Beautiful Hops...don't worry, ultimately they're not going anywhere.
Listen, I’m not saying I’ve been around since craft beer was in its infancy. I turned 21 in 1998, and didn’t do much beer educating until after the turn of the century. However, I remember the last hop shortage, so when I saw this, I kind of laughed.
As a homebrewer during the last hop shortage (circa 2008), I remember prices going up…and never really coming back down. I remember that in 2008, we had a hard time getting fresh hops for brewing at home. I remember predictions that beer was in trouble, and that we could never survive. And I remember the number of craft breweries growing…and growing…and growing. To the point where doomsday predictors were actually predicting that craft beer’s growth was unsustainable. (In fact, there has been a steady stream of articles since the great hop shortage of 2008 saying that very thing…it can’t last.)
The fact of the matter is that it CAN last, and it probably WILL last, for awhile…
See, what these shortage doomsday predictions forget is that the market adjusts. Will every single craft brewery make it through this hop shortage? Probably not. Your favorite local place MAY just fold. Prices will go up. People will look for alternative goods. As was said by the more temperate craft beer news outlets in 2008/2009, there ARE styles which use few hops. Have a look at some of the traditional British beers, some traditional German styles. Heck, most things prior to the American craft beer revolution were much lighter on the hops than much of what is brewed today. Heck, I brewed a 60-shilling Scottish Ale last year which was consumed by beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike at a 60th birthday party for my in-laws. There are reasons why these styles exist and have survived.
Breweries which refuse to adapt will fold, but I predict that overall, craft beer will continue to rise. What I hope is that drinkers continue to educate themselves and refuse to drink mediocre beer just because it’s local, or just because it has the “craft” label attached. There’s a lot of crappy beer out there which people are drinking by the gallon, for some reason. I’ve tried some of it, and it’s just not good. In this day and age, there is NO reason to settle, people.
So yeah, I don’t doubt there will be years of hop shortage. And I don’t doubt that some brewers will fold. However, craft beer is not in danger. Expect to pay a little more. As supply goes down and demand continues to rise, the intersection of those two lines will mean higher prices, certainly. But in response, become more discriminating. As we say on every show, life is short, so drink GOOD beer, and do it responsibly.
Soli Deo Gloria.