Posts Tagged ‘Northwest’

End of The IPA

Monday, July 20th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

herbs

There’s been no doubt for awhile now that the specialty beer of the west coast is the IPA. Both breweries in California and Oregon especially are known for their hoppy brews loaded with lupulin. But apparently that may be changing. A little bit back I commented on the increasing number of herbal beers out there. Personally I thought it was just a trend towards a newer flavor profile. After all if you watch beer trends it’s kind of silly the things they have to do to get the attention of beer snobs. On the 15th though JR Box emailed me an article originally posted at GuestOnTap and Mr. Abe Goldman-Armstrong has a different take.

Double or imperial IPAs that leave taste buds dripping with lupulin have become all the rage in recent years. In 2008, though, they might not be so prevalent.
  Hops, which impart resin and citruslike flavors, are in short supply and cost a pretty penny.
  Don’t blame the brewers in Oregon who pioneered the imperial IPA style or the San Diego brewers who parroted them; they’re not the reason for the shortage. A terrible hop harvest in Europe, increasing demand for hops in Asia and years of low prices pushing farmers out of business have caused the price of hops to leap from under $3 a pound to more than $14 for certain varieties

He points out that not only have prices gone up for hops, but malted barley also. The reality of our beverage is that we may continue to see rising prices for beer that never drop again. But do these rising costs mean the death of the Northwest IPA? Abe’s only interview that he directly quotes is one with Mark Martin. Mark is the owner of Calapooia Brewery in Albany. Mark talks about focusing on his popular beers that have less hops in them. The problem for Mark and other small breweries is that there is very little available in the way of extra hops.

My understanding of hop production is this. If you go out into a hop field one thing you may notice is that large chunks of the crop are earmarked for big breweries and suppliers. Hops aren’t a commodity where everything is dumped in one big pool and then people buy from that pool. Smaller breweries have a hard time squeezing their way into a share. Instead they generally wait and purchase either from a supplier, or wait for the stuff left over after harvest. Since farmers don’t grow extra this leaves suppliers who raise prices due to high demand. This means smaller breweries will have a much higher cost to produce that Imperial IPA that you love so much.

For the last bit Abe points to brewers who are using herbs in their beers. The problem is that places like Roots have been making herbals long before hops have reached their highs. Also he points to New Belgiums experiments with herbs. New Belgium however doesn’t have problems with ho procurement or low profitability of beers due to the large volumes they move. Besides that their not really famous for hoppy beers are they? It would be senseless then to argue this as a sign of switching from hops. More then likely New Belgium is hoping on the herbal bandwagon for sales, not to save costs.

So is this really the begining of the end for over hopped beers? Most likely not. Will we see more variety in terms of herbal beers available? Probably.

Thanks JR for sending in the article.