Attention craft brew lovers: you just narrowly escaped disaster. All summer, German hop growers have been holding their breath as the hot weather held on with no break and no rain to give the hops a rest. Thankfully, late summer rains came to save the crop.
Germany is the second largest producer of hops and along with the United States provides 75 percent of the world’s hop supplies. In particular, brewers in Europe, Asia, and Africa rely heavily on German hops, and with the rise in popularity of craft beers, there has been a growing concern over recurring shortages in the hop crop even in a good year.
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Had Germany’s production dwindled, there would have been a lot less beer for everyone.
Not to worry though, farmers are predicting a normal crop this fall.
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Hops are one of the crucial ingredients in beer along with water, malt, and yeast. Naturally, with so much beer produced in the world, you’re going to need a lot of hops. Together Germany and the United States export about 26,000 tons annually.
This year, Stephan Barth, managing partner of Barth Haas, told Reuters, it is estimated that Germany will harvest around 39,200 tonnes of crops in 2017, only slightly down from the 42,700 tonnes harvested in 2016.
Barth also forecasts the United States’ crop to be around 45,000 tonnes, an increase of 5,000 tonnes from 2016. Despite these large numbers, agricultural production cannot keep up with demand. Even in the face of hops shortages, global demand is growing at about 1 percent per year.
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Namely, this is due to the rising popularity of craft beers.
The United States is forecast by Barth to harvest some 45,000 tonnes, up about 5,000 tonnes on 2016, but with harvesting also just beginning.
Global hop crops in the past five years were below demand and inventories had been used up, with global demand growing by around 1 percent a year due in part to the rising popularity of craft beers, Barth said.
“The 2-2.5 percent share of world beer market held by craft beers consumes around 20 percent of the hop harvest,” Barth added.
Why Does Craft Beer Use So Many Hops?
The reason for craft beer being the culprit in this scenario is simple: quality. Small-batch craft beer is produced in a traditional method which requires more hops than industrial brews. In particular, India Pale Ale can use up to six times the volume of hops used in industrially produced lagers.
So with the popularity of these beers growing and the hops industry struggling to keep up, it remains to be seen how the hops industry will hope. Let’s just hope they keep getting rain!