Douglas MacKinnon of 47 Hops, Talks Hops

Douglas MacKinnon of 47 Hops, Talks Hops

From January 20-23, 2015, the 59th Annual American Hop Convention is held in San Diego, CA. With the Hop Con in town, we were were invited to a meet-up and informal hop discussion by Douglas MacKinnon, CEO of 47 Hops.

His company is a full-service hop merchant based in Yakima, WA. Douglas is a hop expert, with great insight into the industry from both the grower, and craft brewer’s perspective. He just might know everything there is to know about hops!

Here’s an excerpt from his recent forecast about the growing demand for hops:

I think for 2015 we will see some variety-specific shortages again. Going forward beyond that, I see some serious problems developing due to the lack of infrastructure. In 2016 or possibly as late as 2017, I believe we will see severe supply problems for several reasons lasting 2 to 3 years that will greatly affect price.

We were able to ask him to elaborate on what some of the specific problems were, outside of general supply and demand. Was it weather / climate change? What are the factors exactly?

  • Weather was not a factor in his prediction, although he acknowledged that hot weather can affect the overall crop yield. Hops are irrigated, and Washington is not as badly affected by drought as CA.
  • Hop farmers need to expand to keep up with the craft beer boom, which can cost at least 15-10 million (if not more) to establish a new hop farm.
  • Banks are difficult to deal with for loans of this magnitude.
  • Over the next 5 years, he estimates hop farmers need to collectively invest up to 1 billion dollars to keep up with demand.

We asked Douglas what he thought of breweries like Rogue and Sierra Nevada, growing their own hops in-house. Does it help lessen the demand burden:

  • For breweries of their size, no. They produce too much beer to sustain themselves on what they are able to grow. In his opinion, growing their own hops was also a little bit of marketing.

Nelson Sauvin, Hallertau Blanc, Amarillo VGXP01 variety, Hull Melon, Motueka, and Simcoe Brand YCR 14 cv are all hop varieties that MacKinnon predicts to be in short supply for 2015, without a contract in place. You can click below for the full-sized infographic, and explanation of each.

  • That being the case this case, Douglas’ advice for the hop farmers is to stick with growing what he called “The C Hops”: Cascade, Chinook, and Centennial.

Another blogger asked who some of 47 Hops’ local San Diego clients are:

  • Douglas preferred not to say, but did point out that Mitch Steele from Stone was wearing a 47 Hops hat in this Delicious IPA video. Hint, hint…

Moving over to the fresh/wet hop craze, we asked Douglas if he had ever done a same day hop harvest (like Hop Trip), and what his thoughts were on the use of infused hop oil in Sierra Nevada’s yet-to-debut Hop Hunter IPA:

  • A harvest where the brewer hauls the hops out from the fields same day can be somewhat troublesome, but he did one in the past for a brewery in Washington. Shipping the fresh hops is also difficult, due to the cost of expedited shipping, and packing materials required to ensure freshness during transit.
  • Once again, Douglas attributed marketing to Sierra’s hop oil extraction and infusion methods used to brew Hop Hunter. According to him, hop oils and hop extracts have been around for years, and knows it’s one of two possible farmers in Yakima who built the distilling contraption Sierra is hoping to keep top secret.

You can visit the 47 Hop site and related blogs here: 47 Hops, Hops Hops and More Hops by Douglas MacKinnon, and the Hoppington Post.

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