Hops Online Exhibit

Brewer's Gold HomeBrewer's Gold Home

Chilliwack Museum and Archives

Empty Hop FieldWhen the Hops Left Chilliwack

By the late 1960s it was evident that the industry was in decline. Consumer taste was shifting towards lighter styles of beer and the demand for hops by brewers slowly but steadily declined. This, coupled with high production costs, saw the industry shrink in BC and become concentrated in Washington, Idaho and Oregon State.

In 1997, only 300 acres of hops were planted at Chilliwack. The last hop bales were shipped to Oregon and marked the end of an era for a once thriving Canadian industry. Only a few buildings and a lifetime of accumulated documents and artifacts remain to honour the memory of the many people that grew and harvested the “Noble Hop”. There was no fanfare, no ceremonies announcing the end of a Canadian industry that for more than 100 years was an important part of the social, cultural and economic life of British Columbia.

Mature HopsHops in the Big Wide World

Today major hop producing areas are located in Europe, Australia, and the Western United States. The United States produces 24 percent of the world’s hops, and about three-fourths of the U.S. crop comes from the Yakima Valley. Hops were a $77 million crop in Washington State in 2004. Today about 42,000 acres of hops are grown in Washington and Oregon. In recent years, competition from China is threatening the American industry and it seems likely that shrinkage will occur.

The Future of Hop Growing

What then can be said concerning the future of the industry in North America? An industry that once enjoyed stability and predictability has now become a high-risk venture. Changes in the size and structure of the world’s brewing industry, competition from countries newly arrived on the hop scene, and accurately predicting supply and demand are challenges the industry faces. Unlike the past, more varieties are produced today on fewer acres by fewer growers, but with higher yields.

For British Columbia, the future may lie in small-scale hop yards employing new technology that will serve the province’s craft brewers. With assistance from organizations like the British Columbia Investment Agricultural Foundation, hop cultivation could re-appear on a size that is reminiscent of the first pioneer growers and in doing so, a proud tradition will live on. 

Online exhibit (c) Chilliwack Museum and Archives 2008. About the Exhibit