Trend Watching: 2016 Hop Production and the Rise of Citra

hop bines

What better kind of “end of year” review than one related to hops, the national treasure of our beer loving country?

Another annual report was released this week, this time from the USDA, providing updated statistics that further show glimpses into our ongoing love affair with whatever will give our IPAs that “juicy” flavor everyone is seeking these days. While last year’s darling might have been Mosaic, there’s no question who the belle of the ball is this time around.

2016 appears to be Citra’s year.

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These Are the Hops Changing Beer – and Your Expectations

hop bine

There’s a running joke on one of my favorite podcasts, Steal This Beer, where co-host and Carton Brewing owner Augie Carton refers to Mosaic hops as the “sluttiest” hop out there.

Of all the varieties available to brewers – and there are a lot – Mosaic doesn’t just play nicely with other hops, it also offers its own flavorful characteristics that range from tropical fruit to blueberry and even pine. Whether in a pale ale or IPA, consumers are lapping up Mosaic-focused brews across the country. As one of the hottest “aroma” hops available on the market, its popularity continues to grow as more drinkers seek out beers that move beyond bitterness.

So it comes as no surprise that Mosaic is having a moment in the spotlight. If you didn’t notice it in your beer or on a label in 2015, know that there’s an even better chance you won’t miss it in 2016.

Mosaic might have been 2015’s Hop of the Year – it definitely has my vote – but looking back on last year’s harvest, we’ve got a great idea of which hops are making a splash right now and perhaps how your favorite beers will taste in the future.

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More on Hops: Prices and Future Growth

hop bine

A follow up to yesterday’s look at hop planting trends and the beers that influence them, since 1,000 words is certainly enough for one post…

Pricing

Obviously, one of the biggest topics related to the use of agricultural goods can be cost. That’s certainly not lost on hops, which has a wide range of pricing dependent on supply and demand.

Aroma hops are hot right now, so it’s a natural assumption varieties in that category would cost more.

As the Brewers Association’s Bart Watson noted in this piece, aroma vs. alpha hop prices move in opposite directions at the moment, partially because “Germany continues to be the lower cost alpha provider to the world, so U.S. aroma acres keep marching upward.”

Watson mentioned that spot market prices may have little relation to contracted prices, but for posterity’s sake, here are the lowest prices I could find on the Lupulin Exchange for hops they had available and I recognized as popular aroma/flavor additions, so note that these may not necessarily reflect the highest or even other prices:

Hop Variety Price per pound
2013 US Amarillo $26.25
2014 US Amarillo $20
2014 NZ Pacific Jade $16.28
2014 NZ Green Bullet $14.70
2014 US Centennial $11.83

On the other end, here are popular bittering hops (I realize Columbus can also be used for aroma) but with their highest listed prices, so note that current costs can easily be found for less:

Hop Variety Price per pound
2014 US Columbus $10.50
2014 US Summit $9.08
2014 US Magnum $9
2014 US Galena $7.82
2014 US CTZ $7.35

This is not meant to act as some end-all example, but rather a pretty basic one to broadly show where prices stand through one avenue. I did find it funny that a year-old crop of Amarillo priced out the highest.

Notes from an Expert

There may be fewer people more qualified to comment on the topic of hops than beer writer Stan Hieronymus, who, among many other books and articles, wrote “For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops.”

I emailed Stan to pick his brain about changes in hop farming and he shared some insight that offers great context for the trends I wrote about yesterday. Most notably, that popular varieties like Citra, Simcoe and Mosiac are currently controlled by Select Botanicals,  an integrated botanicals management group that specializes in breeding new hop varieties.

“They are being very careful about expansion – making sure the hops are going in places they will grow, that they are consistent, that they are processed properly, etc.,” he wrote, pointing to this page that touches on Select Botanicals’ quality management policies. “Mosaic and Citra, and you will see it with Equinox, are picking up steam because now they have the rootstock to start to meet demand. I think almost any farmer offered an opportunity to plant those hops would.”

Stan also mentioned that rights to rising varieties like El Dorado and Amarillo are held by individual farmers, but growers outside the Pacific Northwest are interested in trying their hand with those brands.

If you have access for Zymurgy’s e-magazine, I highly recommend reading two of Stan’s recent pieces:

  • From the Jan/Feb 2014 issue, where he touches on new varieties and sharing growing rights.
  • From the March/April 2015 issue, which discusses the process of brewers experimenting with new varieties. I found this one particularly useful in relation to my own post, given it highlights the need for increased hop acreage in the U.S. – “as much as 50 percent within the next several years” to meet predicted craft beer production demand, he writes.

Hop Farming Outside the Pacific Northwest

One of the most fascinating parts of all this is how farmers outside of today’s biggest hop-growing states are addressing the need for the product. According to the Hop Growers of America report, total hop growth outside the Pacific Northwest increased nearly 42 percent from 2014 to year-to-date 2015. Of course, the non-PNW crop still accounts for less than 3 percent of the U.S. harvest.

The report relies on a variety of help and reporting from experts around the country, so while these figures might not be perfect, there were several states with their first showing on the list of hop acreage strung for harvest:

  • Arizona: 1 acre
  • Pennsylvania: 4 acres
  • Iowa: 5 acres
  • Maryland: 15 acres

Of particular interest to me was New York’s growth, which went from 150 harvested acres in 2014 to 250 acres strung in 2015. As Brew York’s Chris O’Leary pointed out last year, this will be a very important state to watch thanks to big tax incentives provided to New York breweries who use in-state products to make their beer.

According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, an outreach system of Cornell University that focuses on agricultural research, these are the hops that would grow best in New York (categorization is their own):

  • Aroma: Cascade, Willamette, Mt Hood, Fuggle, Liberty and Perle
  • Alpha (bittering): Brewers Gold, Chinook, Centennial and Newport

With the exception of Centennial, this list simply emphasizes the importance of success for Pacific Northwest hop farmers, as brewers all over are seeking “it” aroma varieties not mentioned here, but discussed in my previous post.

Related: If You Drink It, They Will Grow: A Changing Landscape for Hops

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

If You Drink It, They Will Grow: A Changing Landscape for Hops

hop bine

I’ve got a running joke on Twitter, in which I tease news of all things IPA by “shouting” in all caps, calling beer drinkers INSATIABLE ANIMALS for their unrelenting assault on taste buds with lupulin-laced brews.

But there shouldn’t really be any surprise. IPA is the top-selling craft beer style. The top-100 craft brewers are selling an average of three IPA brands each.

From Jan. 1 to May 17, market research company IRI counted 888 IPA brands in U.S. supermarkets, a 20 percent increase in just five months over the 741 from 2014. Here’s a look at the past six years and 2015:

ipa brands in supermarkets

Over that timespan, supermarkets – which typically get increased beer shelf space and new brands at a slower pace then specialty stores like bottle shops – saw an average of 112 new IPA brands a year, or an average increase of 27 percent year-to-year.

That’s a lot of IPA, but most important, that’s a lot of hops for INSATIABLE ANIMALS.

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Stop and Smell the Hops: 4 Fun Facts About Hops and Your Senses

hop-hop cone-hop plant-hop nerd-hop head

Summer is a time for vacations and travel – things I have been busy with lately.

There has been plenty of time sitting in airports, on planes and by the pool, so filling it up with worthwhile reading makes everything a little easier. Naturally, I’ve been opting for something a little more educational than the normal easy beach reading.

for the love of hops-hops book-bookAmong the books I’ve been working through has been Stan Hieronymus’ For the Love of Hops, an incredible compendium of research and interviews on the history and science of this important beer ingredient. It’s chock-full of incredible information, most of which goes above and beyond my beer-loving head.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some easy, accessible things to learn from Hieronymous’ work. Instead of sifting through the pages yourself, here are just four cool tidbits I learned from the book about hops and our senses.

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Westbrook Brewing Hughey (Bearded Farmers series)

for web

Round 2 of my brief introduction to Westbrook Brewing, courtesy of Nick at Drink. Blog. Repeat., is in the books.

Friends, this is one brewery to watch out for.

While Nick has sung the praises of Westbrook for some time, what’s attracted me most to their beer has been a commitment to experimentation while still a young company. Reminds me a lot of Fullsteam, one of my favorite brewery options in the Triangle.

My latest go-around with Westbrook was with Hughey, the first entry into Westbrook’s Bearded Farmer Saison Series. Based on the beard featured on the label, this had to be impressive.

How impressive? Pretty impressive. That’s a lot of impressives.
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Westbrook Brewing Citra Rye pale ale

citra for web

Beer people are good people. But, we already knew that.

While there are many things to be thankful for when it comes to local beer, we will also forever lament the problem of enjoying that beer … non-locally. Thankfully, Nick from over at Drink. Blog. Repeat. was recently kind enough to break down this barrier and ship me some beery goodness from South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing, a Mount Pleasant-based company that’s churning out some pretty solid brews.

Nick sent me three of their beers, the first of which has set the bar fairly high for the others. Their Citra Rye pale ale, which sits with an 87 on Beer Advocate, is a great entry into the brewery’s single-hop beer series.

How did the sum of this beer’s parts make for a top-notch brew? Let’s hit the jump and discuss.

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