Hop Harvest 2016 – Half Time Report

EACH DAY BETTER THAN THE NEXT!  

That sums up the 2016 hop harvest in Germany and the U.S. The weather we mentioned in our previous blog Hop Harvest 2016: What to Expect would become problematic has been a nightmare for growers. Weather has affected yields of aroma and alpha varieties. Two full weeks of hop harvest remain for many American hop growers while German growers have fewer days left to endure … and the crop outlook worsens with each passing day. The world crop will come in significantly lower than anticipated just one month ago. There will be variety specific shortages while a some varieties are oversupplied. Weather affects every hop variety differently, making this a very challenging and multi-faceted market on which to report, more so than ever before. 

UNITED STATES (estimated yields down 4-5 million pounds from pre-harvest estimates)

Growers harvested some varieties earlier in the season that yielded less than expected despite a beautiful crop hanging in the field. The cause is that the cores of many varieties have not weighed what they should. Many speculate that is caused by unseasonably high temperatures early in the summer. You may remember a similar problem during the 2015 crop. Later maturing varieties were destined to suffer a different fate. High humidity and cold temperatures have caused problems across the Yakima valley in particular. Powdery mildew and early maturity are the results. Humidity has been higher than normal for the past month. As a result, powdery mildew is rampant in many fields waiting to be harvested. That will certainly affect an already-stressed alpha market. It is still a bit too soon to know what the ultimate yield will be on late maturing varieties, but early harvest results are not looking good with alpha and yield both down. The coming alpha crisis is a topic for another blog though. Growers affected by early maturity and powdery mildew are literally racing against the clock to harvest their hops before it is too late, but with farms picking at capacity there is little anybody can do to speed up the process. Meanwhile, unfavorable weather for hop harvest will continue in the Pacific Northwest through the rest of September.

brown-hops

Industry statistics combined with information gleaned from people in the industry combined with the trends we see regarding 47Hops deliveries, lead us to believe the American crop is already down approximately 5 million pounds from long-term average yields for the varieties harvested thus far.  As the harvest is not yet over, the damage will most likely be much worse than that by the time we have access to the official final data in December. The increase in American hop production will likely be lower than the increase in American craft beer production from 2015-2016. 

GERMANY (estimated yields down 4-5 million pounds from pre-harvest estimates)

“This year we have the perfect weather for growing hops so we expect excellent yields for hops and alpha.”  Those are the words of a German hop grower to me a little more than one month ago. Way back then, German growers were preparing for one of the most beautiful crops in recent memory. When things seem to be going perfectly, there’s only one direction they can go … down. That grower friend of mine didn’t knock on wood or spit three times or any of those other things you’re supposed to do to keep from jinxing yourself. During the past few weeks, the Hallertau has endured unusually high temperatures and no rain … until this week when they received the entire average rainfall for September fell in 3 days. As a result of all of that heat and no rain until this week, spider mite populations exploded. If you don’t already know, spider mites turn any remaining hops many different colors as they gradually suck the life out of them. 

more-brown-hops

The colorful result is a painful sign of what will soon become obvious in the bale … reduced yields. Only about one week of harvest remains for many German growers. With spider mites, it is also, literally a race against the clock to get the hops off while there’s still something left to harvest. The deluge earlier this week, however, proved too much for harvest to continue. Many growers decided to stop harvest and wait for the rains to pass and their fields to dry out, delaying the harvesting of the already-troubled fields remaining to be harvested. Despite all these troubles, it still seems the German industry will produce an average crop … but only an average crop. 

You can’t count your hops until they’re in the bale.   

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