As we continue into this new crop year for hops here in the Yakima Valley, one can’t help but be astonished by the number of varieties being introduced, from both the public and private breeding programs. This is true not only in the U.S., but worldwide with new hop cultivars coming from Germany, France, Czech Republic, UK, Ukraine, Australia and New Zealand.
For several years now, Haas has published the Hops Companion, a comprehensive description of global hop varieties available to the brewer. The most recent 2nd edition was released three years ago and includes descriptions of 125 hop varieties in common use worldwide. As I prepare the 3rd edition to be published later this summer, I’ll be adding 30 or more either new or re-introduced hop varieties.
With the vast number of hop varieties available worldwide now, it’s a bit crazy but it’s what’s being demanded by the brewers. It’s almost always a topic of discussion that brewers bring up, asking about the latest experimental varieties coming from our HBC program (for HBC experimentals that have made it to commercial status in recent years, think of varieties like Citra®, Mosaic®, and now Loral™, formerly known as HBC291).
This proliferation of hops can create challenges to brewers, hop breeders, growers and suppliers alike. For example, the greater the number of varieties, the less acreage can be allocated to each variety. This can influence availability and pricing and may heighten the supply risk associated with any one particular hop variety.
So, what can you do to alleviate some of the risk you take and assure yourself of an adequate supply of your favorite hop varieties? Forward contracting gives some security, and it’s certainly important…but unless there is sufficient interest from a wider number of brewers for “your” niche experimental variety, you may find it in tight supply and pay a high price due to its limitations. Advice? One suggestion is to resist putting all your eggs in one basket – in other words, diversify.
In the past, brewers rarely formulated any particular beer with only one hop variety, but it’s becoming more common now, even to the point that some beer brands are characterized by a single hop. Keep your hop options open for your mainstream beers, and consider limiting single hop variety brands to seasonals or limited time offerings. If your great new special hop variety beer becomes a candidate for expansion as a successful brand, it’s time to engage your hop supplier in forward planning and supply assurance discussions. You might be surprised how much can be accomplished with a dose of forward demand planning, along with a steadfast commitment from your supplier to work with you to ensure your supply.
I look at the coming years with some concern regarding the proliferation of hop varieties, but I also look at it as a great time to be a brewer with the choices available. You can successfully navigate your way through the maze of hops and develop a distinct selection of varieties that make your beers unique to you. A good strategy is essential to ensure availability and reduce the risks. Most importantly, get to know your hop suppliers and utilize the services they provide. At Haas, we’re here to help with your purchase and usage planning, innovation, inventory control, process and quality optimization and any technical issues regarding the use of your hops and hops products including working with flavor solutions that go beyond the hop variety. We take pride in keeping our commitments in supplying you with the hops and hop products we’ve promised, and doing what we can to help you manage the difficulties you’ll likely encounter as you grow your brewery and beer brands.