The article doesn't really say why there is a hops shortage, just bad weather. I asked a couple of local brewers, Sam, at Shoreline, and Nick, at Three Floyds, how the shortage was going to affect them. I even sent a message to the regional rep at Bell's, but didn't get a reply.
Yesterday, I was at Shoreline picking up ingredients to brew a Porter and a White Ale this weekend. I'm pretty new to all this brewing, so as I was looking at the grains and hops, I asked Sam if the hops were plugs or pellets. He smiled and said, "Those are pellets. And you're lucky to be getting them. I may not even have enough hops to brew beer next year." He continued by saying that 1 ounce of hops wasn't going to set him back. He uses around 30 pounds of hops in a batch of beer. That's totally amazing to me, because the kettle behind the glass is obviously bigger than our 5-gallon kettle, but 30 pounds? Amazing.
Nick over at Three Floyds answered my email with this:
"The hop shortage will greatly effect every small brewer in the world. It will not change our production or style of beer we producebut will cost us alot more to move forward and keep expanding production."
I saw on Three Floyds website that three of the brewers there were out west scouting their hops options for 2008, or something like that.
It almost makes a person want to go buy some farmland and start growing hops. Initially, I thought about doing this, but one of my brew-partners, John, said you need to have more of an arid environment, like the Pacific northwest. Sam at Shoreline countered that thought by stating, "Before prohibition, Indiana was only second to the state of New York in hop production."
Now who knows how the climate has changed between the early 1930's and now. I would guess not much, but with that whole global warming thing, there might be some issues with growing hops in Indiana. What's more, it doesn't appear to be a lucrative business, but it would be good to have a plot of land for personal use and maybe to sell to local breweries so they could save on transportation costs. Also, it takes 3 years for the hop plants to really start blooming, so by that time this whole shortage issue could be history.
But for now, it means basically that for good beer, you're going to pay a higher price. I'll bet that Budweiser increases the price of their brews and blames it on the hop shortage, even though they appear to be in pretty good hands. This is even more of a reason to stop buying macrobrews and focus on the microbrews that are out there.