Do You Know Where Your Hops are Grown?

A regional identification program for where hops are grown is going national.

Hop Growers of America is now assigning grower numbers — an industry standard practice for all commercial growers — to any commercial hop grower located in the U.S.

As Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson explained, it’s been a practice that has gone on for decades in the Pacific Northwest growing area of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, which makes up roughly 98 percent of the acreage devoted to hop fields in the U.S.

“Grower numbers are one of a number of data points that we log with every brewer’s cut that we assess, and have helped us to recognize the farms and the growing regions that produce the best hop for our beers,” Brynildson said.

HGA will assign grower numbers to any commercial hop grower that meets some minimal requirements. Typically, this service was provided by the state’s hop commissions of Washington, Idaho and Oregon, where assessments on production for each grower is mandated by law. However, HGA is now providing grower numbers to hop growers outside of these states at no cost. It is also independent of membership to the HGA.

HOPS-Michigan Hop Yard aerial-1

Each hop bale is labeled not only with the grower number, but also the year, lot number, and the variety. As food traceability is increasingly important to the American public, more and more consumers and producers are interested in the origins of their ingredients.

“Having a standardized system in place that connects the bale to the growers in these new regions is obviously important,” Brynildson said.

Approximately 600 acres of hop fields outside of the Pacific Northwest will be added to this program.

“This standard has been a part of the hop industry in the Northwest for decades, and has helped guide brewers, not only for reasons of raw material traceability, but also for reasons of consistency and familiarity with individual farms,” Brynildson said.

A recent report by the International Hop Growers Convention shows that the U.S. has 131 million pounds of hops in inventory. Most of that crop is under contract, but some will be available on the spot market as well. The estimated increase for the U.S. is 13 percent more than 2015, which saw a 19 percent increase from the year before.

Projected increases would bring the U.S. hop acreage to 51,275 acres.

Photos courtesy: Hop Growers of America/Michigan Hop Alliance

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