What 3,465 Breweries Are Doing To The Hop Supply

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I admit there’s a certain “duh” factor to this, but it’s still interesting to see the numbers. With IPA and other hoppy beers accounting for over 20% of the craft beer market, there’s not enough hops being grown to keep up with current demand, and it will only get worse as interest continues to grow, as it seems likely the popularity of hoppy beers will be with us for the foreseeable future. This is from the May 2015 issue of Popular Science, which has a short article entitled Craft Beer is Annihilating the Hop Supply, which adds that demand for hops has “nearly quadrupled in the past decade.”

The article is subtitled “why that might be a good thing,” presumably alluding to the increased demand, but never really answers that question satisfactorily. There’s a quote from the former director of the Hop Growers of America, Doug MacKinnon, saying “Craft brewing is sucking up every pound of hops in the U.S. Growers can’t expand fast enough,” and suggesting that’s opening up the market beyond Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where U.S. hop growing has been concentrated at least since prohibition ended.

The article cites as proof that “single-acre hop operations are popping up on other types of farms across the country, including “Growers in New York, Minnesota, and Colorado,” and I’m also aware of similar efforts with commercial farms in Maine, Wisconsin and California, and I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody. Hops-Meister, which is near Clearlake, started in 2004 and grows ten different varieties on at least 15 acres. Co-owner Marty Kuchinski will be talking to my class tonight about hop farming. California used to grow more hops than any other state prior to prohibition, but never rebounded as farmers here found they could make more per acre growing grapes, but it’s why that legacy includes the town of Hopland and the Hop Kiln Winery. And New York used have an entire hop industry in the 19th century, until a downy mildew problem and other issues forced many to move production out west. So it’s little surprise that, with more modern farming methods, this growing demand would bring back hop farming to many parts of the country, not to mention a strong desire for brewers to have more local ingredients.

But the numbers just seem crazy: 27 million pounds of hops in 2014, and an estimated 31 million pounds this year.

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Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2015

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After missing this festival for the past few years, I finally made it back to judge this year’s Bistro IPA Festival. This year’s big winner was Solana Beach IPA, from Pizza Port Solana Beach, which was chosen best in show, out of 70 IPA offerings, at the 18th annual IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

Leffe IPA?

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Here’s an odd bit of news. The Belgian brand Leffe, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, has traditionally made abbey beers (though that’s certainly been changing since being acquired by ABI) and the current lineup from Leffe includes a “Blond, Brown, Ruby, Tripel, Radieuse or Vieille Cuvée,” and a few others, as listed on their website.

But according to an item on Totally Beer, a source in the French-speaking part of Belgium, La Libre, is reporting that ABI is planning on launching a new IPA under the Leffe brand, to be known as “Leffe IPA.” At least one Belgian beer source doesn’t think it’s a good idea, calling it a big mistake. It certainly seems like an odd fit to launch a hoppy beer under a label known for brewing abbey-style beers, not hop forward ones, no matter how popular IPAs might be.

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I made this up, but it doesn’t look right, does it?

UPDATE: It appears that ABI will not be calling the beer Leffe IPA after all. Much like the famous scene in “Pulp Fiction” about McDonald’s “Quarter-Pounder with cheese” being called the “Royale with cheese” in France, the Leffe IPA will also apparently be called the Leffe Royale. And take a look at the graphic below, taken from Beertime (though it appears it originally was printed in a catalog of some type), there will actually be three different Royales.

Leffe-royale

The graphic announcement says that the beer will have “subtle aromas” and “3 different varieties of hops” (despite listing four) but I think that’s just the first beer in the series. Curiously, it also appears to say that the Cascade hops are exclusive to Leffe, which unless I’m reading that wrong is an odd statement given that Cascade hops are the most popular hop variety used by smaller brewers. Of course, they could just be saying the beer is using Cascade hops exclusively, simply meaning it’s a single hop beer.

And this is a pretty interesting claim: “New brewing process: dry hopping.” I’m sure Britain’s brewers are howling with laughter at that one. Descriptors mentioned for the beers include “red fruits, peach, apricot, spices,” a “pronounced bitterness” and “very fruity.” So I guess the first beer is using the four listed varieties (Whitbread Golding, Cascade, Challenger and Tomahawk the second is brewed with the “Mapuche” hop variety from Argentina, and the last one Cascades. It’s possible that only the Cascade IPA is the IPA of the three, and that the others aren’t meant to be, just all more hop forward beers under the umbrella of the “Royale” series. H/T to The Beer Nut for sending me the link.

Weigh In On What’s The Big Deal About IPA?

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For our 77th Session, our host is Justin Mann, who writes his eponymous Justin’s Brew Review. His topic is to question the popularity of craft beer’s fastest growing category: IPAs. Or as he puts it, “What’s the Big Deal About IPA?

For quite some time now, I’ve been wondering what makes the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer so popular. Don’t get me wrong–I thoroughly enjoy it and gladly participate in #IPADay. I’m just wondering, why all the hype? What is it about an IPA that makes craft beer enthusiasts (CBE) go wild? Is it because CBEs want to differentiate craft beer from crap beer? I don’t care if a watered-down pilsener is labeled as “triple-hops brewed”; it wouldn’t satisfy someone looking for an IPA.

At the same time, not all CBEs prescribe to the IPA way. The author (a beer writer!) of a recent article proclaims that “hoppy beer is awful” and that it is allegedly “alienating people who don’t like bitter brews”. I happen to like IPAs and DIPAs, so I’m not going to preach about only non-hopped craft beer, as the author suggests, just to turn people away from over-commercialized yellow-colored water. Besides, maybe the bitterness and hoppiness of an IPA is exactly what some beer drinkers that have yet to be introduced to the ways of craft might want.

So what’s the deal? Let me know what you think by sending me a link to your blog post on July 5. Or if you’re not a blogger, I’d still love to hear what you think. Leave a comment [on his announcement post], or connect with Justin’s Brew Review on your favorite social media platform.

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So on Friday, July 5 — the day after celebrating American independence with a hoppy beer — weigh in on what’s the big deal with these hoppy brews, these “eepas.”

Alice outstanding in her field ... hop field, that is.
My daughter Alice in the hop fields on harvest day several years ago.

The 2011 Alpha King

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While GABF judging is done, we won’t know the results until tomorrow. But we do know one winner, the 2011 Alpha King. If you’re unfamiliar with the Alpha King Challenge, it’s a side contest during GABF week to find America’s hoppiest — but still drinkable — beer that’s been going since 1999, and was inspired by Three Floyd Brewing‘s own hop bomb, named The Alpha King. These days it’s sponsored by HopUnion and the Brewing News. After finishing GABF judging this morning, I hightailed it over to the Falling Rock to take part in the Alpha King judging.

The 2011 winner of the Alpha King Challenge was Poor Man’s IPA, brewed by Jeff Bagby at Pizza Port in San Diego. This is the second win in a row for Poor Man’s IPA and the third win by a beer brewed by Jeff.

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Jeff Bagby, the 2011 Alpha King

Here’s a list of the winners:

  1. Poor Man’s IPA, by Pizza Port, San Diego, California
  2. Double Jack, by Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, California
  3. IPA by Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, Indiana

I.P.A. Assimilation

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Boston Beer Co. recently announced their new IPA, Latitude 38, previously available only in a variety pack, would be going solo in its own six-pack beginning this fall.

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With that decision, nine out of the ten biggest craft breweries will now have an India Pale Ale as a year-round beer. Only the Spoetzl Brewery in Texas doesn’t make one, and they’re primarily a lager brewery, as is Boston Beer given their flagship Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Of the top ten ale breweries, they all have an IPA in their portfolios.

Top Craft Breweries for 2009

  1. Boston Beer Co.: Samuel Adams Latitude 38
  2. Sierra Nevada Brewing: Torpedo Extra IPA
  3. New Belgium Brewing: Ranger India Pale Ale
  4. Spoetzl Brewery: None
  5. Pyramid Breweries: ThunderHead India Pale Ale
  6. Deschutes Brewery: Inversion IPA
  7. Matt Brewing: Saranac India Pale Ale
  8. Magic Hat Brewing: Blind Faith
  9. Boulevard Brewing: Single-Wide I.P.A.
  10. Harpoon Brewery: Harpoon IPA
  11. Alaskan Brewing: Alaskan IPA
  12. Bell’s Brewery: Two Hearted Ale

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A decade ago or so, hardly anyone had an IPA in their portfolio and fewer still made one all year long. Now almost every brewery feels they need to have one. I’d have to say that’s score one for the hopheads.