How Chicago’s craft brewers meet thirst for hops

By: Julie Davis May 16, 2014

Source: CrainsChicagoBusiness

Some possibly bitter news during Chicago Craft Beer Week: As many beers get hoppier, hops are getting costlier.

Businessweek, citing data from the Hop Growers of America, reported yesterday that the “average price for all hops was $3.59 per pound in 2013, nearly twice as much as in 2004.”

Still, local brewers say they’ve found ways to avoid costly hops and continue delivering craft flavors Chicagoans love. Here are some of Chicago’s craft brewers on the subject of hops:

HalfAcre Brewery

HalfAcre Brewery

Half Acre Brewery founder Gabriel Magliaro says hop prices are actually far more stable now than they were a few years ago. In 2007, prices skyrocketed, he says, due to crop damage and fires. According to Mr. Magliaro, wise brewers contract their hops years in advance to ensure supply. “It’s a wheeling and dealing atmosphere. It certainly depends on relationships,” he says. Daisy Cutter Pale Ale is the North Center brewery’s number one seller.

OffColor Brewing

OffColor Brewing

Off Color Brewing, located in Logan Square, has taken a different approach. “We make beer focusing on fermentation flavor instead of focusing on hop flavor,” says owner John Laffler. Not only are those flavors he loves, but “it allows us to completely circumvent the whole hops fetish and hops scarcity issues.” Both of Off Color’s top-selling beers, Troublesome and Scurry, have “negligible hop flavor and aroma.”

Temperance Beer Co.

Temperance Beer Co.

Evanston’s Temperance Beer Co., a new player in the field, has tried to avoid brewing with the most popular hop varieties, but that isn’t always easy to do. “When I was doing test batches, I was trying to use newer, less popular hops,” says founder Josh Gilbert. “By the time we got to a commercial scale, those were the popular hops.” So Gilbert has selected different hops for his current brews. Temperance’s Threeway American IPA is popular in their taproom right now.

Revolution Brewing

Revolution Brewing

Revolution Brewing’s bestseller, Anti-Hero, uses a blend of hops to make it easier to find affordable aroma varieties. The IPA accounts for over half of Logan Square-based Revolution’s sales, according to founder Josh Deth. He says hop contracts are the way to go. “It’s about matching up supply and demand,” he says. “Farmers are generally happy to grow more hops.”


Read more:

• Beer, here! 7 things to know about craft brewing

• Why Chicago wins praise as a ‘vibrant’ craft brewing city

• How Goose Island held on to its craft beer cred


Photos: Bobbi Bowers/Flickr; Buba69/Flickr; Temperance Beer Co.; Revolution Brewing.