Over the last few years, craft beer has grown exponentially due largely because of how creative brewers have added hops to their brews. The Stones and Dogfish Heads of the world have totally turned the beer world on its ear by cranking up the hops and using new varieties. Further up the ladder, hop growers and wholesalers have caught on and started creating new hop varieties that impart new flavors. The problem… many of these hop varieties are now the property of these hop companies so these folks can control how many hops are being produced. This makes it really tough for us small breweries to come up with certain hops without signing contracts, paying inflated prices, or holding large quantities in-house. This year, with so many new breweries slated to open, the malt supply may also tighten up a bit, as well. Enter West Sixth Brewing.
Now that we are moving out of the construction phase and into the beer brewing phase, we have been spending a fair amount of time testing beers and then trying to secure the needed ingredients to guarantee that we have enough to brew our flagships for at least a few months. Robin has made some amazing beers only to find out that a vital hop is out of stock until the end of the year…kind of a roller coaster of emotion for sure. There are ways to work around these shortages, but it usually involves paying more per pound of hop than usual, getting really lucky, or trying to blend other hops to achieve a similar profile. More than once, I have called suppliers asking for an in-demand hop only to hear that everyone is looking for that same thing. Homebrewers are still able to find many of these hop varieties at supply stores because you often only need a few ounces for a batch and there are small quantities readily available even today. However, when you turn on a 15 barrel system wanting to brew that flagship IPA, you better have 15 pounds or so ready to go.
Never fear, after some frustration and a ton of phone time, we came up with enough ingredients to get us through the next few months. However, since newly planted hops do not bear fruit for a few years, the craft brewing hop shortage will continue to be a challenge for all us little guys. That will keep us on our toes, though. We can’t wait to get brewing in just a few days!