Local brewers feel the effects of rising hops prices

Psychology graduate student Emily Fisher said she likes to brew beer at home, but a small flower has made her hobby a little more expensive.

That flower is hops – one of the four main ingredients in beer – and has continually increased in price over the past few months.

“Although I usually buy brew kits from the store, I have noticed the prices have increased a little,” she said. “Not enough to stop me from doing it, though.”

But the rising cost has had a bigger impact on the small-brewing industry.

Omar Ansari, owner of Surly Brewing Co., a metro-area independent brewing company, recently had to raise his prices because his hops contracts have become more expensive.

His older contracts increased in price by 30 to 40 percent, while newer ones increased by 100 percent.

If brewers don’t have contracts and buy them on the open market, prices could drastically increase.

“Cascade hops that are used by Sierra Nevada Brewing a couple of years ago would have cost you about $4 a pound and $300 this year,” he said. “That’s if you can get them.”

The rise in prices has been linked to a reduction in hops production by farmers, Ansari said.

Also, other countries, such as China and Germany, are drinking more beer than in the past few years, he said, and therefore are using more hops.

Since hops can take up to three years to grow, Ansari said he might have to change his recipes.

“It’s a pretty significant problem and a number of brewers, probably including ourselves, may have to change recipes because one of the hops we use has simply been pulled out of the ground,” he said.

The brewery had to pass the prices along to its customers because they didn’t want to have to change their recipes, Ansari said.

Although the price of malt barley, another key ingredient in beer, has also increased, Surly Brewing was able to absorb those costs without raising prices, Ansari said.

“But when our cost of brewing a batch of beer is going up $500, you just have to,” he said.

Independent brewing companies aren’t the only ones affected by the price increase.

Josh Zavadil, co-owner of Stub & Herbs Drinking and Dining Emporium in Stadium Village, said that since they buy mostly local and micro-brew beer, the price of buying a keg has increased from $120 to $150.

While he said he was informed in February that hops prices might increase, they are just feeling the effects now.

“We have had to raise the price of our taps by 50 cents a pint,” Zavadil said, adding that they’ve even had to discontinue carrying beer from Lake Superior Brewing in Duluth.

While the increase is affecting the type of hops used by smaller breweries, it’s not affecting bigger beer companies such as Miller, Budweiser and Coors, Zavadil said.

The continual price increase is also beginning to affect Rock Bottom Brewery.

Brew master Bryon Tonnis said that while prices have increased, it’s only now beginning to affect the company.

“We’re pretty lucky at Rock Bottom because we have had contracts for a lot of our hops for quite a few years, but it is definitely starting to impact us,” he said.

Since the hops aren’t as available as they used to be, Tonnis said he’s had to rework some recipes and redetermine how much hops to use.