Czech hop growers and breweries predict record harvest for 2021

Favorable weather conditions have helped produce what growers estimate will be a record harvest in terms of both quantity and quality.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 24.10.2021 13:49 (updated on 24.10.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech hop growers and breweries are predicting a record harvest for the 2021 season, owing to favorable weather conditions. The amount of dry hops harvested this year is expected to be over 8,000 tons, topping the previous high recorded in 1996, despite a lower density of hop gardens compared to past years.

The favorable conditions have led to an increase not only in quantity but also quality. This year's hops harvest is estimated to have a higher content of alpha acids, which determines the hop bitterness; hops with a higher alpha acid content are generally more valued.

"There were not so many tropical days, and in the summer the rains and warm weather alternated. It couldn't have been more ideal," Jiří Smetana of the Czech hops company Arix told ČTK. 

"It looks like it will be a record good harvest from the last few decades, both in terms of production and quality."

According to Smetana, the content of alpha acids in this year's crop is about four percent, while the long-term average is about 3.2 percent.

The production of hops in the Czech Republic fluctuates considerably due to variable weather conditions; a high level of water is needed to sustain the crop, but torrential rainfall as seen in recent years can irreparably damage the plants.

Despite the high yield this year and in 2017, when 7,700 tons of hops were harvested, just 4,300 tons were recorded in 2012 from a similar amount of acreage. Volatile weather across recent years, from drought to heavy rainfall, has led to large fluctuations in the annual hop harvest.

"This year's harvest has been the best in a long time. But hop growers are struggling with weather fluctuations and we can't rely on these yields in the long run," says Ivan Tučník from Czech brewer Plzeňský Prazdroj.

"If we look at the last ten years, we have had both the best harvest in the last century and the worst harvest in the last century."

According to Tučník, Prazdroj and Microsoft are working on the development of software that would enable more efficient irrigation at hop gardens in the Žatec region, which often struggle to accumulate enough water. The software should also help the company better predict the quality of the harvest and plan accordingly.

The Czech Republic grows hops on approximately 5,000 hectares across the country, and ranks among the world leaders in hop production.

According to 2019 data, only the United States, Germany, and China produce more hops annually than the Czech Republic. In terms of hop production per capita, however, the Czech Republic would top those countries by a large margin.

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