Beer sampling. File photo: Bernt Rostad/Flickr
Micro-breweries keep sprouting in Stockholm, but their reliance on a healthy dollop of hops, echoing the American trend, means they are sensitive to fluctuations in the hops market.
Trend-savvy Stockholmers are not alone, it seems, in their changing beer habits, as growing global demand for hops is now threatening supply. The US hops growers' trade association has raised the alarm that they may find it difficult to meet expanding demand.
"They can't keep growing at the rate that the beer world demands," Peter Högström, a buyer at Swedish wholesaler Humlegårdens Ekolager, told The Local.
India Pale Ale (IPA) is the brew most at stake, as it requires some three or four times more hops than an average beer. Högström sees no sign of the new hop-heavy brewing trend abating.
"The shortage of notably fruity American and New Zealand hops will increase. At least if brewers continue to increase production of IPA," he said.
Magnus Lindroos, CEO of Malt-Magnus, another wholesaler supplying hops to Stockholm's micro-breweries, says that both brewers and drinkers are "blissfully unaware" of the impending hop dearth.
"I don't think they are that aware of it. Blissfully unaware, you might say," he said.
He has advised clients to stock up, as the shortage will make itself felt by October.
"At least if you want the most popular varieties," he said.
Michel Ahlin Wigardt, a brewer with the Stockholm Brewing Co., has stocked up and reserved hops from the next harvest in late summer, which will enter the supply chain in the winter.
"We have quite a lot (in stock) and we have pre-booked some. We are also using European varieties that will be available," he said.
While the demand increases, prices rise. That could put a spanner in the works for fledgling breweries and new start-ups, which are dependent on certain specific hops varieties, Wigardt explained.
"If you have core products that are dependent on American hops maybe you won't be able to make them," he said, suggesting that brewers cut down on the hops or turn to European suppliers.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson