U.S. hop acreage forecast at record high

Hops grow in Oregon's Willamette Valley in this file photo. Despite a slowdown in the craft brewery growth rate and flat sales for big brewers, U.S. hop acreage is still climbing as new plantings come into full production.

YAKIMA, Wash. — U.S. hop acreage is forecast at a record 53,282 acres this year, up 4 percent over last year, with new acreage and plantings entering full production.

The 2018 forecast for Washington is 39,273 acres, which is 71 percent of total U.S. acreage, according to a July 2 report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Idaho is projected at 8,217 acres, or 15 percent of the total, and Oregon is projected at 7,849 acres, or 14 percent. Idaho shows the largest increase in acreage, up 1,224 acres, or 17.5 percent.

Mike Gooding, president of Gooding Farms north of Wilder, Idaho, and vice chairman of the Idaho Hop Growers Commission, said the state’s additional acreage this year primarily consists of hops contracted two years ago that are finally being established.

“A lot of times, growers are not able to establish all acres in one season,” Gooding said. “And we have a couple of new growers in the area. They established part of their acreage last year and part this year.”

Washington state is up 835 acres, or 2 percent, and Oregon is unchanged.

Expansion of small craft breweries fueled an increase in aroma hop varieties for several years but that’s slowed as the rate of craft brewery growth has slowed and larger brewers have lost market share to other beverages.

Plantings of the super high alpha varieties of Zeus and Columbus/Tomahawk have increased due to concern about a possible upcoming deficit of alpha for larger brewers globally, said Jaki Brophy, Hop Growers of America and Washington Hop Commission spokeswoman in Moxee.

“It’s questionable whether a 4 percent increase in acreage for 2018 was truly needed, given continued softening in the craft sector and overall flat beer growth globally,” said Peter Mahony, vice president of supply chain and purchasing for John I. Haas Inc., a leading grower, processor and researcher of hops based in Yakima.

“But with craft’s big appetite for U.S. aroma hops, at least we are not seeing a further expansion of aroma acreage but rather flat-lined with varietal rebalancing going on,” Mahony said.

The increase in high alpha is in direct competition with Germany, which is also expanding acreage, he said. Germany is the world’s largest producer of high alpha hops.

Cascade was the top U.S. hop variety in production for years and a workhorse for craft breweries but has been dropping for two years and now is No. 3, Mahony said.

The big gainer is the aroma variety Citra, now No. 1, at 6,652 acres and up 30 percent, he said. The high alphas of Zeus and Columbus/Tomahawk are No. 2 at 6,102 acres and the aroma variety Centennial has dropped to No. 4 at 4,864 acres.

Corrections for Cascade and Centennial were anticipated, and they likely will drop further over the next two years, he said.

“It’s good to see corrections occurring fairly quickly, which will help to bring these varieties back into balance,” he said. “Simcoe is another leading proprietary aroma variety which also appears to have caught up with demand and will see a reduction.”

Gooding said he expects a sizable percentage of Crystal, a public hop variety for which demand has dropped, to be rotated out in Idaho next year. NASS reported Crystal acreage in Washington, Oregon and Idaho is down this year.

Reporter Brad Carlson contributed to this story.

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