We’ve been hearing about this for awhile, that there is a hop shortage and it will kill, or at last maim, the craft beer industry. “Inconvenience” is the word I would choose, but I’ve never been an alarmist. At the bottom of the problem, according to the Wall Street Journal is a supply problem for Citra hops. The short version of the problem is that farmers don’t want to commit to a huge bump in production on a trendy hop, and emerging small brewery are putting a lot of demand pressure on the current supply.
The worst-cases scenario, here, is that there are fewer citra beers. To put that in perspective, five years ago that sentence wouldn’t have been intelligible for the people clamoring for that very beer right now. In a recent interview with Lori Clough, who owns 3rd Wave Brewing she told me one of the most surprising things about becoming a brewery owner was how trendy the industry can be. Hot styles and flavors bubble up out of nowhere and, in the interest of competition, brewers have to decide how to respond.
But it is important to remember that, at the heart of brewing, is an interplay between creativity and problem solving. There are so many beer one can make. It’s mind-boggling that an industry that changed the American palate in less than a decade suddenly can feel held hostage by demand for one ingredient. Only brewers and about 10 percent of beer drinkers (and mongoloids like me who write about it) care one way or another about beer fads. Most craft beer drinkers rely on their willingness to try something new, and that’s the kind of thing that should be encouraged.
If citra has hit the kind of demand and supply ceiling that makes it an ingredient brewers think drinkers thing they should have, better to recognize it and to start to think about what’s next. After all, this still is a very young industry and, as it wends toward the end of its first decade of serious, massive growth it is critical to stay creative and ahead of the taste curve.
Drink what you like and be happy.