Craft Beer and Whiskey Demand Spur Hops, Rye Production

Emiko Terazono reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “The craft beer boom has catapulted the US to the top of the pile of the world’s hop growers for the first time in almost half a century.

Farmers are rushing to increase their hop acreage to tap rising demand for the key ingredient in beer.

“Hop acreage in the US jumped 18 per cent to 18,478 hectares last year, ousting Germany from the top spot for the first time since 1967, according to an annual report from Barth-Haas Group, the hop trader.”

The FT article explained that, “Demand for ‘aroma’ hops that flavour beer has surged thanks to the growing popularity of craft beer. Prices have jumped for certain speciality hops as craft brewers use between four and 10 times more than the average lager produced by international beer groups.

The high prices have encouraged hop farmers to increase the planting area of aroma hops.

“According to the latest report from the US Department of Agriculture, the country’s 2016 acreage has so far risen by 17 per cent to the highest level in almost a century.”

Also yesterday, Reuters writer Rod Nickel reported that, “North American farmers are turning back to a neglected crop, sowing fields with the largest rye crop in years partly as consumers satisfy a growing thirst for whiskey.

“Rye, planted in autumn and harvested in mid-summer, fell out of favor during the past decade as other crops produced bigger profits. But whiskey demand as well as new varieties of rye that offer greater yields have renewed interest.

U.S. farmers planted 1.76 million acres (712,250 hectares) for the 2016/17 season, the biggest area since 1989 and a 12-percent year-over-year increase, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The Reuters article added that, “The average U.S. farm price of rye has declined two years in a row, although the $6.52 per bushel farmers earned in 2015-16 was still 26 percent higher than five years earlier, according to USDA.”

More broadly with respect to the impact of craft beer , Mark Fisher reported earlier this week at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News Online that, “A local brewery has formed a collaboration with a nearby farm market to offer some of the farm market’s fruits and vegetables in the brewpub’s food menu — and, soon, in some of its beers.

“Steve Barnhart, founder of Lock 27 Brewing, and Stephanie Treadway, co-owner of Treadway Gardens Farm Market, say the collaboration benefits both businesses. Treadway Gardens has even set aside a small plot in its farm fields at 10245 Dayton-Lebanon Pike (Ohio 48) in Washington Twp., where Lock 27 is growing basil, peppers and other herbs and vegetables.

“Some of the herbs are already making it into Lock 27 cocktail specials, and vegetables are being used in daily specials on the food menu, Barnhart said.”

The article added that, “The brewery may try to capture wild yeast at the farm market next year, Barnhart said. And Stephanie Treadway said her son is looking into the possibility of growing hops on the farm. Those developments would give an even stronger local character to Lock 27’s beers, Barnhart said.”

And in an interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times (“A Beer Garden Lays Down Roots for a Technology Hub“) Lauren Herstik reported that, “At lunchtime on a Thursday, people seated at picnic tables dotting the Quartyard sip coffee from Meshuggah Shack. Music wafts from speakers, and the scent of sausages from S&M Sausage and Meat fills the air.

“As the day wears on, the scene will fill out, and coffee will give way to craft beer served from a bar fashioned out of a shipping container.

“For now, the Quartyard is a beer garden, event space and dog park in the downtown East Village neighborhood of [San Diego]. Its projected transition from 25,000-square-foot vacant lot to urban park to housing is part of a plan to create an employment hub in the neighborhood’s tech corridor.”

The Times article noted that, “Underground Elephant, a technology company specializing in online customer service platforms, moved into an 83-year-old warehouse just blocks from the Quartyard three months ago that passers-by regularly mistake for a new restaurant.

“Jason Kulpa, the company’s chief executive, said he had considered moving his 100-person operation to Brooklyn or San Francisco, but decided to remain in the area because of its quality of life and lower costs. The city’s weather, easy beach access, public parks and dozens of craft breweries are also selling points to the millennial talent pool from which tech companies draw, he said.

“‘This will be a tech center: Silicon Valley South,’ he said.”

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