The rise of craft beers can be traced back to consumer demand for more flavor. And nothing provides as much flavor in consumers’ favorite brews than hops. Plucked from flowers, hops create the ever-identifiable tangy taste that exists in many IPAs and higher-alcohol beers.
Hops has now taken on a life of its own, creating a brand and an identity that has helped drive innovation and sales in craft brewing. That’s why craft brewers rely upon hops to create interest in their companies, which is evident by the number of IPAs sold in the U.S. Market research company IRI noted total sales of IPAs rose 48.7 percent on a year-to-date basis for the week ending Jan. 25, according to CNBC.
IPAs have helped push small local brewers into new markets and regions, thanks to their key ingredient: hops. Many industry insiders don’t expect the hops craze to slow down anytime soon either.
“Obviously, people like the flavor of it,” said Dave Lopez of Gun Hill Brewing, CNBC reported. “But I think it’s become so popular because there are very few beers people can see and immediately recognize.”
Demand for more hops
Because hops packs a certain punch, consumers seeking more from their beers than just the standard domestic light brews have flocked to hoppy beers. Sales of IPAs have grown more than twice as fast as the entire craft beer industry itself, according to CNBC.
Further, to keep stoking the fire in the bellies of hops fans, farmers have had to produce more acres of hops. Michigan, one of the top locales for craft brewers, has seen the pace of hops demand pick up considerably in recent years. So much so, the landscape of the state is changing, with investors moving in to plant hops. Traverse City, an investment group, is on schedule to double the entire state’s hops production by planting more than 400 acres of hops in the region, according to Michigan Radio.
On top of hops’ already identifiable flavor, hoppy tastes can differ depending on region, lending itself to be even more beneficial for consumers seeking new varieties.
“I’m really surprised to say that I actually prefer the local grown hops,” said John Niedermaier, owner of Brewery Terra Firma, Michigan Radio reported. “I think they have more aromatics and they have a slightly deeper complexity of flavor. I don’t know if that’s microclimate or soil or exactly what it is, but I can honestly say I prefer them.”
With investors putting in more money to grow hops and craft brewers reaping the rewards of higher sales, customers are also on the winning end of the hops expansion. Although, hops can be expensive to harvest, the payoff is actually high for farmers, which makes it an attractive option for those looking to get into the business, President of MI Local Hops Jason Warren noted, according to Michigan Radio.
“It’s such a robust crop, you can put hop in the ground in May and have a crop in September,” he said. “So it doesn’t have the seven-year or five-year waiting cycle like cherries and grapes do. The upfront investment is more, but you have cash flow coming in from the crop a lot quicker.”
Mcloone makes printed labels for the craft beer industry.