Hamburg — Late summer rain has saved Germany’s hop crop, meaning brewers should now have enough of the key beer ingredient, the head of German-US global hops trader Barth Haas Group has said.
Brewers in Europe, Asia and Africa rely heavily on German hops and there had been concerns of shortages amid growing demand due to the widespread popularity of craft beers and a lack of stockpiles.
"The harvest in Germany was only about seven days away from disaster because of dry weather in June and July," said Stephan Barth, managing partner of Barth Haas.
Germany was the second-largest producer and provided 75% of the world’s hop supplies with the US, where the harvest was looking slightly above average, Barth said.
"Rain in August meant we were saved by the bell and I expect an average German crop," he said. With US crops there would be "sufficient market supply" although prices would remain high.
Hops are one of the main ingredients of beer with water, malt and yeast. Germany and the US both export about 26,000 tonnes annually.
Although harvesting was now beginning in Germany’s hop-producing regions, it was still too early to assess the quality of 2017’s crop, especially the key alpha content, which gave beer its bitterness, Barth said.
But Barth estimates Germany will harvest about 39,200 tonnes of hops in 2017, only slightly down from the 42,700 tonnes harvested in 2016.
He forecasts the US will harvest about 45,000 tonnes, up about 5,000 tonnes on 2016, with harvesting also beginning.
"Hop supplies for brewers will be adequate but I expect spot market hop prices to remain at current high levels because of small inventories and strong demand," Barth said.
Global hop crops in the past five years were below demand and inventories had been used up, with global demand growing about 1% a year due in part to the rising popularity of craft beers, Barth said.
"The 2%-2.5% share of world beer market held by craft beers consumes around 20% of the hop harvest," he said.
Craft beers are produced by small, independent brewers using traditional methods, which require more hops.
Popular styles such as India Pale Ale can use six times the volume of hops used in the mass-produced lagers from which they have taken market share.