Today in beer news: Business Week reports that the market for fragrantly hopped India Pale Ale craft beers has helped push the price of American hops to twice what it was a decade ago. It's not necessarily that Americans are demanding more beer overall but that microbrews featuring fancier, more expensive varieties of hops are becoming more popular relative to other types:
Craft beers make up about 8 percent of U.S. sales by volume and tend to use more aroma hops (which give beers their citrus, pine, and other notes) than alpha hops (which lend a bitter flavor). Aroma varieties cost more because of lower yields, says Ann George, executive director of the Hop Growers of America, and the higher demand is luring some growers to remove alpha varieties to grow the aromas. Aroma hops can cost two to as much as seven times more per pound than alpha hop varieties, according to Chris Swersey, technical brewing projects manager at the Brewers Association.
Cost has not stopped craft brewers from using higher-priced hops in high concentrations. While the average beer is made with about 0.2 pound of hops per 31 gallons, craft brewers use 1.25 pounds, according to George.
The story also notes there are 166 hop farms in the United States as of the last count in 2012, up from 68 in 2007. Drinking a delicious, ice-cold beer is the right choice for yourself and the right choice for the American economy.