PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is leading an effort to push federal agriculture officials to spend more money on research for hops.
More than 100 members of congress have singed the request. The move is a sign of how lucrative the craft beer industry is becoming and its importance to the economy here in Maine and across the country.
“Its been amazing growth. I think it’s about a half billion dollar industry, which is getting close to the lobster fishing industry and we think of that as the giant of the state”, said Rep. Pingree (D) Maine.
Over the past several years the craft brewing industry has exploded in Maine. The state now boasts more than 80 breweries. For those brewers, getting a main ingredient for their product can be difficult.
“The demand for hops nationally is far outstripping demand”, said Sean Sullivan, Executive Director of the Maine Brewers Guild.
Hops are especially prevalent in 2016's most popular style of beer, the IPA.
“Hops are incredibly important. It gives the beer the bitterness that you have all come to know and love. An IPA India Pale Ale has a lot of hops”, said Shipyard Brewing company's Brandon Mazer.
Mazer says he and brewers across the state have to order hops years in advance, mainly from the Pacific Northwest and overseas. For local brewers, who’s selling point is offering fresh beer, they would love to get homegrown hops, but there’s not much being grown in Maine.
“It would supply less than one-percent of hops used by Maine brewers”, said Sullivan.
Hops face challenges from nature much like other crops. The hope is that research will strengthen their resiliency, especially in Maine weather.
“If more funding is given for hop research they’ll develop new variety of hops that are drought tolerant, disease tolerant and pest resistant”, Sullivan said.
More funding could benefit hop research efforts already underway in Maine through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Copyright 2016 WCSH