3 Things I've Learned About Canadian Hops
Photo by Ryan Bruce, used with permission via Burst photos.
Here are three things I’ve learned while looking into the Canadian Hops Industry- other than it’s difficult to find recent statistics:
1) In a 2009 survey by the Ontario Craft Brewers, the top five hops brewers were interested in purchasing were, by order of interest:
See the full list here: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/news/hortmatt/2013/03hrt13a4.htm
Could not find an update to the survey, but fairly certain it would look very different today.
2) The number of hop farms in Ontario was growing at a fairly rapid pace over the past decade. In annual survey’s by Ontario Beverage Net (www.ontariobev.net) the number of active farms were jumped from 40 in 2015 to 60 in 2016, the last year that the report is available. Largely in response to local brewer interest -95% of surveyed brewers were interested in using local hops.
- A look at the Ontario Hop Growers Association list of current farms (https://www.ontariohopgrowersassociation.ca/ontario-hop-growers/) puts the number at 99 after filtering out some duplicates. This includes the Niagara College Learning Corporation hop yard in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Check out the Teaching Brewery at: https://www.ncteachingbrewery.ca/
3) According to research published in 2015 by Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, hop farms can become profitable on a yearly basis in year two of operations (https://www.kpu.ca/sites/default/files/ISFS/Hop.pdf). Total costs average about $16,000 CAD annually.
- The study assumes that land can be rented at $420 CDN per acre and that a harvesting machine is available for rent when needed.
- Extrapolating the numbers out, hop farms can expect to pay back the initial investment and recoup costs around year five.
- Randy Adams and Spencer Peterson, owners of Pair O’ Dice Hops in Alberta found the cost per acre to get started was about $15,000 CAD. However, they also had about $200,000 CAD in startup costs for “basic harvesting and processing capabilities”. Check out the full article, from 2017, at: https://www.albertafarmexpress.ca/2017/07/04/hop-in-growing-craft-brewery-market-drives-demand-for-local-hops/
- For comparison, in an article published on the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) website in 2016, Laurie Thatcher-Craig and John Craig of Clear Valley Hops in Collingwood, Ontario put the cost per acre around $50,000 CAD. See the article here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/craft-beer-trend-creates-a-new-craving-for-canadian-hops-1.3715269
Bonus fact I learned along the way: Harvesting hops by hand takes about an hour per mature bine for a single person. Considering that farms are planted at densities of 800 to 1,500 plants per acre, commercial production without a mechanical harvester of some kind is very, very difficult.
- Purdue University’s new hop farm planning: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/hop.html
- Fort Lewis College’s presentation on establishing a hop yard: https://www.fortlewis.edu/Portals/178/Science%20of%20Hops%2014.pdf