Is there a hop shortage?

Answered by Antonio Sutton

As of now, there is not a hop shortage in the brewing industry. Most hop varieties are readily available for brewers to purchase. However, it is important to note that the availability of specific hop varieties can vary from year to year and region to region.

In recent years, there has been a shift in hop contracting among brewers. Hop contracting refers to the practice of brewers securing a certain amount of hops in advance, typically through long-term contracts with hop growers. This helps ensure a stable supply of hops for the brewer’s production needs.

In the past decade, hop contracting rates have been relatively low. Many brewers relied on the spot market, where they could purchase hops as needed without long-term commitments. This was partly due to an oversupply of hops in the market, which drove prices down and made contracting less attractive for brewers.

However, there has been an increase in hop contracting in 2019. This can be attributed to several factors, including a more stable hop market, a growing demand for certain hop varieties, and a desire for brewers to secure their supply chains in the face of potential disruptions.

Despite the increase in contracting, the overall contracting rate for all brewers is still below 75%. This means that a significant portion of brewers are still relying on the spot market for their hop needs. For smaller brewers, those producing less than 2,500 barrels, the contracting rate is even lower, hovering around 50%.

It is worth mentioning that while there may not be a shortage of hops in general, there can be localized shortages or limited availability of specific hop varieties. Certain popular and sought-after hop varieties may be in higher demand, leading to limited availability and potentially higher prices.

In my personal experience as a brewer, I have witnessed fluctuations in hop availability and pricing over the years. There have been times when certain hop varieties were harder to come by, requiring us to adjust our recipes or source alternatives. However, overall, I have not experienced a severe hop shortage that significantly impacted our brewing operations.

To summarize, there is currently not a hop shortage in the brewing industry. Most hop varieties are readily available, but availability can vary. Brewers have been increasing their hop contracting rates, but it is still below optimal levels for many. While localized shortages of specific hop varieties can occur, the overall supply of hops is stable.