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All Hops Up

OPB | Feb. 8, 2008 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:39 p.m.

What will the rising price of hops do to your favorite pint?

When you tip back a fresh glass of beer and revel in its flavor, chances are you?re not thinking about the worldwide shortage of hops. But beware the perils of the commodities market! The pinecone-shaped grain flower (see PlantDrEMB’s comment below) is key to the flavor of craft beers in particular. If a brewer can?t get the hop variety he or she wants, the taste of your brew will change.

That?s already happening in some small Northwest breweries. Where have all the hops gone? Blame drought in New Zealand, hail in Europe, a warehouse fire in Yakima, and years of hops oversupply. Lots of available hops meant low prices for farmers ? too low to make any money at it, in some cases. So hops crops in Oregon and Washington, as well as elsewhere in the world, got pulled out of the ground.

This show idea came from a previous guest, OSU economics prof Patrick Emerson, who blogs about beer frequently and asks this: how does a brewmaster yield to market forces and yet maintain the integrity of the beer?

We would add: are there ways local farmers and brewers could work together to buffer the winds of globalization? Oh, and how hoppy do you like your beer?

Photo credit: Atariboy / Flickr / Creative Commons

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