As the last few bales of 2021 crop roll in on trucks from farms across the PNW and are stored away in YCH warehouses, we now have a more holistic view of this year’s hop harvest. Being a grower owned hop supplier, we are committed to promoting strong connections between farmers and brewers through timely and transparent communications. As brewers dependent on our hop supply, we believe you should know what’s happening in the fields and in our production facilities!
Before we provide you with the latest harvest summary, we want to share some exciting news from our operations team. We have yet again set a record of producing ~1.5 million pounds more during the month of September than ever before, all while maintaining our highest quality standards. This means brewers have access to the current crop year sooner than ever, and less hops aging in bale form while waiting to be produced. This significantly contributes to the greater quality of YCH products. Hats off to our amazing operations crew.
Here is a summary and the latest updates from the 2021 crop year:
Extremely high and unseasonable heat earlier in June caused some concern amongst growers as it is something that is not typically seen so early on in the growing season. Both Yakima and Oregon saw temps up to 120 degrees F (48 degrees C). While Idaho never got as hot, they did experience almost two weeks of higher-than-normal temperatures, which is also unusual. Early concerns were that this would have some large effects on yield and quality, however, as the season progressed, growers saw positive signs of recovery. Although some farms saw some adverse effects on farm-to-farm yield and pick window timing, it did not result in any major loss in yield or have any negative effects on the aroma quality of hops. Overall harvest was shifted a little later than normal, about 2-3 days, and we speculate this may have been a result of the abnormal heat.
As a brewer, you should know that this anomaly in weather will not have any major impacts on you or the hops you receive. In these scenarios, farms take immediate action to protect their crop, such as training side arms to become apical meristem leaders that replace those damaged by heat, as well as staying ahead of male plant identification and pest pressures that take advantage of stress put on hop plants.
Atmospheric smoke that we experienced in early harvest from local wildfires in Washington, specifically the Schneider Springs Fire close to the Yakima Valley, has caused some minor effects on a few lots of hops. Fortunately, we experienced some early heavy rainfall, which helped knock down the fire as well as a lot of the lingering smoke early in the Washington and Idaho harvest season. From then on, the fire was much more contained and the smoke in the air was reduced to very low amounts.
As a brewer, you should know that although we observed some minor smoke characteristics in a few lots of hops, the volume affected is very minimal compared to our overall volume and nowhere near the impact we saw from the 2020 wildfires. In the last few years, YCH has started to conduct extensive research on the impacts of smoke taint on hops and beer, particularly during the extreme wildfires last year. We are utilizing these learnings to adjust our quality best practices accordingly and ensure that smoke is not a concern for brewers.
Water availability was not a major concern this year for Washington or Oregon despite a very dry summer. However, Oregon did have some isolated issues that may have contributed to minor overall yield challenges from this state. Meanwhile in Idaho, there was quite a bit more pressure on water availability where many growers lost access to irrigation two weeks earlier than normal. Fortunately, with the timing of harvest this did not have an impact on any farms, as they already scale back water usage during harvesting activities.
As a brewer, there is no cause for concern on the front of water availability having any adverse effect on 2021 hop harvest.
Alpha focused variety acreage such as Warrior®, CTZ and Pahto® has trended lower than historical average. However, overall yields, or pounds per acre, are much higher than normal!
As a brewer, this means that overall Alpha hop volume is in a healthy position. Considering where it is currently at, we should see the global market in this category remain relatively stable.
For the big flavor varieties, such as Citra®, Mosaic®, and Simcoe®, all of the pounds delivered met YCH’s projections or were just slightly under. We did see an unusually large variation from farm to farm this year in yield, but a high level of consistency in overall aroma quality. It is safe to say it was a good year for all these varieties.
As a brewer you should know that if you have contracts, you will be fully covered and there is not a shortage on these varieties. However, we do not plan on having any significant SPOT volumes in these varieties. They are currently in a very “sold” position due to a continuously high demand. If you find yourself short on these varieties, it would be best to contact your normal sales representative to discuss your options. Also, it will be important to plan for future needs and look to contracts for 2022 to secure inventory in these varieties. As we continue to see the demand for these varieties grow on a global scale, contracts are extremely important in order for us and our growers to plan for additional needed volume.
For other largely important varieties such as Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook, yields were either at or just below where YCH expected. Similar to previously mentioned varieties, we saw a high level of farm to farm variation in yield but the overall yield was where we needed it. Centennial in particular had an outstanding year with high quality and a high level of beautiful aromatic consistency from across the Pacific Northwest.
As a brewer, contracts will be covered in full this year and there is no concern on issues with volume. We do, however, expect to have little to no SPOT volume available on these varieties as they are in very sold positions on contracts. We still see growth in demand for these varieties and contracting for them in 2022 will be crucial to secure inventory for your brewery. All three of these varieties have seen dramatic year-over-year acreage reductions due to lack of contracts and overall are less available than they have ever been in the last decade.
For Organically grown hops, we saw a great year of high quality as well as high yields. We expect this to serve well for the growing global demand for more Organic Beer. Although outcomes varied slightly by variety, overall our growers experienced a very positive harvest for Organic Hops.
For all other varieties, we saw great yields and have had great quality. We expect a very normal year for these hops as far as supply. If you are interested in more specifics on any varieties or have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or your regional sales representative.
We are excited for another stellar year of hops and are looking forward to a great year of hop product production and of course as always – the excellent beers to come! This year was another outstanding nod to the resiliency and adaptability of the Pacific Northwest hop growers, as they continue to overcome adversity and rise to the occasion. It is the passion that is shared from grower to brewer to craft beer lovers around the world that drives them, and this harvest again memorializes that great culture in our industry. So thank you to all of our hop growers for another incredible crop year. We look forward to enjoying the delicious brews to come as a result!