Kansas City brewers believe nation's shortage of hops is nearing to an end

Posted at 9:05 AM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 10:05:06-04

Kansas City-area brewers are raising a toast, believing the nation's shortage of hops used to add bitterness and aroma to beer may be nearing an end.

The demand for hops has been high partly because of America's obsession with India pale ales, which use large amounts of hops. Craft brewers increasingly are infusing more of the soft cone flower into beers in what Bryce Schaffter of Cinder Block Brewery in Missouri's North Kansas City calls a "hops race."

But hops shortages should be easing as the Pacific Northwest is expected to produce a record crop of 91.8 million pounds, up 16 percent from last year. That could encourage some brewers who have overstocked on hops to sell their leftovers, easing the crunch.

Total U.S. hop acreage grew by almost 20 percent to more than 53,000 acres this year, according to the Hop Growers of America.

But many newer and dominant hops varieties, including Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo, have been hard to find and have turned costly.

IPA recipes traditionally have relied on established hop varieties that any grower can plant. Many newer hop varieties that produce stronger flourishes often are patented and trademarked and in shorter supply, because their owners control their production.

Bigger breweries such as Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Co. lock up needed supplies of hops with contracts stretching three to five years, while smaller brewers say they have worked through tight supplies by substituting, swapping and paying up when needed.

"There's always a lot of hops out there," Travis Moore, brewmaster and co-owner of Torn Label Brewing Co. in Kansas City, said. "It's just which varieties, at what time, at what price and who's got the contract."


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