Home » KDA, UK, WKU in talks to study viability of hops production in Kentucky

KDA, UK, WKU in talks to study viability of hops production in Kentucky

State’s craft breweries have grown by 600% in past five years

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 19, 2016) — The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) is in discussions with Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky to study the viability of hops production in Kentucky, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said.

“The number of craft breweries in Kentucky has grown more than 600 percent just in the past five years, and that has created a market for Kentucky-grown hops,” Quarles said. “It’s important that we work with our universities on research to establish the best production methods for potential emerging crops such as hops.”

Quarles said discussions and research are in the early stages. He said hops could be a viable crop in Eastern Kentucky as well as the more traditional croplands in central and western Kentucky.

Typical yield of hops is about 6,000 pounds per acre wet or 2,500 pounds per acre dry. A small craft brewery uses an average of 18,000 pounds of hops a year, but some use much more; Alltech’s Lexington brewery, West Sixth Brewing, and Country Boy Brewing use about 100,000 pounds of hops a year combined.

Kentucky’s craft breweries directly provide more than 460 jobs and have invested $27 million in start-up and infrastructure. This year alone, craft brewers have committed more than $22 million in expansions in Kentucky. Beer produced in Kentucky has an estimated economic impact of $495 million a year.

“The college is excited to partner with KDA, the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, and the Kentucky Hop Growers Alliance to further our ability to produce hops successfully,” said Dr. Nancy Cox, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Land grant universities were invented to do work like this, and we are glad to help develop new crop enterprises.”

Quarles said most Kentucky producers grow hops for personal enjoyment and/or home brewing.

Hops production was widespread in Kentucky, particularly northern Kentucky, until the early 20th century. Mildew, pests, droughts, and fluctuating prices forced hop producers in the eastern U.S. to cease operations or move to the Pacific Northwest. Prohibition in the 1920s accelerated the decline of hops production in Kentucky.

Today, 98 percent of hops production in the U.S. is in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The U.S. led the world in hops production in 2015 with 80.2 million pounds, about 42 percent of the world’s production and a total value of nearly $352 million.