So there is a hop shortage?

NZ Hops 2016I can’t believe that this topic is being recycled yet again.

Hop shortage could result in price rise for beer

Another year another hop shortage story. I wrote about this two years ago.

How many times is this topic going to be written about. Seems like every year now a different newspaper will run this story using local breweries.

I listed stories about hop shortages going back to 2009. Yes it was me in the article in 2009 moaning about not enough hops.

You know what I did, I started taking out longer contracts. Guess what? Now my hop shortages come down to not forecasting well enough on specific varieties.

I know it is particularly hard for start up breweries to get contracts. You have to start somewhere, so start today. All breweries should be contracting the hops they need. In New Zealand, NZ Hops will contract NZ grown and imported hops.

If you contract for longer, and if everyone could pay a little more (which can be passed on in the price of the beer), then growers will grow more.

Growers want to know they can cover the cost of committing to the risk of planting out new fields. If they can get a 5 year+ commitment at a good price then they will look at growing more, as well as investing more in infrastructure (such as pickers and dryers).

NZ Hop Research 1st year hopsMy question is how do brewers offer to pay enough, over what period to get hop growers to grow more?

If they take out other crops then does the shortage of this crop, say like blueberries in Yakima, cause the price to increase in blueberries resulting in a change back from hops to blueberries.

There is much caution from the growers to invest because if you go back to right before the start of this hop shortage because of the booming craft beer industry, price were so low. For example I was landing US grown Cascade hops in the brewery in Auckland for $8/kg. that was 2006. 10 years ago 1/3 of the hop acreage in the US had been pulled out. 10 years in the life of a farmer was yesterday. There need to be assurances to invest to grow more hops.

The answer to this is brewers need to commit to hop contracts for as long as they can and at the best price they can pay to secure the supply they need.

P.S. To all reporters/journos who think they might want to write an article about “the hop storage” in the future please talk to brewers with hop contracts, hop growers or Doug from NZ Hops. Get the real story, not some chicken little the sky is falling waffle.

Maybe a little research?

The Hop Market
So how should brewers think about the coming hops market, finding a proper balance between understanding the challenges that growers and dealers will face while not giving in to extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds (aka unfounded beliefs)?

How to Estimate for your Forward Hop Contracts – by Teri Fahrendorf
In conclusion, you now have the tools to accurately predict your current and future hop needs

2015 New Zealand Hop Harvest

2014-03-10 10.30.47The 2015 New Zealand Hop Harvest was completed in the first week of April having started in the second week of February.

By Doug Donelan

The New Zealand Hop harvest commenced this season with the traditional northern types of Fuggle and Styrian Golding arriving into store in the second week of February. Early New Zealand varieties such as Pacifica and Motueka commenced soon after with all picking operations in full swing by the start of March and concluding with the final bales of the later varieties Rakau and Green bullet weighed across into cold storage by early April. During the growing season the spring was unseasonably cold, especially the overnight temperatures, which held the plants back considerably and slowed development until well into November. The region’s famous summer finally arrived with the New Year and it persisted solidly throughout, right up till and into April. It brought with it long sunny days with plenty of heat units all interspersed with good levels of warm coastal rain.

By the time harvest arrived most of the districts plants had developed into what appeared to be an above average crop but one that finished only slightly ahead of grower production estimates. The weather conditions during harvest were for the most part ideal, although some severe northerly winds and torrential rains did occur mid-point as part of the aftermath of category 5 tropical cyclone Pam which did impact harvesting in some gardens.

First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka

Main Harvest Points:

  • Farm structure for the 2015 harvest remained at 17 grower / shareholders (including a joint venture) all supplying hops through the cooperatively owned company of New Zealand Hops Limited.
  • Cultivation continues to be dominated by designated aroma/flavour varieties at 328 Hectares while Alpha designated production continued to fall to 60 Hectares. An overall total of 389 Hectares was harvested which is an increase of 19 hectares from the 2014 harvest (370 Ha)
  • Total volume harvested was 739,620 kilograms (Table # 1) which is a decrease of 24, 949 kilograms on the 2014 harvest (764,569 kg). Aroma / flavour designated hops accounted for 605,668 kilograms with alpha designated varieties at 133,952 kilograms.
  • The average alpha acid was 9.5 % with the highest commercial variety being Waimea at 15 .5 % and the lowest being Wai-iti at 3.1 %.
  • Selections and grade standard assessments scored well above the average with growers delivering hops of an exceptional standard…5,948 bales were received into the New Zealand Hops Limited new cold storage facility on Blackbyre Road Appleby.
  • A highlight once again of harvest was the industry’s green hop programme operated under an expanded model this year which saw NZ Cascade, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin distributed to 35 brewers throughout the main centres and supporting several green hop beer events and seasonal releases.

Hop Bale 2015Market position:

  • The 2015 crop was approximately 95 % sold prior to harvest with a post harvest view that the total crop will be sold prior to the 2016 harvest.
  • Spot availability continues to be limited under the current market demand for New Zealand Hops and specialty hops in general internationally.
  • As has been stated in previous reports acreage will continue to expand against a landscape of sustainable pricing and forward contracts, however as the total international market continues to grow it is unlikely that the New Zealand Industry will advance past its current world crop contribution of less than 1.0 %
  • Currently a continued programme on farm of switching out of varieties is seeing modest increases in acreages while volumes remain reasonably static. A point will occur when the variety balance will be met and then both acreage and volume will commence to track upward together.
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka

Industry outlook:

  • Research and development will continue to be a major focus of the industry through our research partnership with New Zealand Plant and Food Research. Plant breeding remains at the forefront of the programme and several new selections were identified as “of interest” during this season.
  • A pilot brewing plant was also commissioned during the season and several of the new selections have been earmarked for pilot brewing trials through our own system as well as some larger scale trials through commercial partners.
  • Identification of hops with unique flavour profiles and brewing characteristics for commercialisation run at the heart of the programme however agronomics such as yield and in particular establishing a broader future picking window are key to our future varietal selections.
New Zealand VarietiesQuantityNorthern VarietiesQuantity
Nelson Sauvin165,760Cascade31,500
Motueka103,310Styrian Golding1,670
Green Bullet41,380Willamette540
Pacific Gem38,840Other3,520
Pacific Jade34,250
Pacifica33,000Total Northern Varieties39,050
Dr Rudi30,550
Southern Cross22,400Organic VarietiesQuantity
Sticklebract3,300Nelson Sauvin4,290
Brewing Trials1,700Pacific Gem2,700
Total NZ Varieties679,970
Total Organic20,600
Harvest Total739,620

Please direct further enquires to  typing “Media Release” as the subject.

#FreshHopNZ15 – Auckland 2015

fresh hop brewers from aucklandPRESS RELEASE – 23 April 2015

Freshhop is back for its second year, the brewers of Auckland learnt a considerable amount last year with our first Freshhop in 2014. Now they are using the lessons learnt and this year they are brewing using two varieties of Hops; Motueka and Sauvin.

In 2014 they used Waimea, this year Auckland Beer Lovers get the chance to try something new with not one but two new hops. These delicious beverages will be found on tap around the Craft Beer Bars in the Auckland Region.

The big difference between Freshhop beers and other beers is that the hops are picked fresh and brewed with as soon as possible. Hops are picked in the morning in Nelson then taken to a site for field heat to be taken out of them. They are then placed in a chilled truck and driven to Auckland as fast as legally permitted to keep them as fresh as possible. The truck is met by a group of eager brewers who take their hops immediately to their breweries to plunge them into their barley worts they have created and at the end they have a Freshhop beer.

If you can envisage the difference in cooking between using Fresh Coriander vs. Dried Coriander you are getting the gist of it. The Freshhop beer has more natural resins, more aroma and more flavour.

Many of the beers are designed to allow the hops to be the main aroma and flavour component of the beer. This is a unique once in a year opportunity to use the Hops as fresh as they can be and it is not a tasting opportunity to be missed by anyone who likes the greatest beverage of all…Beer!

There will be Eleven Auckland Brewers creating twelve different beers. These will be released on the 23rd of April in Nineteen bars across the Auckland region from Warkworth to Manakau and across to Riverhead. We shall be inviting the public to register with us and vote on which beer they liked the most and will go into a draw to win some great brewery gear from the brewers.

An Awards Function is scheduled at 16 Tun in Wynyard Quarter on Friday 1st May to announce the winners to the public, brewers and bars. Award categories covering best beer (people’s choice) and best activation/promotion by a craft beer bar on the theme of Freshhop Beers.

In the meantime get on to
Twitter: @freshhopnz15

Coming Soon… New Zealand Hop Harvest 2015

This week I headed to Nelson (with a bunch of other brewers from around New Zealand) for the day (and night) for a visit to “The Hop Lab” at Plant & Food Research in Motueka. The focus was on the new 50 litre trial brew plant (manufactured by Chris Little Engineering) which is now being used to brew beers with the trial hop varieties to see if they show promise for brewing.

It was a good time of year to do this, as it is a week before the New Zealand Hop harvest begins. The plants have hops on them, the hop growers aren’t too busy to be able to spend the afternoon with the brewers.

I look forward to this becoming an annual event for the brewers and hop growers to catch up and have a chat over a beer. (without the full-page release form having to be signed to taste 90 mls)

Below is a photo gallery showing a bit of what happened. It’s a lot of hop photo, but that’s what I’m into.

Lack of hops has brewers ailing

How many times is this topic going to be written about. Seems like every year now a different newspaper will run this story using local breweries.

Article published in The Dominion Post this morning 17 May 2014 – Lack of hops has brewers ailing

2009 – No hops shortage as growers tie up (yes me having a moan about not enough hops, but it was 5 years ago)

2010 – can’t find an article yet

2011 – Hop shortage hits brewers

2012 – Hop crop low but stay calm

2013 – Lack of rain puts pressure on hops

It is cool to get some media for craft beer and local breweries, but how about some actual good stories about those breweries. If you are going to write about the hop shortage maybe dig a little deeper as this is old news.

Yes hops are hard to get if you are a new start-up brewery, but a start-up would know that going into this business. Hops are also hard to get if you don’t have contracts in place. Last figure I saw was that 99.8% of US craft breweries had hop contracts. As it is the only way you are guaranteed to get the hops you need.

This has been an issue since 2007. So if breweries haven’t got there act together in the last 7 years, then the don’t deserve to have a moan to the media.

If you are looking to buy US Aroma hops now, you won’t be likely to get a contract for any before 2016, as the next two seasons are 100% contracted. Most smart breweries are now contracting a base amount of hops for 5 years out.

In New Zealand, as in the US, aroma hops are in high demand. It is also a very fast changing market as brewers like to move onto the next exciting hop variety. This may mean they drop past hop varieties that have been popular.

Epic Hop ContractFrom the growers point of view there is a long lead time, 3 years to invest in a new variety. A grower is likely to only consider committing to new plantings if they have a commitment from brewers in the way of contracts. If they can get a 3 year contract they will consider committing to the hops the brewer wants to buy, but 5 years definitely makes it a better business proposition.

The market seems to be working better for the growers these days, with better prices, and real commitments from brewers in the form of contracts.

Brewers should be getting multi-year hop contracts.

Journalists should be writing about the great things that the local breweries are doing, not what they aren’t or can’t do due to a lack of hops.


P.S. I recall the good old days back when I first launched Epic Pale Ale in 2006, the prices were incredibly low for US grown Cascade. I was able to import them from the US and land them in the brewery for around $8/kg, when local NZ Cascade was $35/kg. US growers weren’t making much off those hops.