This is an introduction to my views on the emerging Hops market in Québec, exhibiting why I think the Québec craft brewing industry needs organizations such as Houblon Québec, an initiative aimed at giving craft hops producers the chance to focus their energies on growing, to become a definitive & unique player amongst the big ones. A report in a few articles.
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n Québec, the craft beer culture flourishing now more than ever, and the trend towards globalization slowly leaving room for regionalism, more and more brewers, consumers, & events converge towards a higher demand for local products. Some brewers proudly advertise beers with ingredients made in Québec, where barley is oft the closest-bought one. But what about hops, the flower that awakes our senses as the ever hoppier beverage sails upon our tongue and as the consumers see their preferences evolve?
Compared to beer’s history, that of hops is rather young. Although it has been part of brewing in ages past, only in the recent centuries has the flower begun to be seriously used in recipes, among other things, to improve the beers’ flavor profile with exotic aromas, but also for the preserving of the liquid and the countervailing of malts’ sweetness.
Since then, some regions have extensively developed this bine’s [sic] agriculture until they became recognized as world-class mass producers. The biggest of them, Germany, nearly yields fourty thousand (metric) tons per annum, mostly in the Hallertau region, nearly 30% of the world share; for their part, the USA produce twenty eight thousand tons per annum. Only beginning to imagine such a weight in flowers gives a sense of the vastness of these scales of production… which by several orders of magnitude Québec might never reach, given its climate.
The last decades have seen the north-american craft brewing sector flourish abundantly, it being constantly sown with creativity & novelty, altogether in a collective spirit of discovery, renewal & epicureanism. People’s taste buds develop quickly and innate aversion to bitterness whittles, unlatching the door to the exotic realm of Hops Aromas, oft veiled by the Bitter counterpart of intensive hops use in brewing particular recipes such as IPAs, and all of their evermore crazier and hoppier variations.
It is important to acknowledge that the mechanisms underlying a global market such as that of hops are somewhat complex for the average Joe, as any market observed from an economics point of view. That said, countless factors influence prices & stocks fluctuations, including external, hard-to-control ones, such as climate and bugs epidemics; or internal, market-related factors, such as fluctuating demand for beer or particular hops varieties.
In the upcoming articles, though it is not my intention to produce a thorough analysis of the market variables and their behavior, I intend to try and convey an overview of the major forces at work there, in order to try and understand how Quebec producers can increase their chances of having a comfortable and secure place amidst the hops market, and how Quebecers can take any actions that would subserve the local craft hops agriculture and the growth of the good repute of Quebec hop varieties.
The next article will offer observations on the Quebec hops market conjuncture, aimed at exposing the reality it will face if it wishes to establish itself; the last one will introduce an example of a practical solution already in place, and explain why this solution is the path we should be walking on, subserving & promoting if Québec desires a unique, thriving hops growing industry.
Written by Biére de Lys
Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations, http://faostat.fao.org