Earlier this summer, we reported that the hops industry is booming, so much so that a potential hop shortage is in the works due to demand from craft breweries. Now it seems like more than an overflow of orders will be cause for a hop shortage. The drought has hit Washington state hard, which makes growing hops a real struggle.
Believe it or not, a whopping 73% of America’s hop growth happens in Washington, much of it clustered in the agriculturally rich Yakima valley. However, growing hops is a tricky business. Besides being fairly labor intensive, a hop plant can need as many as three gallons of water a day. But nearly 100% of Washington is in “severe drought.” There’s not enough water to feed the thirsty hops. Roza Irrigation Manager Scott Revell states, “We have 100 percent of the hops production in my district under a severe water restriction.”
How are hop growers working around the drought? Well, not swimmingly. They’re buying water or using emergency wells (hey, craft beer is a serious business). Some farmers have given up growing hops altogether. Hops grower and farm owner Eric Desmarais explains, “Most growers in the Yakima Valley have incurred significant extra expenses trying to deal with the situation. Every grower is going to have crop loss. I am not saying it is catastrophic or disastrous, but there will be some crop loss associated with it.”
So how will this affect us as beer consumers? Badly, according to Chairman and CEO of Seattle-based Cascadia Capital. “The consumer will pay a higher price for beer. That is without question.” It may be time to start hoarding your beer – at least the kind that ages well.
While severe dehydration isn’t good for hops, some hops are hardier than others. In fact, it seems like most hops can handle the heat. Still, we’re a little anxious to end this drought once and for all.