2016 Hop Harvest Hits Five-Year High

As craft beer continues to demand more aroma hops, acreage and production alike increased yet again this year, according to Hop Growers of America, while average yields per acre continue to decline largely due to new acreage and lower yielding varieties growing in share.

Still, the 2016 hop harvest saw an increase of 8.3 million more pounds, 87.1 million total, of U.S. hops set for brew kettles around the globe.

According to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) report released December 16, production increased 11% in 2016, rising in all three major producing states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Earlier this year, the USDA estimated a 16% increase (91.8 million total rather than 8.3), yet that was calculating only a 3 pound drop in pounds per acre on production, despite an estimate of the new acreage being approximately 70% lower yielding popular aromas.

Ultimately, 2016 saw a 94 pound drop in production on pounds per acre.

“While some varieties – most notably bittering hop CTZ – didn’t fare as well due to mildew and climatic pressure, brewers are putting in orders for hops that have exciting aromas, but simply do not yield as much per acre,” explains Blake Crosby, Vice President of Hop Growers of America and President of Crosby Hop Farm, LLC, in a press release. “As an industry we are happy to plant these, but more acres are required to deliver the same amount, pound for pound.”

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The 2016 U.S. hop harvest. | Photos courtesy of Hop Growers of America

As for meeting the growing demand for breweries, USA Hops is optimistic with the majority of the acreage increase going to high-demand aromas and the USDA NASS stock reports continuing to rise (meaning hops carried over from the previous harvest). Thanks to a long shelf life, hops harvested in 2015 are still great options for brewers.

“As the changing landscape of the hop and brewing industries adjust together, both are working simultaneously to ensure they are communicating effectively through contracts,” says Ann George, Executive Director of Hop Growers of America. “Our growers are working hard to meet what can feel like an insatiable demand.”

“Time will tell when we get later in the year if enough was contracted and planted,” adds Crosby. “The line between under and oversupply is a fine one, and it’s not good for anyone – growers and brewers – if it is crossed. People can tend to forget this is an agricultural product that only comes once a year, and a specialty one at that, which requires much planning and preparation. Overall, as an industry we feel good about 2016, but we’ve already moved on and are working on 2017.”

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