Craft breweries may be fueling an unprecedented geographic expansion of hop production across the U.S., according to researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park and The University of Toledo in Ohio. Their findings, published in the Journal of Wine Economics, suggest that, as more craft breweries emerge around the country, so may new opportunities for farmers.
Before 2007, hop production in the U.S. was limited to three Pacific Northwest states—Oregon, Washington, and Idaho—according to Claudia Schmidt, assistant professor of agricultural economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and one of the study researchers. Now, she says that 29 states are engaging in hop production.
Using data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture, the researchers found that, from 2007 to 2017, the number of breweries in the U.S. more than quadrupled—from 992 to more than 4,000—and that the number of breweries in a state is associated with more hop farms and hop acres five years later. The number of hop farms grew from 68 to 817 in this same time period, and hop acreage expanded from 31,145 to 59,429 acres.
“This growth has … positioned the U.S. as the largest producer of hops globally, both in terms of acreage and production,” says Elizabeth Dobis, a postdoctoral scholar at the Penn State-based Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development and lead author of the study.
Working with farm, brewery, and climate data, the researchers developed a statistical model to determine whether new craft breweries in a state between 2007 and 2017 resulted in a larger number of hop producers and hop acres planted, by both new and existing growers in that state. They built a time-lag into their model to identify the effect of new breweries over time. They also controlled for other variables that may influence farmers to start growing hops, such as average farm size, average net farm income, and climate.
One possible explanation for the trend is that the growing consumer demand for locally sourced food and beverages encourages craft brewers to seek out locally grown ingredients, says Schmidt.