Craft breweries aren't just a fun place to meet up with friends. They may be fueling an unprecedented geographic expansion of hop production across the U.S., according to researchers at Penn State and The University of Toledo. Their findings suggest that as more craft breweries emerge around the country, so may new opportunities for farmers.
Hops are a key ingredient in beer production, providing aroma and bittering characteristics. Before 2007, hop production in the U.S. was limited to only three Pacific Northwest states--Oregon, Washington, and Idaho--according to Claudia Schmidt, assistant professor of agricultural economics in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Citing a report released this year by the Hop Growers of America, she said that 29 states are now engaging in hop production.
"Our study is the first to systematically show that the number of hop farms in a state is related to the number of craft breweries," said Schmidt. "It suggests that in areas where hop production is possible and not cost-prohibitive, breweries are expanding markets for farmers and providing an opportunity to diversify farm income."
Using data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture and ReferenceUSA, the researchers found that from 2007 to 2017, the number of breweries in the U.S. more than quadrupled from 992 to more than 4,000, and that the number of breweries in a state is associated with more hop farms and hop acres five years later. The number of hop farms grew from 68 to 817, and hop acreage expanded from 31,145 to 59,429 acres.
"This growth has not only led to interesting changes in the locations of hop farms across the U.S., but it has positioned the U.S. as the largest producer of hops globally, both in terms of acreage and production," said Elizabeth Dobis, a postdoctoral scholar at the Penn State-based Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, and lead author of the study.
Working with farm, brewery, and climate data, the researchers developed a statistical model to determine whether new craft breweries in a state between 2007 and 2017 resulted in a larger number of hop producers and hop acres planted, by both new and existing growers in that state. They built a time-lag into their model to identify the effect of new breweries over time. They also controlled for other variables that may influence farmers to start growing hops, such as average farm size, average net farm income, and climate.
Their findings, which were published recently in the Journal of Wine Economics, are correlational and do not point to a clear cause-and-effect. However, the time-lag built into the model indicates that the growth in breweries preceded the growth in hop farms, said Dobis.
One possible explanation for the trend is that the growing consumer demand for locally sourced food and beverages encourages craft brewers to seek out locally grown ingredients, said Schmidt.
"While most craft breweries serve a local market, they haven't always sourced local ingredients for their beers," Schmidt said. "But if you're a brewer looking to differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded market, sourcing ingredients locally is an approach that some brewers have found to be effective."
For example, in a project unrelated to this study, Penn State Extension's Kristy Borrelli and Maria Graziani conducted focus groups with Pennsylvania craft brewers, who reported that sourcing ingredients locally helps them connect with their customers' sense of place and preference for a flavor profile that is unique to the region.
If more brewers are looking for hops grown nearby, then more farmers may be willing to try growing them, even if only on a small scale. For instance, in Pennsylvania only 17 farms reported hop production in 2017, and their combined acreage is small--only 21 acres in all, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture.
Looking forward, the researchers said that they will collaborate with Penn State Extension to identify the specific attributes and price points that Pennsylvania craft brewers are looking for in order to help inform farmers' production decisions.
The Role of Craft Breweries in Expanding (Local) Hop Production
Growing Hops on the North Coast
of California, but Could Apply to other Parts of the State
Learn what it takes to produce hops for the micro-brew industry
Saturday March 26th - 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
SRJC Shone Farm Pavilion
7450 Steve Olson Lane, Forestville, CA 95436
$45 when registering on-line in advance by March 12th
$65 after March 12th
Includes a tasting of beverages made with different varieties of hops – and lunch
8:00 to 8:30: Registration and coffee + snacks
8:30 to 9:30: Hop Production History, Economics, and the Feasibility of Growing Hops Now.
Paul Vossen, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma and Marin Counties
9:30 to10:30: Botany, Varieties, and Growing Hops. Jason Perrault, Hop Breeder – Select Botanicals and Director of Sales and Marketing Perrault Farms, Inc. Toppenish, WA
10:45 to11:30: The Contribution of Hops to Beer Flavor, Growing Hops Locally, and the Potential Market for Locally Grown Fresh Hops. Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewery, Santa Rosa, CA.
11:30 to Noon: Mechanical Harvest of Hops. Tom Frazer, Dauenhauer Mfg.; Inc. - Hailey, Idaho
Noon-12:30: Tasting of Malt Beverages made with Different Hop Varieties
12:30-1:30 Lunch (catered)
1:30 to 3:00: Local Experiences in Growing Hops on a Small-scale + Business, Logistics, and Brewing with Fresh Hops – Panel of Local Growers/Brewers. Michael Stevenson – Warm Spring Wind Farm; Layla Aguilar, Bi Rite Farm, Lorren Lancaster - Carneros Brewery; Paul Hawley - Fog Belt Brewery, Matt Penpraze - 3 Disciples Brewery and Marty and Claudia Kuchinski of HOPS-MEISTER.
3:30 to 5:00 Travel to Warm Spring Wind Farm for a tour of small-scale hop production and discussion of field growing techniques. Michael Stevenson.
Paul Vossen: is the University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for Sonoma and Marin Counties. He has extensive experience working with the local specialty crops industry since 1981. He has in-depth knowledge of North Coast soils and climatic conditions for helping farmers determine the feasibilities for growing different types of crops on their land. He grew hops on his farm in Windsor, studied the history of local hop production, wrote a publication on “Growing Hops in California” many years ago, and he visited Yakima, WA twice last year to study hop production and processing in that region.
Jason Perrault:Born and raised on a hop farm in the Yakima Valley, Jason is a fourth generation grower with Perrault Farms, Inc. He is also the CEO for Select Botanicals Group, LLC (partner member of Hop Breeding Co.) where he has been breeding novel hop varieties for the brewing industry since 1997.
Vinnie Cilurzo: is co-owner with his wife Natalie of Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. He has been a professional brewer since 1994 when he opened Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula, CA and has been homebrewing since 1989. After selling his shares of Blind Pig, Vinnie and Natalie moved to Sonoma County in 1997 where he began brewing for Korbel Champagne Cellars' new brewery, Russian River Brewing Company where he also grew hops on their 1/4 hopyard. After six years, Korbel decided to get out of the beer business altogether and gave Vinnie the brand in lieu of severance. After writing a business plan and convincing friends and family to invest in their brewery, Vinnie and Natalie re-opened Russian River as a brewpub in Downtown Santa Rosa on April 3, 2004. Four years later, they opened a production brewery not far from the pub which allowed them to distribute more beer. Along with their 100 employees, both their brewpub and production brewery are brewing at 100%. They are now planning a new production brewery which would include a second brewpub with hopes of growing hops again as well. In 2008 Vinnie was honored with the Brewers Association Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing. Vinnie and Natalie live in Santa Rosa and enjoy their life in beautiful Sonoma County, CA.
Tom Frazer: is the President of Dauenhauer Manufacturing Inc. Founded in 1940 by Florian Dauenhauer, it remains the leading builder of large scale hop harvesting equipment with installations throughout the world. Dauenhauer employs 17 craftsmen at its plant in Toppenish, Washington who produce, install and support the harvesters that bear our name plate. Frazer is a graduate of Stanford University and lives in Hailey, Idaho with his son and three ill-behaved dogs.
Michael Stevenson: studied psychology at UC Berkeley and completed his masters in nursing at USF in 2014. He currently works in neurosciences at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Mike and his wife, biologist Francis Hourigan, are both Sebastopol natives who currently live in west Sonoma County on their small, four acre Warm Spring Wind Farm. They have both been gardening and developing their sustainable farming practices for the past eight years but began growing hops in the beginning of 2015. They currently manage about a quarter acre of hops with six different varieties so far. They also manage a small heirloom cider apple orchard and plan to expand their acreage this year. WSW Farm focuses on responsible growing practices that minimize effects on the surrounding lands and waters. In mid-2015, Mike founded the NorCal Hop Growers Alliance in attempts to bring other small-scale hop growers together, sharing resources and knowledge. The NHG Alliance now has several members representing hop yards in a diverse set of local climate conditions in Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. The organization's goal is to make hop growing successful in this area once again, and provide high quality ingredients to local craft breweries while maintaining responsible land stewardship.
Lorren Lancaster: has been in the craft brewing industry for over twenty years. He has been on the hop selection team for Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville, California and Deschutes Brewing of Bend, Oregon. Lorren is the Head Brewer at Carneros Brewing in Sonoma and also tends their on-site hop yard.
Layla Aguilar: farms three acres in Sonoma for Bi Rite Markets based in SF. For the past three years, she has expanded production to include specialty vegetables, herbs, flowers, hops and culinary mushrooms. She studied organic horticulture at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in Santa Cruz.
Paul Hawley: grew up in Sonoma County and has been making wine alongside his dad and brother for over ten years. The old saying that "it takes a lot of beer to make wine" rings especially true as Paul started homebrewing while working a grape harvest in New Zealand with Fogbelt Co-owner, Remy Martin. The two opened Fogbelt Brewing Co in 2013 and have been featuring beers made with locally grown hops in their taproom. Paul farms 1/4 acre of hops on his family's vineyard in Healdsburg and works with other small hop farmers in the area.
Matt Penpraze: is Co-Founder and Co-Owner of 3 Disciples Brewing. He was born and raised in Sonoma County, California. With an avid gardener and a winemaker for parents, Matt developed an appreciation for both agriculture and fermentation. After brewing on a small-scale for years, Matt along with his friends Luke Melo and James Claus started what would become 3 Disciples Brewing. In the beginning, they planted a few Cascade and Centennial rhizomes on their Sebastopol property. They have since expanded their hop yard to include 7 different varieties and will continue to plant an array of distinctive hops for their innovative ales. As well as hops, they grow barley, pumpkins, strawberries and an assortment of other ingredients for their beers. 3 Disciples Brewing will offer up their first beers in the spring of 2016. Matt is married to his wonderful wife Kari and they celebrated the birth of their son Harrison in 2015.
Marty and Claudia Kuchinski: of HOPS-MEISTER, LLC is a family owned farm located in Northern California specializing in both Certified Organic and Sustainable estate grown hops for the microbrewing community. HOPS-MEISTER offers fresh picked hops each AUGUST for your fresh hop beers, followed by whole leaf and vacuum sealed pellets, all processed on site.
- Author: Gary Bender
Farmers in our county who are using high-priced water are really thinking about “niches” in the market. They
simply must get the best prices they can if they are going to stay in business.
So, what are these “niches”? One niche is simply converting to an organic operation. This can usually mean higher prices, but the increase in cultural costs must be carefully considered (spraying glyphosate for weed control is a lot cheaper than hoeing, but glyphosate is not organic!). It can be an early variety that hits the market ahead of other areas (early season, low-chill blueberries), or it can be a crop that is later than other farming districts (Gold Nugget mandarins), or it can be a crop that is desired by a local market (tropical guavas for the Hispanic population).
We might have a niche local market for hops developing right before our eyes. According to Wikepedia, San Diego has 87 craft breweries and brewpubs, with 31 more on the drawing boards. I have heard that our local craft beer makers might like to buy local hops.
But, can they be grown here? Over the last 30 years I have tried to steer growers away from growing crops that have a high chilling requirement. I've talked would-be pistachio and cherry growers from planting because they both have winter chilling requirements in excess of 900-1000 hrs below 45 F. In the case of hops, they have a chilling requirement and we think a long daylight requirement, which they get in the Northern climates. And I've told a lot of people that hops don't do well south of San Francisco (because that's what I read on the internet). But some people planted hops anyway, and guess what! They do grow here!
But they don't always bear fruit (cones). Local growers have told me that ‘Willamette', ‘Centennial' and ‘Northern Brewer' do not produce well. But ‘Cascade' and ‘Nugget' have been producing from young vines at the Star B Ranch in Ramona. And other growers have been able to produce with 'Chinook', ‘Galena', ‘Perle' and ‘Tomahawk'. Now, will they produce the quantities needed to compete in a commercial market, pay the water bills and make a profit? This sounds like a farm advisor trial in the making!
You may wish to read a good article on growing hops that was prepared by Gordon W. Morehead and Paul Vossen with UCCE in Sonoma County http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/files/27166.pdf.
Growing Hops. Hops are usually started from rhizomes (root cuttings) planted in hills about five feet apart in the early spring. Hops grow quickly as vines on a tall trellis. Most growers erect poles about 16-20' tall, run wires between them and drop stings down about five feet apart for the vines to climb. Three trainings are done every fifteen days to get the vines to grow up the stings properly.
For irrigation a local grower in San Diego has reported to me that (in her second year) she used drip irrigation with a 1 gal/hr dripper/plant for 20 hrs in a set, two sets per week. She fertilized 3 times per season with 1 lb 5-1-1 organic fertilizer and liquid fish emulsion (not sure how much) through the irrigation system. She just completed her second year so I'm not sure what her water and fertilizer requirements will be in the third year when the vines are in full production.
Harvesting is done in August-September by cutting down the vines and either taking them to a machine that separated the cones from the leaves and vines, or by hand. In her case she bought a harvester for $14,000 that “is a necessity if you have a lot of vines”. Depending on the requirement of the buyer, the grower may have to dry the cones and chop them. The grower should work out the marketing requirements well in advance of the harvest.
Are hops going to make it as a new crop in San Diego? We don't know, but stay tuned!