THE BLOG
06/21/2016 05:56 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2017

Is British Columbia Canada's Saving Grace For Craft Beer?

The craft beer industry in North America is booming and the supply of Hops is struggling to meet the ever growing demand.

This is especially true in B.C., where locally grown agriculture is experiencing unprecedented growth as the awareness for "food miles" and the carbon footprint of food has been steadily increasing among the general consumer.

The market for BC grown hops consists primarily of BC microbreweries and Brewpubs in BC as well as within Canada and the US. Other potential buyers of BC grown hops include homebrew supply stores, home brewers, and online hops retailers.

British Columbia has a rich history of hops production with the earliest cultivation of hops in BC dating back to 1862 when farmers in Saanich, just north of Victoria, began growing hops to sell to local brewers.

A "Hopping" Industry For British Columbia

A shortage in other countries allowed big profits in BC, and interest spread to other parts of the province. In the Chilliwack area, the industry continued to grow until the 1940's when nearly 2,000 acres were under cultivation, with 4,000 people employed during the harvest each year.

At its peak, the Fraser Valley represented the largest hop-growing region in the entire British Commonwealth. The province's major corporate-owned breweries were buying cheaper hops almost exclusively from Washington State's heavily subsidized hops industry.

Fewer and fewer farmers chose to grow hops until the last of the great Fraser Valley hop farms closed down in 1997.

Fraser Valley Hop Farms Inc., an emerging hops farm and provider of both wet and dry hops to breweries throughout North America, will be helping to revitalize the hops industry in the Fraser Valley by farming and supplying hops to the exploding craft beer industry in B.C.

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In BC, craft beer's market share accounts for nearly 15% of all beer sold according to the Craft Brewers Association of British Columbia, who maintain that brewers are experiencing sales growth between 15 and 20% per year.

Since 2007, BC microbreweries (breweries that produce less than 160,000 HL per year) have experienced a 140% increase in sales (BCLDB, annual reports 2007 to 2013), as sales had almost tripled from approximately $60.5 million to $169.6 million.

Coupled with the boom in craft beer sales, the number of microbreweries in BC has also boomed. This year already there are even more breweries, bringing the total number of Breweries in B.C. to more than 120 and over 600 across Canada.

The high demand for locally produced goods also tells us that "buy local" might further impact the feasibility of a BC grown hops product.

What Kind of Beer Can B.C. Produce?

To identify hop varieties that can be grown in BC, (which are of interest to breweries in BC) breweries were asked to select their top 2 picks for locally grown hops from a list of varieties potentially available to BC growers.

This has helped narrow down the focus of production.

Survey responses showed a general consensus that BC breweries would switch to BC grown hops if quality and brewers specifications were consistently met. The brewers also expressed that they would pay a premium for BC hops, based on the quality of the product, varieties, and price.

Keeping production within B.C. will have a large, positive impact on the local economy. Which is why we need to make a push to ensure farming is viable and brewers understand the benefits of using locally grown products.

In Conclusion

The opportunity for B.C. growers to supply the province's craft breweries with hops is continuing to grow... provided the local supply can keep up with demand and meet brewers' specifications for quality, form and varieties.

Referenced in the article: Fraser Valley Hop Farms is Headquartered in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia and specializing in sustainable and eco friendly farming practices.

Fraser Valley Hop Farms is one of the BC based companies proud to be providing high quality, locally grown hops. Supporting the local economy and "helping make good beer taste great!"