There are more than 80 craft breweries currently operating in Alberta, with many more in the planning stages. It is a booming industry that shows no signs of slowing down, and is opening up new opportunities along different points of the value chain. It is also hyper-local, with great importance placed on where ingredients are sourced.
Hops in particular is an underdeveloped market in Alberta and the southern part of the province is prime hops-growing land, thanks to plenty of sunshine.
With that in mind, could a Medicine Hat-area hops producer go big and meet growing provincial demand? Invest Medicine Hat investigates and outlines a roadmap to success.
Alberta’s craft beer industry is still in its infancy, but is growing up fast. There are over 65 craft breweries in Alberta as of 2017, with more in the planning stages. There were 18 in 2014.
Alberta brewers already use 100,000 pounds of hops per year and that number will continue to rise. In fact, a 2018 survey by Olds College indicated that 93% of Alberta’s craft breweries don’t have adequate access to high-quality, locally-grown hops. In the same survey, nearly half of the brewers surveyed indicated they would be willing to pay as much as a 10% premium for locally-grown hops.
Aside from a number of Alberta-based growers producing hops on a few acres, there are no local producers, which forces brewers to import.
One acre of land can produce between 800 and 1,900 pounds of aroma hops. That means as many as 125 acres are needed just to meet current demand. And with prices hovering at around $6USD per pound as of 2017, there’s plenty of business upside.
Medicine Hat’s semi-arid climate is prime hops-growing land. Irrigated, low-cost land and solid transportation infrastructure makes delivery anywhere in Alberta, Western Canada and even the Northwestern United States nearly seamless.
Set up an 80-acre hops farm by capitalizing on Medicine Hat’s semi-arid climate, water and irrigation resources, and inexpensive land.
Medicine Hat is already home to two growing craft breweries, with a third nanobrewery scheduled to open before the end of 2018. That’s three potential customers at your doorstep. Medicine Hat’s location at the junction of Highways 1 and 3 means Medicine Hat has easy access to the Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary and Lethbridge markets. Even factoring in transportation costs, Medicine Hat’s inexpensive land and utilities compared to other locations translates to savings.