We’ve got good news and bad news, and all of it has to do with the recently released Hop Acreage Report from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. (Yes, even the acronym for this department – USDA-NASS – is a mouthful.)
First, the good news: hop acreage is up. Sixteen percent, to be exact, when looking at the numbers from last year’s harvest and this year’s
planting. Even better, the hop flowers in the ground are the ones you’ve been lusting after.
“The aroma varieties where supply was not meeting demand have increased sharply,” reports Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, in a recent article. “These acreage increases are a great sign that dealers and growers are highly tuned in to brewer needs (albeit with a few year lag on new hop varieties).”
So what are the hot new in-the-ground varieties? The BA calls them the “winners” of the acreage report: Simcoe, Centennial, Citra, and Mosaic. We call most of them frequent ingredients at CMBC!
And now for the bad news…
These are all Northwest hops, grown in the Northwest part of the country… you know, the same place that’s been dealing with a devastating drought. Many farmers are now facing state-mandated water restrictions, a big problem since hops require up to three gallons of water per plant per day.
“Although I would summarize the acreage numbers are exactly what brewers (collectively) wanted to see (though individual brewers may be various levels of pleased), the yield question is huge,” says Watson. “A low yielding crop could easily swing a five million pound projected increase (over 2014) to a five million – or in worst case scenarios – ten million pound decrease.”
In other words: just because these hops have been planted doesn’t mean they’ll grow. Mother Nature will have the final say in that.
Watson suggests a rain dance. We second it.