Hopsteiner is a global grower and supplier of hops with operations in the US, UK, China, Czech Rebublic, Germany and Spain.
In 2016, there were approximately 51,115 acres of hops in the US alone, most of which are located in the state of Washington. This figure does not account for the micro level of hops being grown in other states, but that too is growing, Elkins said.
According to the Brewers Association, there were 4,225 craft breweries in the US in 2015 compared to 3,676 in 2014, an 18% increase.
“We’ve had to work hard over the last four to five years to keep up with demand, but there are plenty of hops on the market for spot sales,” Elkins said.
However, “there have been shortages in some of the new proprietary hops because it takes a while to increase the acreage year over year to where you’re getting high yields, but the industry reacts to that every year.”
Craft beer conversion
While craft beer still makes up a fraction of total beer sales, Elkins says craft beer is on the track to even more growth over the next five to ten years.
“There are still an awful lot of people that haven’t tried craft beer yet,” Elkins told BeverageDaily. “Or maybe they’ve tried one that’s too much of a leap” in terms of flavor and aroma.
According to Elkins, the best way to expand consumers’ palate is to offer a wide choice of craft beers using a variety of hops, and to ease them into craft beer with less “hoppy” flavor notes like a pilsner or lager.
Craft beer in the US
Small and independent craft brewers account for a 12% market share of the US beer industry by volume.
In 2015 there was a 13% increase in volume, and 16% increase in value.
“It doesn’t just have to be an IPA,” Elkins said. “That’s like going from processed cheese to gorgonzola overnight.”
Answers the locavore need
Elkins credits part of craft beer’s rise in popularity to a growing number of consumers who want to know the origin of their products. Unlike major mass market beer products, craft beer is typically brewed locally on a much smaller scall and therefore tends to have varying flavor profiles.
“Breweries aren’t beholdan to producing a specific type of beer day in and day out,” Elkins said.
An affordable luxury
Elkins believes that craft beer allows consumers to indulge and is a more approachable product compared to other alcohol product like wine, where prices are typically higher.
“Beer is much more approachable than say, wine. People know what a beer is. They can also experiment with different styles,” Elkins said.
“As opposed to buying a bottle of wine that you’re not familiar with. I also think craft beer allows them to treat themselves a little bit without breaking the bank.”
‘Better beer’ category?
Examples of big beer scooping up small breweries
Miller Coors acquires Saint Archer Brewery- 2015
Constellation Brands acquires Ballast Point - 2015
AB InBev acquires Devil's Backbone - April 2016
MillerCoors acquires Terrapin Beer Co. - July 2016
Craft beer has been termed by those in the industry as the “better beer category,” and while a fan of craft beer, Elkins believes that this description is not a fair assessment.
According to Elkins, craft beer will never replace mass market beer brands, and that should never be the goal.
He believes the recent acquisitions of small craft brewers by big players in the beer industry has positive aspects, because it gets more craft beer to more places.