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Hops. You either know all about them, or are among the rest of us scratching our heads, thinking “what's the big deal about hops?”
Hops are a green cone-shaped perennial flower with tiny yellow pods that contain resins and essential oils that give beer flavor. This flavoring element can be bitter, floral, citrus, woodsy, herbal or fruity depending on the crop and how the hops are used in the beer-making process.
Not only do hops give beer its “soul”, but if you know what you're doing, they can make you some good money.
Similar to the wide variety of grapes used in wine, there are many kinds of hops, each with its own flavor scenario.
The astonishing rise in popularity of craft beers has caused rapid increases in demand for hops. Craft beer is brewed to have a much bigger taste and offers new or even exotic flavors when compared to commercial brands. Also, mass produced beer in cans or bottles is said to be more diluted and less robust.
Hops may also have medicinal properties and can be prescribed by medical professionals for symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, to name a few. They are sometimes mixed with other herbal remedies such as chamomile, valerian and passion flower. Hops also have anti-inflammatory properties, according to medical studies.
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Getting In On Hop Farming
With the rising spike in demand for craft beers, microbreweries are taking the industry by storm, causing a flurry of demand for hops.
The United States is one of the largest markets for hops across and around the globe. The number of craft breweries in the country leaped by 10% between 2018 and 2019 and continues to rise dramatically.
Clearly, there is a projected uptick in the demand for growing hops when you take a close look at the numbers. However, be sure to follow trends carefully, as it may not be this way forever.
How Much Land Is Needed?
A hop farm can be as small as a couple of acres for a home brewing operation, but larger-scale farms can include 100 acres or more.
If you are looking for a meaningful income stream, you will need to start out with around 10 to 14 acres of land. Among other equipment, you will need to have trellises built as hops are a plant that climb upward like vines.
Hops flourish in moderate climates with rich soil and large amounts of sunshine and regular precipitation. They require at least 125 frost-free days to flower and produce a good-sized crop.
It will cost you around $12,000 per acre to get started on your hops farm. The cost is high because it includes farming from start to finish, including plants, irrigation, labor and equipment.
According to the Hop Growers of America Association, it will cost you about $10,000 per year to maintain your hops farmland.
Are Hops Profitable To Farm?
Some people are smaller-scale hops farmers who grow the plant for their own home brewing activities. In those instances, farming hops is more of a hobby, where making money is not the aim.
On a commercial level, hops can be a very good crop for making money!
Smaller scale or specialty crops can wholesale for as much as $16 per pound or more depending on market conditions.
A typical seven-barrel batch of beer will require up to ten pounds of hops. In recent years, the average yield of dry hops in the US was about 2,000 pounds per acre.
Studies have shown that global demand for hops will rise by nearly 5% between now and 2025.
How To Position A High-Quality Small Hops Farm
You may find yourself in a position to try dabbling with this business model.
Maybe you have a big backyard, or a land-owning family member or friend to bribe with the promise of home-brew craft beer. Even with a small plot of land can host a good crop of hops.
If you're limited on the scale you can start your hops farm, you can actually use this limitation to kickstart your business and branding – by only having a small crop of hops, you can spend time learning the ins and outs of the plant in the different seasons, and cultivate a high-quality hop for microbrewers who'd love to give you their homebrew craft beer hobby money.
If you can keep track of these four variables, you'll likely be able to cultivate a hop crop that gets you repeat customers:
Select the right varieties: Different hop varieties have different characteristics, and some are better suited for certain beer styles than others. Farmers should choose varieties that are in demand by craft brewers and that can thrive in their local climate and soil conditions.
Optimize growing conditions: Hops require a specific balance of sunlight, water, and nutrients to grow to their full potential. Farmers should carefully manage these factors to ensure their hops are healthy and produce the desired aroma, flavor, and bitterness.
Harvest at the right time: Hops should be harvested when they are fully mature but before they begin to deteriorate. Farmers should carefully monitor the development of their hops and harvest them at the optimal time to ensure maximum quality.
Proper processing and storage: After harvesting, hops should be properly processed and stored to prevent spoilage and maintain their quality. This includes drying to the appropriate moisture content, cleaning to remove foreign matter, and storing in a cool, dry place to prevent mold and other contaminants.
Along with grain, yeast and water, hops are a main ingredient in beer.
The arrival of craft brews on the beer scene has catapulted demand for hops skyward. Learning how to be a successful hops farmer isn’t necessary in order to profit from this demand. You can buy acreage and rent the land to a hops farmer, or invest in an already-established hops farm.