Hop Crisis or Hop Christmas
Michael Huddart24 November 2015
It’s the hop hoppiest time, of the year. Hop harvest is upon us (northern hemisphere)! Green as far as the eye can see…if you live in Yakima. This is a beautiful, intensely stressful time if you’re a small London brewer. Big enough to need about 500kgs of ABC and 250kgs of XYZ, small enough to have no budget to fly west, inspect the plants, and make sure you get in the right line. It’s exciting, but we’re all sweating right now.
The trick to the huge momentum, interest and growth of delicious, hop forward, aromatic pale’s and IPA’s is not just that we can’t brew them fast enough (quality takes time), but that hop farmers can’t grow the hops fast enough! It’s a big problem, not just because the majority of hops are grown in a few regions of the world (West USA, Germany / Eastern Europe, Australia, NZ…), but also because craft brewers are literally everywhere. So demand is global and growing, the hop farms are local and growing much more slowly.
If you’re organised about it, about May this year you told so-and-so hop distributor (Charles Faram, etc…) you want 500kgs Amarillo, equinox, whichever joyous hops you wanted to brew with. About now they’re telling you you’ve got 50% of that…what do you do?!
Well there’s nothing you can do. This is just a spotlight on the world of the micro-producer. Basically recipe flexibility has got to be part of who you are as a brewery. We’ve changed our labels to cope with this. Every batch is labelled individually so if we do vary our hops, you’ll see it on the label. For e.g. Beatnik is an Amarillo led pale, but if we start needing to put some of something else in it, so be it. It has to be. Our approach is that Beatnik is at its core a 3.8%, fairly bitter, floral, orange, tropical pale. It will always be that, whether it’s via Amarillo or something else. Frankly, those small differences should all be enjoyed as miracles of the brewing world.
This really is nothing more than another awesome challenge, a gauntlet thrown down for the brewer to dominate. We’ll overcome it, and what’s more, it’ll be fun.