Craft beer is beer made in a traditional way using a non-mechanized process by a small brewery. Drinking craft beer is often seen as an interesting experience and luxury activity. This has lead to the growth of the sector as beer lovers look for new opportunities to find original experiences.
Hops are flowers of the Hop plant and are used in flavouring and as a stability agent in the manufacturing of beer. They impact a zesty, bitter or citric flavour to the beer depending on its composition and are now becoming a lucrative commodity as brewing of craft beer is more popular than it ever was. Hop flowers are also sold for other purposes including for making other beverages or for herbal uses.
Around 30 hop farmers in the B.C. area have formed a group known as the BC Hop Growers Association and focuses on the hop crop. The group says they are receiving good demand for their hop produce from local craft breweries.
“Every time a new brewery opens up, they’re looking for a supplier,” the group’s founder Raymond Bredenhof told a media organization. The number of craft breweries in British Columbia has increased and over 120 breweries are now said to exist in the area. Around 16 new craft breweries opened last year, and more breweries are expected to open in the future too.
Farm sizes are very important when cultivating hop since they require space. Startup costs can run high and huge amounts of money are needed for equipment and farming tools. However it is still gaining popularity since demand remains high.
“You can’t make money as a hop farmer on five acres. You have to get bigger,” said Dwayne Stewart, general manager at BC Hop Co. in Abbotsford. The plants take four years to produce sufficient quality but the wait is worth it as an acre of mature hops can be worth anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 depending on the variety.
The high prices are primarily due to the popularity of craft beer brewing across the world, and some flavoured craft beers use more hop than an average commercial beer leading to the surge in interest and demand.
Hop prices will remain strong, experts say adding that the British Columbia area had a thriving hops industry back in the 20th century and it is not surprising that the revival has come at a time when people are looking to the past for herbal and ancient practices in the food, fitness and health sectors.
If B.C gains a reputation for its quality hops across the world then demand will pour in from abroad as well, some experts feel. Catering to microbreweries itself will provide a substantial industry.