Hopped Up: Craft Boom Boosts Hops Farmers

Hops are a key ingredient in many ales.
Hops are a key ingredient in many ales.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Brewers and consumers aren’t the only ones benefitting from the craft beer explosion across America. Hops farmers are cashing in, too.

Prices for hops, the key ingredient that gives IPAs and other ales their bitter taste, have increased to $3.59 per pound as of the end of 2013, according to BusinessWeek. That’s up from less than $2 in 2004.

The number of active breweries in the U.S. has increased at a similar rate over the same time period and tops 2,500 today, according to the Brewers Association. (All but 55 of those breweries are considered craft breweries.)

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And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hops inventories held by growers, brewers, and dealers total 121 million pounds as of March 1. That’s up from less than 90 million pounds in 2004. Meanwhile, the number of hops farms grew from 68 to 166 between 2007 and 2012.

The Pacific Northwest takes care of the bulk of the country’s hop production, but there are burgeoning movements elsewhere, including along the great lakes and in the northeast.

A report from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund said New England currently only boasts about 40 acres of hops production but suggests the region could produce much more, citing previous data showing 94 percent of regional brewers would be interested in sourcing local hops.