Saturday, 30 May 2009

Hail to the Hop

Hops are a most essential part of beer and German brewers in particular are keen to ensure that only the finest hops of their required variety are used. Unfortunately, a giant hail and wind storm hit both the Tettnang and Hallertau crop last week, devastating according to some reports, around 25% of the new growth in the Bodensee area. In some instances hop bines were completely stripped of their leaves and shoots. In the worst cases only the wire remains.

It is unlikely that hop crops will reach long-term averages for the Hallertau and Tettnang after the damaging storm. The total effect to the German crop could be a loss of 15% or close to 5000 metric tons. Nonetheless, hop merchant John I Haas is reporting that they do not predict another hop shortage for crop 2009 at this point.

I recall similar bad weather at the end of May a few years ago when I was in Munich. I'm keeping clear of Bavaria during that time.


Woolpack Dave said...

" not predict another hop shortage..."

We'll see. Hops are still expensive from my perspective. If there is a plentiful supply why are they so expensive?

I was told 2 years ago that the main reason for the sudden increase in hop prices was due to a poor harvest. The price has not drop much since then.

Ed said...

I'm sure prices will fall. Economics isn't my strong point but the high prices are leading to more acreage being planted so they'll get to over abundance at some point.

Philip said...

Did someone mention economics? I would anticipate that a reduction in the supply of hops would lead to an increase in price (according to marginal utility theory). However, if the price of the product (the German beer we import into the UK) is increases significantly then far fewer units of that beer shall be sold in the UK until it is price inelastic (which it isn't). Another option, to keep the price low, would be to reduce of costs of production (usually labour) which results in job losses. Another but more unrealistic option would be a reduction of shareholder dividends.

Erlangernick said...

My favourite Franconian brewer of hoppy Kellerbier told me that the hop prices supposedly rose --SUPPOSEDLY-- (his emphasis) because of increasing demand in China and Russia, and the relatively long time it takes to increase acreage in response. Sounds plausible to me though, at least for the German hop varieties: those Russians and Chinese are more likely to brew Germanic lagers than Ænglo ales.

FWIW, he's my single favourite brewer now, since my other two favourite hoppy Kellerbier brewers have cut back on hops. One, specifically, did so in response to customers' complaints that the beer was "zu herb" -- too dry and/or bitter. (Br. Griess in Geisfeld SE of Bamberg)


The other is Löwenbräu in Buttenheim, next door to the too-big-for-its-britches St. Georgen Bräu. I've not heard why he's cut back, but it ain't the same beer it was in 2007. The diacytel shines through now, as well as a bit of DMS now and again; both of which might have been there previously, but would've been masked by the big hoppiness.

Bailey said...

Erlangermick -- that 'zu herb' stuff is really interesting. Can't they just get used to it? And do you reckon it'll get changed back if you complain it's, er, zu boring?

Joel said...

You're zu right, bailey!

wittenden said...

Don't know much about German (or any international) hop growing, but my neighbour here in Kent has just planted up 8 acres of high wire Admiral hops (I think-any way they're destined for the real ale market).Can't be bad.

Steve Hebblethwaite said...

Hop growing is a great deal of hard work and capital investment through the year coupled with highly variable yields for the farmer, but the UK has a great heritage of growing. Growers have received deflated prices for a number of years, and I hope a reasonable price will help to halt the ammount of hop fields grubbed up, and indeed even lead to an increase in acerage and planting of new varieties at the and a more healthy hop market in the UK.

Erlangernick said...

Bailey: I've only been drinking these beers since about 2005, so I can't really say if the former hoppy & bitter recipes were long-held tradition or not. I would assume so, though, since Kellerbier has a reputation for being "herb".

I should endeavour to find out more. "Should" does not necessarily mean that I actually will though.

And I'm a foreigner, so I have a hard time imagining that they'd take my complaint too seriously.

Another hoppy beer I've just discovered is Doppelhopfen Premium Pils (no translation necessary!) from a little brewery way up in the NE corner of Franken. The brewery's been around a while--since 1353 (though the actual site may have changed over the centuries, according to the website). reveals a photo of open primary fermenters. That's nice.

The drinks shop guy described it as "unusually herb for Franconian tastes" when I bought some the other day. (Not terribly cheap, at 13 € / 20 x 50cl!) He wasn't surprised when I told him what I'd learned about the Griess having been dumbed down, either.

"Die Franken mögen ihr Bier eher süffig als herb." They like their beer smooth rather than dry.

Gazza Prescott said...

Trouble is, these days, most German brewers use hop extract rather than whole hops either partly or, tellingly, in whole.

That's why German beer is going down the tubes IMO and they still get to call it "rheinheitsgebot pure"... what a joke.

Tandleman said...

It's only one of many reasons imo.

Paul Bailey said...

Hope the weather has improved by the tine I visit Bavaria in August!

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I grew up in the yakima valley and there were hops everywhere. Too cool.
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