Speed Reads


America's taste for good beer is making hops way more expensive

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Ah, supply and demand. With America's appetite for non-watery beers on the rise — no, I'm not talking about you, weird tequila-flavored beer — the price of aroma hops has doubled in the past year, according to a Financial Times report. And as Matthew Yglesias notes over at Vox, the explosive growth of craft breweries is largely driving that trend.

But there are a few more factors at play worth spotlighting.

For one, commercial hops are predominantly grown in only a few regions — Germany and the Pacific Northwest, for the most part — so they're susceptible to weather-related shortages. For instance, bad weather in 2007 and 2008 wiped out European crops and caused a major global shortage, and thus a price spike.

Shifting taste trends have also required growers to basically start their crops from scratch, planting new strains to meet the current demand. With pungent IPAs all the rage lately, growers had to replace varieties that once were in vogue with, say, the Centennial hops used in some of the best beers on the planet. Meaning, it's not just that craft breweries are opening too fast for hop growers to keep pace, but also that the hops brewers crave have been relatively scarce. It doesn't help that aroma hops are more fickle, and harder to grow, than the bittering hops they're replacing.

Add to that the rapid growth in D.I.Y. brewing — homebrew shop sales on average leapt 26 percent in 2012 — and you have a recipe for a major price spike. A delicious, hoppy price spike.