Craft Brewers Are Concerned About Hop Supply. Local Farms May Have An Answer

Aug 14, 2017

New England Brewing Company’s Robert Leonard has been brewing local favorites Sea Hag and Gandhi Bot, now called G-Bot, for decades. 

But the recent merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller could put a strain on the availability of hops, which is a key ingredient for beer.

"If something does happen these next couple of years, and we can't make Sea Hag or we can't make Gandhi Bot, it's a big concern," said Leonard.

Jeff Browning, owner of Brewport Brewing in Bridgeport, said that getting hops has already been a problem, and it could get worse with the merger.

"There was a big problem with American brewers, like myself, getting Centennial hops for a couple years because of it," Browning said.

But there could be a local solution.

Both Leonard and Browning recently joined other Connecticut brewers at a farm called Pioneer Hops of Connecticut, to meet with Senator Richard Blumenthal to talk about this merger and its potential impact on local brewers.

"Up till now, they've had to rely on hops from the Pacific Northwest," said hop-grower James Shepherd, owner of Smokedown Farms in Sharon. "We represent an effort to bring hop production locally to local brewers and make it a sustainable industry in Connecticut."

The craft beer industry in Connecticut is booming. Nearly 130,000 barrels were produced in the state last year, according to the Brewers Association. Over 40 microbreweries are currently in operation here, and there are plans underway to open another 34 in the coming years.

As hop farms continue to pop up, some brewers are confident that local hops could supply the demand, which would help the local industry stay immune from some of the effects of the merger.