Turning hops into South Africa's 'next wine'

It's almost impossible to grow hops in South Africa. The hot, dry climate is a killer.But some of the beer-lov...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 3:35 PM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 3:35 PM

It's almost impossible to grow hops in South Africa. The hot, dry climate is a killer.

But some of the beer-loving nation's farmers are beating the odds and rapidly cultivating a reputation as suppliers of the highly flavored varieties that craft brewers need.

The prospects are so good that Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's biggest brewer, believes the country could become a net exporter of the flowers by 2021.

"We believe hops can be the next wine from South Africa," said John Rogers, director of raw material procurement and agricultural development for Africa at AB InBev.

South Africa is currently the 7th largest wine producer in the world, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, making roughly 11 million hectoliters per year -- about 4% of global production. It's also the 6th largest exporter, with total volumes ahead of the US.

In contrast, South African hops constitute just under 1% of global production due largely to the tough growing conditions.

The hops it manages to grow, however, are highly sought after for their flavor. Local aromatic varieties such as African Queen and Southern Passion are used, for example, by California's Faction Brewing Company to make its 2Hop Pale Ale.

Rogers says 424 hectares of land in South Africa's Western Cape province is the only place in the world where these distinctive aroma flavors can be grown on a commercial basis.

Through its mammoth takeover of SABMiller in 2016, Budweiser-brewer AB InBev acquired a significant presence in the country. (SABMiller began life more than a century ago as Johannesburg's Castle Brewery.)

Following the deal, the "King of Beers" pledged to spend more than $500,000 from 2018 to 2020 on hop farming and broader agricultural development in South Africa.

The program is focused on improving yields, which currently lie below the global average, by investing in better irrigation technology. They also plan to add more acreage to production.

It's an uphill struggle.

There was a 20% drop in South African hop production in 2017 due to a severe lack of rainfall.

Related: This drone startup helps farmers beat disease and drought

Rogers says the 2018 crop is looking healthier, but the prospects for this year's harvest remain uncertain as the Western Cape remains gripped by the worst recorded drought in its history.

Changing global market dynamics could generate another headwind. In the US, South Africa's largest export market, growth in craft beer sales slowed sharply in 2017. At the same time, hop supply is increasing -- total US hop acreage has almost doubled in the past five years.

However, AB InBev's Rogers remains confident of turning South Africa into a net hop exporter as it accounts for such a small proportion of the global crop and demand continues for this "high-quality, niche product."

AB InBev's South African Breweries Hop Farms and their contracted private growers produce on average 850 tonnes of hops a year. AB InBev hopes to increase this to 1,000 by 2021 and channel all of the additional crop into the export market.

South African hops are used in local beers like Castle, but also exported to 20 countries around the world.

West Lafayette
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 85°
Kokomo
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Rensselaer
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 75°
Fowler
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 75°
Williamsport
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Crawfordsville
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 76°
Frankfort
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 81°
Delphi
Overcast
76° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 76°
Monticello
Overcast
76° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 76°
Logansport
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 75°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49575

Reported Deaths: 2739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11812690
Lake5337247
Elkhart343257
Allen2867133
St. Joseph202569
Cass16439
Hamilton1629101
Hendricks1439100
Johnson1306118
Porter78038
Tippecanoe7439
Clark67144
Madison66864
Vanderburgh6296
LaPorte59727
Bartholomew59245
Howard58258
Kosciusko5654
Marshall5217
Noble49128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4773
Delaware46052
Boone45944
Hancock45736
Shelby43425
Floyd39144
Morgan32831
Monroe31528
Grant30226
Montgomery29720
Henry29316
Dubois2906
Clinton2882
White26810
Decatur25532
Lawrence25125
Dearborn24723
Vigo2408
Warrick23229
Harrison21722
Greene19132
Miami1892
Jennings17912
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess15017
Wayne1496
Perry1409
Orange13623
Steuben1332
Franklin1278
Jasper1252
Ripley1247
Wabash1152
Carroll1122
Fayette1037
Gibson1032
Newton9910
Whitley995
Starke963
Huntington822
Randolph804
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox650
Clay644
Rush603
Owen511
Adams491
Posey490
Benton480
Spencer461
Sullivan451
Brown421
Blackford392
Fountain332
Crawford320
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio210
Vermillion170
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events