Not everyone is a fan of the trend toward proprietary hops.
"It's very frustrating to me and our company because we can't get access to all their varieties," said Sean McCree, hops manager for Brewer's Supply Group. "I wish all varieties were open to all growers. I believe that it's an effort to control the market, and that if they control the supply, they can control the pricing."
But some growers point out that they're actually growing private varieties in relatively big volumes, and reducing market volatility at the same time.
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"I think it's a little bit of mischaracterization to say that private varieties are sending prices higher. You can get into the semantics into what pumps these prices, but in the case of Simcoe we have two dozen growers growing Simcoe now, which is more growers than most public varieties have," said Patrick Smith, the fourth-generation operator and owner of B.T. Loftus Ranches, which grows for Select Botanicals.
"We work really hard to have a consistent and sustainable price to brewers that doesn't have the volatility the hop market has had for generations, going back to my grandfather," Smith said. "Part of the reason why we started this Certified Select program at Select Botanicals was to make sure that we have a stable system between brewers and growers that isn't subject to volatility."