In the world of hops, a lot has happened over the past several years. As recent as seven years ago, could anyone have imagined that by 2015 aroma acreage in the United States would surpass alpha acreage or that Willamette, the most popular aroma variety at the time, would no longer be considered in the top 5? How about the fact that varieties with strange names such as Simcoe® YCR 14 cv., Citra® YCR 394 cv, and Mosaic™ HBC 369 cv, would not only be released for the first time, but would become so popular that they require five times the acreage of Willamette?
USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service reports that 2015 hop acreage is up 16% in the Pacific Northwest alone, representing 5,796 new acres across Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
In addition, this year marks the sixth year in a row that aroma hop acreage has increased and the seventh consecutive year that alpha acreage has decreased in the United States. This trend resulted in aroma acreage outpacing alpha acreage for the first time in 2013 and continues through 2015 with no sign of changing in the near future.
As a further sign of hop growers’ willingness to invest and quickly adapt to brewers’ needs, there are now more than 1,250 acres of hops grown outside of the Pacific Northwest. This is an increase of 41% from last year. Local hop farms can now be found in an estimated 19 states, including California, Colorado, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin. Many of these states had thriving hop cultures at various points in their history and we anticipate capital for infrastructure will continue to flow into new operations as demand dictates.
While the overall view of hop acreage increases is interesting, it is worth taking a look at the specific varieties behind some of these changes. Since 2010, we have seen a three-fold increase in Cascade hops, resulting in this popular variety now being the most planted in the United States. Centennial acreage has also increased 10 times over the same period. Despite this amazing growth, the fastest growing trend belongs to Simcoe®, Citra®, and Mosaic® hops which were virtually non-existent as commercial varieties in 2008, but now represent nearly 20% of total US acreage.
To make room for the plantings of aroma hops in demand from the craft segment, other hop varieties have seen significant decreases in acreage over the same 7 year time span. CTZ (Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus) is down more than 7,500 acres, and today, acreage in this key alpha variety is just over 5,000 acres. Nugget acreage is down to half of what is was over the same time period and Galena acreage is less than 10% of 2008 acreage. Willamette, the leading aroma variety in 2008 at over 7,000 acres is down to just 1,400 acres.
Knowing all of this, we have to ask, “Will these trends continue?” In the short term, the answer is probably yes, as craft beer producers target 20% market share by 2020. Long term, the crystal ball is a little hazier. Will the craft segment embrace more efficient hopping regimes? How will the big international lager producers satisfy their alpha needs if current acreage trends continue? Are there new hop varieties on the horizon which will change the dynamics?
Stay tuned. We wish you nothing but hoppiness as we face the future together.