Craft beer popularity stirs up growing interest in hops in Las Vegas

Lau Ackerman said that when he searched online for “hops” seven years ago, all that came up was “hip hop.”

Things have changed since then as craft beer has grown in popularity, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. agriculture manager noted Friday at a hops class in Las Vegas.

For the uninitiated, hops are a cone-shaped flower used to flavor beer. The aroma that accompanies many beers comes from the hops.

About 20 people, including staff from local breweries, attended “Hops: The Art of Fermentation” Friday, hosted by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Herds and Harvest Program.

Jessica Anderson, program officer with UNR, said the agriculture school doesn’t often hold classes in Southern Nevada but that it seemed appropriate this time because of the number of breweries in town.

Michael Beaman, one of five co-owners at Banger Brewing, said the brewery gets it hops from Washington or Oregon.

Beaman said the brewers grow some hops in house, but that they don’t grow as great in Southern Nevada. “Only a certain variety will grow out here,” Beaman said.

The increased popularity of hops-heavy styles of craft beer such as IPA, or India pale ale, has led to a hops shortage, Beaman said.

“Because there are so many breweries opening up these days, hops are definitely in a shortage. But the way that these hop farmers try to tackle that problem is they do contracts,” said Beaman.

Beaman added that Banger Brewing already has contracts in for 2017 and 2018.

Ackerman said Southern Nevada’s climate may not be practical for large-scale hop growing, but he added that hops can be grown almost anywhere with some creativity.

Adrienne Logan, a Las Vegas retiree and master gardener, said she has tried her hand at growing hops in Southern Nevada for home brews, but has had trouble doing so because of the heat.

“The weather out here makes things difficult,” Logan said.

At a national level, hops are being produced at record numbers, thanks in large part to farms in the Pacific Northwest.

For the third time in the last 10 years, the United States has surpassed Germany as the top hops producer, according to a 2015 annual report by the Hop Growers of America.

In 2015, the U.S. produced $80.2 million pounds of hops, compared with $62.2 million pounds in Germany.

The U.S. also leads in the total number of hops strung for harvest with 53,213 total acres in 2016, compared with 45,503 total acres in Germany, the Hop Growers of America reported in July.

Contact Alexander S. Corey at acorey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0270. Follow @acoreynews on Twitter.

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