Monday, May 19, 2008
What Hop Shortage??
I've been following, with great interest, the unfolding 'crisis' of the world wide hop shortage. It rides on the fringe of world wide food shortages, both hampered by supply and demand issues and disturbing weather damage. A mere eighteen months ago, hop supplies were so abundant and plentiful that their prices dropped to a scant $3 a pound. This overabundance caused more than a few growers (many in Washington state) to pull up stakes, literally, and use their land to grow more profitable crops such as cherries and apples. The loss of hop farmers in that region (The Yakima Valley grows over 75% of the nations' hops) combined with a disastrous growing season in 2007, has deteriorated the abundant hop stores rapidly. At the end of 2006, a tragic fire in a large warehouse in Yakima, WA caused the loss of 2 million pounds of hops. (I can only imagine that those papery strobiles laced with resinous lupuline glands and essential oils must have made for a mighty, mighty fire.)To add insult to injury, in 2007, Europe lost most of their hop harvest to severe rains, Australia lost theirs to severe drought and Slovenia lost more than half of their hop crop to a single hail storm. Canada had an meager harvest at best. With over 1,400 craft breweries in the US alone and countless commercial breweries world wide, a major hop shortage could cause huge price increases in beer. All of these stats to say that I feel 'hoppy' that the MAN has had such success with the varieties of hops he grows...especially knowing that the going price for hops has jumped from $3 a pound to $35-$40 a pound ! No get-rich-quick scheming here, though. By volume, hops are nearly weightless...you need to pack a 5 gallon bucket to just get a single pound! That's a LOT of pickin' and pluckin' from those scratchy vines. It's just the principle of the thing. Just feeling smug that there'll be no need to dig deep into the pockets for this particular brewing staple. We are fully stocked and it appears to be another excellent growing season so far. Of course, there is that other essential staple that we may have to keep an eye on: Barley. Again, farmers are abandoning the fields of barley to grow corn for the ever-growing ethanol market. This combined with more substantial crop failures in 2007 and major fuel increases have caused price hikes. This isn't too much of a concern for mr. hobby brewer here, but it is something I certainly have to consider in pricing my coffee alternative Faux' Joe. It's number one ingredient is certified organic malted barley. Hmm, this is something I'm gonna have to 'brew' over in the coming months as I continue working on the next phase Faux' Joe business plan. Stay tuned!