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New Zealand brewers have been forced to cut products from their ranges due to a lack of American-grown hops, a key ingredient in the popular American pale ale style, according to the Sunday Star Times.

The problem stems from a hop glut in 2006, which led American farmers to rip out hop vines in favour of more profitable crops such as soy or grain.

But a bad season in the US and multiple warehouse fires in Yakima, Washington State, which destroyed more than $US7 million ($9 million) worth of hops, sent demand soaring above supply. After the fires, larger breweries pre-paid for hop crops years in advance to guarantee supply, leaving none for smaller companies to buy on the open market.

Kapiti-based Tuatara Brewing have been forced to put off making their popular APA pale ale until 2012, but Auckland brewing company Epic Beer will arguably be the worst hit.

Epic head brewer and managing director Luke Nicholas said he has a supplier for the hops which go into his pale ale and lager, but is unable to buy any for two of his beers – Hop Zombie and Mayhem – stalling production until 2013.

Mayhem and Hop Zombie were both sold for about $10 per 500ml bottle, and the latter received rave reviews on its release this year. Having the two out of production is likely to affect Epic’s profits.

Nicholas was quoted saying the company has gone to the market to buy hops for the beers, preparing to pay three times the price, and yet there are no hops available.

The situation now is worse than in 2006, because at least back then there were hops to buy – albeit expensive ones.

“American hops [in 2006] were $8-$10 a kilo. A year or two later, we were paying $70-100 a kilo,” Nicholas said.

More at Stuff.co.nz

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