorted on contracted amounts for certain varieties in the past. McGivney noted that the brewery’s R&D team worked to determine viable alternatives.

“It is really nice to have a pilot system on site to help vet possible replacement varieties,” he said, noting that replacing a bittering hop rather than one used for flavor and aroma is easier.

“You really do need to run test batches to determine what works best,” he said.

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