Monday, 30 December 2019

Hops in WW I

The UK started struggling to grow enough hops to satisfy demand from brewers in the 1850s. As the century progressed, more and more foreign hops were imported.

The principal source was the USA, initially from New York State, later California and Oregon. But hops were imported from every region in the world. Large quantities of European hops were imported, too. Bavarian and Bohemian hops were considered equal to quality UK hops. Lower quality hops from Belgium and France were also used, despite brewers not much caring for them. They did have the big advantage of being cheap.

Despite the UK being one of the world’s biggest producers of hops, it was enough to meet the needs of brewing.  The industry was dependent on importing large quantities of hops.

There was an enormous fall in the quantity of hops being imported, down to just a few hundred cwts. In 1918. Oddly, one country from which supplies continued to be imported was Belgium, despite most of the country being occupied by the Germans. The one corner still in Belgian hands just happened to include Poperinge, home to the Belgian hop industry.

You can see from the table below that hop imports came to an almost complete stop in the final two years of the war:

Hop production and imports (cwt)
year Acreage UK production yield per acre Average price of English hops net imports of foreign hops exports of British hops
£ s. d.
1910 32,886 302,675 9.20 5 6 6 172,032 8,927
1915 34,744 254,101 7.31 6 7 0 199,347 8,288
1917 16,946 225,763 13.32 8 15 0 8,530 12,796
1918 15,666 138,491 8.84 18 15 0 259 6,928
1919 16,745 187,795 11.21 20 5 0 154,091 2,606
1920 21,002 258,042 12.29 19 10 0 455,799 3,672
1921 25,133 236,172 9.40 19 10 0 216,571 2,200
1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 119

The price of hops also increased dramatically to around three times the pre-war level.

The above is an excerpt from Armistice,  my this wonderful book on brewing in WW I.

There's now also a Kindle version.

1 comment:

Mike in NSW said...

Whilst, being post WW1, I read once that the original Newcastle Brown Ale had a proportion of Hallertau hops until the activities of a certain Austrian bloke put an end to that.