Johnson County hops producer investing $1.5 million keep up with local demand for craft breweries

JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - The craft beer scene in Iowa is booming- with the increased demand for beer, there is also a demand for the hops to make it.

Buck Creek Hops announced they will invest $1.5 million to meet the demand from craft brewers, a plan that will take years to develop.

According to the Brewers Association, in 2011 there were only 27 craft breweries in Iowa. In 2018, there were 94. As the number of breweries go up, so too does the need for the hops to make that beer.

"Really, what you hear is local, local, local- ultimately, that's our goal," said Shawn Meaney, the CEO of Buck Creek Hops and Buck Creek Distribution.

That "local" theme for beer in Iowa has grown quickly in recent years. Just since 2014, Iowa has more than doubled the number of craft breweries in the state. 2014 is the same year Buck Creek Hops was established, and within five years, staff says they have already seen great success.

Meaney said they want to provide local breweries with the opportunity to acquire local hops.

"Part of the hook for us is to be able to say: 'look, we're the guys that can provide you with a really high quality, locally grown hop," Meaney said.

With the expansion, Buck Creek Hops will, obviously, grow more hops- with the help from a number of interested Iowan farmers to participate in the growing process. Many of the taller hops vines take three years to fully develop, but Meaney said it is an effort to get ahead of the game now to put their hops in the forefront later.

"What we anticipate will be a go-to partner for lots of the regional craft brewers to provide access to many of their inputs," Meaney said.

Meaney said while their goal is to meet the demand of breweries in the Midwest, they could potentially see a future beyond just providing the hops to make beer.

"There appears to be a cusp of a lot of activity going on with hops being used in other potentially beverage applications, potentially nutraceutical applications," Meaney said. "I think the jury is still out on how commercially viable some of those options would be, but certainly we're continuing to keep our eye on the ball and look for opportunities outside of the brewing space."