This summer’s hot weather has a lot of us reaching for a cold craft beer (well, so would cold weather, but anyway). But beyond making us sweat, this summer’s hot conditions are not good for one of the key ingredients in that beer – hops.
The Pacific Northwest has been scorched this summer. In the Yakima Valley, America’s top hop producing area, temps have exceeded 100 in past weeks. And hops can't take conditions like that. So growers fear substantially reduced harvests. Especially given the relatively snow-free winter that dropped reservoir levels in the northwest, which is now limiting irrigation. And all this comes as hop growers in the northwest have been expanding their acreage to keep up with the craft beer boom.
Economist Bart Watson of the Brewers Association has a suggestion – diversify. He urges growers to raise hops in areas other than the northwest. While conditions there are nearly perfect for hop growing, the plant will grow successfully almost anywhere around the 48th parallel, pretty much anywhere potatoes are grown. 100 years ago Sauk County, Wisconsin produced one fifth of all the hops in the world. And these days commercial growers are raising hops in Wisconsin, and other places in the upper midwest and the northeast. Still, the overwhelming majority of American hops come from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. And the weather is hitting them hard.
So IPA lovers, think cool thoughts for the growers up there. They may need it.
And check out how hops are grown and processed on this episode of Beer Geeks:
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