clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Trouble brewing for small beer makers over hops shortage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — There's trouble brewing for small beer makers across the country.

The price of hops and barley, two of the essential ingredients in brewing, continue to rise, as do the costs of shipping and bottling. That means those looking forward to libation with craft beers likely will see their favorite brands rise in cost.

"We'll watch the market, and we'll try to move along with the market," said Russ Melton, one of the owners of Little Rock's Diamond Beer Brewing Co. "We'll keep ourselves competitive."

Steve Mazylewski, brewmaster for the Hog Haus Brewing Co. in Fayetteville since August, said he was shocked when he called to reorder hops last month, only to find out they weren't available. Yakima, Wash.-based Hopunion CBS LLC, a big international supplier of hops, wasn't able to fill his order.

The reasons include storms, increased beer brewing in foreign countries as well as more interest domestically in craft beers, Mazylewski said. Some farmers also abandoned growing the hops and barley crops after a glut in the market.

Melton said Diamond Bear's sales have been growing 25 percent to 30 percent each year since its September 2000 opening. Last year, the brewery produced 2,000 barrels, or about 27,500 cases, of beer. This year, it expects to make 2,100 barrels.

Robert Kort, Diamond Bear's brewmaster, said the company has bought enough barley and hops in bulk that the brewery doesn't have to worry yet. The company plans it will able to wait until next year to start adjusting the prices in line with the market. Mazylewski said prices for a pint of beer at the Hog Haus could rise 25 cents.

He said brewers who don't have hops contracts or who want to start a new business are out of luck.

"Owners of breweries out in Portland (Ore.), grown men, are almost on the verge of tears," Mazylewski said. "That's how dire it really is for us."