There’s much talk in the news of a hop shortage in the United States that is driving up hop prices and forcing craft breweries to come up with clever ways of redesigning their beers to keep up with the demand for brand favorites. On a recent visit to Sonoran Brewing in Phoenix, Arizona head brewer Scott Yarosh told me he had to contract his hops three years out and lamented the scarcity of some of his preferred hop types. One of the joys of brewing beer, as home brewers and professional brewers alike know, is the variation that is possible when putting together a recipe for a batch whether it’s a hopped up IPA or a malty Scotch Ale. Professional brewers, however, need to recreate their core beers time and again with the same ingredients or risk losing sales if consumers turn their noses up at the changes to their favorite brews. When making the recipe for one of his new ales, Scott explained that because of the lack of availability of a particular hop he wanted to use, he instead had to combine two others to approximate the aroma and flavor profile he was looking to create.
Is this cause for alarm? Will an inevitable hop shortage catastrophe drive commodity prices (and consequently retail prices) through the roof and kill the craft brew industry? I doubt it. A recent analysis by the Brewers Association shows that even with the sharp rise in brewery permit applications, the United States doesn’t even come close to European countries in terms of breweries per capita and there’s no sign of slowing demand by craft brew consumers. In addition, Americans are pretty resourceful and always on the look out for opportunities. As demand grows, hop farmers will continue to create new and exciting varieties and develop acreage all over the country to make room for more hop farms. The end result could be a boon to consumers in the form of variety and choice and that is good for everyone.