Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2007 Hop Harvest

While hop harvest is only half over now, there are reports of poor yields that are discouraging many beer lovers. I've looked around a bit and think I've learned things aren't as bad as some are saying. Yes, it is still early and there are certainly some farms that have suffered a tough year, as is the nature of farming.

Through all the reading I've been able to do, I'm left a little mystified. On one hand, this season's harvest appears to be decent. On the other had, there's some major concern on behalf of brewers out there. I suspect this comes down to a supply and demand issue, as it is clear our brewer population is growing faster than the hop farm acreage.

On the plus side, there's a heart warming story of a harvest in the UK.
As the harvest draws to a close and summer drifts towards autumn, Mr Redsell thinks that it has generally been a good crop. He said the pungent flowers enjoyed the mild weather which has been a feature of 2007.

The hop gardens are being quickly stripped of the thick green vines that have come to symbolise Kent as much as our oast houses or white cliffs. The wooden poles will stand in stark rows through the winter, before the young plants are strung up again in the spring and the whole process restarts.
The Prague Daily Monitor isn't so hopeful.
Czech hop growers expect a yield of 0.94-0.98 tonnes per hectare this year, down from 1.01 tonnes in 2006, Bohumil Pazler from the Czech Hop Growers Union told reporters Friday.

Hop harvest should drop to 5,100-5,300 tonnes in 2007 from 5,453 tonnes a year earlier. This year's harvest was affected by weather extremes, above all irregular rainfall, Pazler said.

The USDA's report suggests a very slight increase in American hop yields over last year's harvest:
Hops: Area Harvested, Yield, and Production by State and
United States, 2005-2006 and Forecasted August 1, 2007
: Area Harvested : Yield : Production
: 2006 : 2007 : 2006 : 2007 : 2005 : 2006 : 2007
: ----- Acres ----- ---- Pounds --- -------- 1,000 Pounds --------
ID : 2,797 3,106 1,613 1,400 5,390.9 4,510.4 4,348.4
OR : 5,036 5,177 1,757 1,720 8,054.0 8,848.5 8,904.4
WA : 21,532 22,749 2,058 2,080 39,469.6 44,312.9 47,317.9
US : 29,365 31,032
1,964 1,952 52,914.5 57,671.8 60,570.7

In all, I think a lot of the concern may be specific to Europe, but I have been wrong before. Add to these decent yield expectations by the USDA the fact that a percentage of 2006 went up in smoke, and I think we should be OK here in the US.

Supporting this thought is the letter made public by Hopsteiner late in August. In fact, Hopsteiner's 2007 Global Hop crop estimate suggest an increase in production over last year.

Then, to finish off the day, Probrewer has a thread that's a bit disheartening. This is what Ralph Olson has to say:
"The hop world is upside down. In the future we see the possibility of brewers shutting down for lack of hops."

For US hops 2007 is looking like an average crop, but not a bumper crop.

Slovenia (grower of Styrians) lost at least 1/3 and possibly as much as 1/2 of their crop to a hailstorm.

The Czech crop is down 25% this year. Estimated alphas on Czech Saaz from the 2007 crop are 2.7 2.9.

The German crop is average at best with earlier aroma hops coming in below normal (such as Hallertau Mittelfruh).

New Zealand and Australia crops this year (which arrived in the US in June and July) were normal.

England is almost out of the hop business. Their acreage of 2,400 in 2006 (down from 17,000 in 1976) represents 2 percent of the worldwide acreage.

World acreage:
1986: 215,600
1992: 236,000
2006: 123,000
Sure, not all is good, but the more I look into things the less discouraged I think we all need to be in the short term. For those looking forward a year to two, it is clear there is cause for concern.

This is a horrible, horrible video someone posted on YouTube, looking a an entire field of hops basically destroyed in Europe. Looks like the weather got the the better of them.