As fellow beer enthusiasts you may or may not be aware that hop and malt prices have sky rocketed. In fact trying to find specific types of hops right now is near impossible. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has picked up on the story of local brewers hop pinch.

For now, it’s a mad dash among small breweries to find supplies of the hops that define their brews. Brewmasters are mulling ad hoc recipes to mimic certain flavors in case they can’t get the usual varieties of hops. Suppliers are tightening payment terms, demanding faster cash.

Hops are “incredibly scarce,” said Daran Churovich, brewmaster at Kirkwood brewpub Alandale Brewing Co. “Everybody’s scrambling.”

Much of beer’s flavor and aroma is affected by hops; not being able to purchase the hops that are specific to the commercial beer you’re producing could lead to a noticeable change in the beer itself. One of the most important aspects of the brewing industry is consistency. You want every pint, every bottle and every keg to taste the same from one batch to the next. Being forced to change what hops you use puts a real crimp into your consistency.

This hop scarcity problem isn’t affecting just the big (or little) boys, but homebrewers as well. Talking to Dave a few weeks ago at St. Louis Wine and Beermaking he was pretty frustrated about the lack of hop availability. Fortunately, homebrewers are a bit luckier in this regard. We’re not selling a product, we’re brewing beer to drink for ourselves and friends. We have the luxury of experimenting and using newer or more unusual hops such as Marynka (Polish,) Pride of Ringwood (Austalian,) Progress (UK,) or Newport (US.)

I have a feeling over the next few years in the US we’re going to see the strongest craft breweries survive and those that are producing mediocre beers being to falter and close up. No matter what, we’re all going to be paying a higher price in the end.

Thanks to Jim for the Denver Post article.