Ian Ward, president of Brewers Supply Group in Shakopee, Minnesota -- the nation's largest craft brew supplier -- says things are only going to get worse. "That's the crisis that brewers are finding themselves in," Ward says. "They're having to review their recipes. The crisis really hasn't hit hard yet."
The hop shortage became noticeable around July, when a market glut and hop reserves stored in extract began dwindling.
The bulk of U.S.-grown hops are produced in the Yakima, Washington, area. Farmers weren't getting a profitable return and got out of the market, switched crops or went bankrupt. The same was happening in Germany, the world's No. 1 hop-growing country.
In the United States alone, there were an estimated 515 hop growers in 1950; 75 in 2000 and just 45 today, Ward says. In 2006, about 2 million pounds of hops were destroyed in an S.S. Steiner warehouse in Yakima, equaling about 4 percent of the U.S. hop crop.
All the while, beer sales are increasing worldwide by about 1 to 2 percent annually. The craft brewing industry is growing yearly by 12 percent. That economic reality is pushing hop growers back into the fields.
Anybody noticed any differences in price or taste?