Local Hops are a Brewing Industry
After almost a century, hops are re-emerging as a notable specialty crop in Ontario with a significant increase in growers and acreage occurring across the province over the last five years. Driving the demand is Ontario's craft beer industry that is looking for locally produced, high quality hops. Growers have responded by increasing mechanization and processing capacity, implementing a regional processing hub, and pioneering forward contracts with the brewing industry. The province has also seen the incorporation of the Ontario Hop Growers' Association (OHGA) within the last three years; an organization with a mandate to educate growers and promote Ontario hops to the brewing industry. Although acreage is still limited compared to other horticultural crops, the industry is poised to expand.
With the fast growth of the craft beer industry in Ontario, there is potential to create jobs and expand the market for Ontario-grown hops. ADB staff have been involved every step of the way to nurture this expanding industry. In addition to assisting the new and fairly inexperienced industry with agronomic information, staff have partnered on several research projects which has led to the successful identification and registration of over 20 pest control products (both organic and conventional). ADB staff have led the development and growth of the Great Ontario-Hopped Craft Beer Competition which provides a venue to connect growers and brewers while highlighting locally produced beer using locally-grown hops. From its start with 13 teams, the competition has grown in popularity, reaching capacity in record time and having to turn away registrants in 2016! The competition now expands to 18 teams for its fifth anniversary in 2017 and is already at capacity. Since Ontario's craft brewing industry is currently the largest buyer of Ontario-grown hops, developing this industry is key to providing a steady market for hops.
Resources to Support Industry Growth
ADB efforts are helping expand the production of Ontario-grown hops. Commercial hop production information, such as hop production basics, pest management, business and marketing information including a video on "How to String a Hop Yard" has been developed over the last five years. The ministry hops webpage had nearly 22,000 unique page views during the last five years. An Integrated Pest Management app for hops is under development with the support of Growing Forward 2. In the last five years, the acreage of hops produced in Ontario has increased from approximately 15 acres to 130 acres reported in 2016. The number of growers has also increased from about four or five to approximately 35 commercial producers. ADB has helped to connect craft brewers searching for local hops producers or those growing a specific variety of hops, fostering greater collaboration and business growth. With the potential to create more jobs and re-establish Ontario grown hops as a strong industry in the province, local hop production is indeed brewing for success.
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