Hop Shortage Already Biting

Pete Brown wrote this week about the likely impact of a shortage of American hops:

This year, the global hop harvest is on average between 30-40% down on what it should be. Every day, Charles Faram gets a call from another UK craft brewer asking for Cascade, Chinook, Citra and Nelson Sauvin, because those are the varieties used in successful craft beers right now. Many of these callers are going to be disappointed.

When we interviewed Peter Elvin, the enigmatic character behind the Penzance Brewing Company at the Star Inn in Crowlas, last Saturday, he said:

I use a blend of different hops in all my beers so that, if one of them disappears, it’s less important. I try to keep a stock in so that I can phase a hop out over ten or fourteen brews, too, so it’s not so jarring. But Trink is predominantly Citra, and there ain’t no Citra, so that’s on the way out.

So, there you have it: the hop shortage isn’t just abstract chat — it’s actually going to mean that one of our top beers of 2015 is no longer available.

On the upside, maybe Andy Parker has a point:

It’s certainly good news that Mr Elvin has made his increasingly impressive dark mild a regular on the bar at the Star Inn during the course of this year.

There’ll be more from Peter Elvin in our #BeeryLongreads piece on 18 December.

7 replies on “Hop Shortage Already Biting”

Had a similar conversation at the weekend with Gráinne Walsh from Metalman in Waterford: there’s no Nelson Sauvin to be had, so regular seasonal Windjammer is now in indefinite suspension.

It could be argued that this will sort the sheep from the goats amongst craft brewers. It’s often seemed that the recipe for success was to bung in loads of New World hops. If they’re no longer available, brewers will be forced to come up with something different.

I think you may be doing some of the craft brewers a disservice, some are very on the ball brewing-wise, its not all about chuck it all in and see what happens, there is certainly more “craft” involved than many mainstream real ale producers. But as you say a restriction on materials may sort the wheat from the chaff.

I understand that by “between 30-40% down on what it should be” what is meant is that in the 5000 craft brewery universe demand for hops has outstripped still growing (but more normally growing ) supply. Is this a hop shortage or a brewery surplus?

There’ll be a bit more on that when we write up our chat with Peter Elvin. As we understand it, most beers are made with several varieties of hop partly because it makes it easier to ditch one (either because of availability or poor quality) without the beer losing its essential character. In most cases, a hop substitution can also be introduced over the course of several brews. But Citra, from what we hear, is almost impossible to substitute.

It`s really gonna be tough year. But I know a person who maybe will have a substitution for some of you, if you have problem with shortage of some varieties.

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