By Amy Le,Reuters, March 16, 2019Beer brewers are hoping to make a splash in the craft beer world by using their hops in a variety of beers and, in the process, make the industry’s signature bitter.
The Brewers Association of America (BA) said in a report this week that brewers have been looking at the hop-growing capabilities of barley, corn, and rice in a bid to compete in the world of craft beer.
“We’re talking about a new crop of hops, that’s grown out of a grain that was brought in by the U.S. government, that is now going to be cultivated for us by the United States,” BA’s John Miller said in an interview.
Miller said BA had been in discussions with a handful of hop producers in the past year, but declined to identify them or reveal their names.
The hop industry has been in crisis in recent years as a result of a combination of price cuts, a shortage of hops for brewing and growing demand from China.
China has been buying grain from India, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, where it has been pressing for greater access to cheap grain, according to the International Trade Commission (ITC).
“I think it’s important that we start a conversation about the future of hops and what that means for the future, and I think there are a lot of people who are really interested in getting into the hops industry,” Miller said.
The American hop industry, which produces more than 5.2 million tons of hops a year, has struggled with falling prices and declining demand from the world.
BA, which is the trade association for craft brewers, says that its members have grown from 3,500 in 1996 to more than 2.8 million today.
The report said BA has been testing its new barley-based barley for the first time this year.
The barley-producing industry in the United U.K., for example, is now growing at double-digit annual rates and is in the midst of a surge in demand, according the report.
Miller added that the industry has to find a way to meet the growing demand.
BA is working with barley farmers in the U and overseas, and is working on the first-ever production of barley from a wheat variety, he said.
“You can’t grow a barley crop from a grain and expect it to continue to grow and produce at the same rate as wheat, which has a lot more grain,” Miller told Reuters.
“So we’ve got to find some new things to do.”
The industry has seen some recent growth, however.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in February that the United Sates barley crop grew 7.6 percent in 2018 and 3.9 percent in 2019.
The trade group said its member companies were looking to develop a new variety of barley that could compete with Asian wheat and barley varieties, but Miller said it was too early to say how the industry might fare in the next few years.