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It's probably easier to see the Hudson Valley's cider industry sustain its growth, simply because its producers already have the most important ingredient in the local ground, and abundantly. With spirits and beer, there's work to be done. Malting barley is still growing, and while New York used to be the top hop grower in America, that industry died during Prohibition and didn't return until recently. Currently Fleming says there are more than 300 acres of hops in the state; for comparison, the average hop farm in the Yakima Valley of Washington is 450 acres.
Fleming says there are enough hops available for farm brewers to source 20 percent of their hops from New York through 2018. That threshold grows to 60 percent starting in 2019, but again, Fleming says there's enough supply to meet demand.
"No, I'm not concerned," says Fleming. "The Northeast Hops Alliance estimates that 50 to 100 acres of hops is enough to supply every licensed Farm Brewer in New York State at 100 percent."
The bigger issue is about variety. It takes several years for a hop variety to grow and flourish. Plus, hop varieties are proprietary to growers, so if brewers want to use some of the most popular styles, they have to acquire them from their home farm. Thus, if a local brewery wants to work with, say, Citra, the famous hop used in the popular New England IPA style, it has to source from the Pacific Northwest.
That brings us back to Sloop. Turco, the brewery's sales and marketing manager, says the moment the brewery realized it was time to move was after seeing the success of its New England IPA Juice Bomb (Sloop brands it a Northeastern IPA and won't divulge its ingredients). Turco, who worked at Bell's Brewing in Michigan—which distributes nationally and is a popular name in craft—says he's never seen a flagship sell like Juice Bomb. So, while Sloop is keeping the Elizaville barn for a barrel-aging program and tasting room, it's moving its 30-barrel brewhouse and adding six 120 BBL fermenters to the Fishkill facility. The complex will ultimately include a downstairs taproom, an upstairs sit-down restaurant, and a rooftop beer garden.
Sloop is betting on its flagship's success, its current operational success, and its potential in this move. Despite the fact that the most popular hops are out of state, that the growing culture is still young for distillers and especially brewers, and the continued increase of producers throughout the region, makers are thinking like Sloop, that the market is still in their favor.
As Turco said to Sloop's co-owners, Adam Watson and Justin Taylor: "You can't predict or dictate the industry at all, because there could be a beer in the portfolio now, or a beer that doesn't exist yet, that becomes a Number 1 beer in five to 10 years."
You can apply that thinking to the entire craft industry in the Hudson Valley. Right now, it looks really strong. In five or 10 years...who knows?