Wildfires and drought affecting hops and barley yields

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SIOUX CITY (KCAU9) — Wildfires and extreme drought have ravaged the northwest United States and Canada this summer, stunting hops and barley production and causing brewers to strategize about their supply.

Ben Hanten first dabbled in the brewing industry back in 2007 but weather conditions similar to this year made him realize the business is tougher than it looks.

“And the hop shortages that were caused by droughts and fires at that time were one of the major stresses of why we got out of brewing. Eight years later, we got back in and I think we’ve got a better plan to make sure we have that consistent supply,” said Hanten, founder of Ben’s Brewing in Yankton.

Hanten says he now has “hop contracts” that give him security, knowing he has a better chance of receiving supply over smaller breweries but that he may have to adapt in using different hop varieties.

“Brewers who are at least brewing IPAs these days will use three to five to seven varieties of hops and so if you do run into a shortage on an ingredient, you can blend a little bit differently which is not a lot different then the blending that’s happened in the whiskey industry, other things over the years to create a consistent flavor profile.”

Hanten says some hop varieties may not be available in years to come which may change the taste of his product slightly but says that’s bound to happen when using agricultural ingredients.

“Our recipe for 2021 might look a little bit different in 2022 and that’s gonna be dependent on yields that come out of hop fields and barley fields but also just the type of performance,” said Hanten.

Hanten says that he imports hops not only from the Yakima Valley in Washington but a hop farm in Yankton which supplies the ingredient found in Ben’s flagship brew, the West Side Park IPA.

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