MOXEE, Wash. — The U.S. hop industry had 83 million pounds of old crop in storage on Sept. 1 which was 8 percent less than a year ago, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
It’s reflective of an oversupply of alpha hop varieties, used by big brewers, coming down to more normal levels while some stocks of aroma varieties, used by smaller craft brewers are sold out, said Ann George, administrator of Hop Growers of America and the Washington Hop Commission, both in Moxee.
The reduction in inventory perhaps could be offset by NASS previously estimating the 2015 crop at 80 million pounds, up from 71 million last year. However, world supply of alpha hops will be largely determined by Germany which is expected to be down this year because of drought and wind. George said she’s heard it may be down 15 to 20 percent but that numbers won’t be known until the International Hop Growers Convention in Germany, Nov. 9.
The 2015 U.S. harvest began a month ago, is finished in Oregon and is wrapping up in Washington, George said.
In the U.S., large and small brewers had 37 million pounds of old crop hops in stock on Sept. 1, down 14 percent from last year, while dealers and growers had 46 million pounds, down 2 percent from a year ago, NASS said.
Small brewers probably don’t have a lot of storage capacity and the aroma varieties they use don’t store as well as alpha varieties, George said.
It’s important for craft brewers to have contracts in place for aroma supply, otherwise they may not find enough on the open market, she said.
Growth of craft breweries has increased demand for aroma varieties “to a level that has challenged the industry to continue to expand production at an equivalent rate,” she said.
Craft breweries have projected 20 percent annual growth through 2020 which has resulted in Pacific Northwest hop growers expanding aroma acreage and converting alpha acreage to aroma. There’s been a 48 percent increase in PNW hop acreage in the past three years and a 52 percent increase in acreage if the 3 percent of production outside the PNW is counted, George said.
Yet a lot of that “baby” acreage is not yet in production. It takes about two years to get new hop yards into production, she has said.
Some early season aroma varieties in the Yakima area were impacted by heat in June while later alpha varieties appear to be average in yield, she said.