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4-2017

Global hop market

A local alternative to mass beer suggested by independent brewers has been successful and is now altering the global market. Beer is becoming more diversified, so transnational companies have to accept the new game rules and to switch focus to young and fast growing markets. All these processes increased the demand for aroma and bitter hop as well as their acreage expansion on two continents. However now there appeared a downward trend of alcohol consumption in the world, so even special sorts can soon turn to be sufficient. In this connection the dynamic American hop market is already facing some problems. EU hop producers have become more cautious, they are not racing to exceed the demand and look forward with more confidence, judging by the contract terms. 

Hop Market in Russia

Germany still dominates the Russian market, yet over the recent two years one has been able observe a continuous success of Czech hop suppliers. Their expansion and growing popularity of hops from the United States became the drivers of supplies growth in 2016 despite the preceding modest harvest crop in the EU, as well as the factor of relative stability in 2017. In this connection, in 2017, the ratio of the varieties continued to shift towards the aroma ones, and the supplies of Magnum hop and other alpha varieties were reduced. However, the import of bitter hop pellets is partially replaced by extracts, especially from the major beer manufacturers. Total volumes of alpha acid supplies, according to our estimation, decreased by approximately 5% and returned to the level of 2015. Barth Haas Group continues dominating the hop products market; HVG also increased its weight. At the same time, Morris Hanbury significantly reduced the supplies in 2017.

Hong Kong. Master House, Lan Kwai Fong – Japanese beers at a price

Austere looking bar serves 6 draught Suntory beers and a range of the brewery’s whiskies. Great tasting but will leave a large hole in your wallet.

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The vibe: in a word, Japanese. Master House is the first bar opened in Hong Kong by Japanese brewing giant Suntory to showcase its Premium Malt beer range. Bang in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong, it’s less rowdy than most of its neighbours. The downstairs bar is long and narrow, with bare brick walls, subdued lighting and a dark brown colour scheme which add up to give an austere look. There’s additional seating upstairs for those who want to linger over their drinks and try out the Japanese-themed bar snacks.

The drinks: the accent is firmly on beer, with six different Suntory offerings available on draught.

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We tried the classic Premium Malt (HK$80), the Premium Malt Black (HK$100) and the Half & Half (HK$90), a mixture of the two that nicely combined the rich, almost Guinness-like body and creamy mouthfeel of the Black with the intense hops and nice balance of the Premium.

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Strongest of the beers is the flagship Master’s Dream (HK$130), powerful and full-bodied with a refreshing bitterness.

All the beers were beautifully fresh and expertly poured from good, clean taps. That said, excellent though the quality is, prices are steep for 380ml (just under a pint for the less decimally minded). That’s a good bit pricier than the local norm and Master House doesn’t seem to have any happy hour deals, unlike most bars in the vicinity.

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If you want your malt without hops, you can also sample a range of Suntory whiskies, including Yamazaki, Hibiki and Hakushu, although the appeal to whisky connoisseurs seems limited with so many specialist whisky bars in Hong Kong offering broader selections.

The verdict: great if you’re serious about draught beer – but you’d have to be serious about it to pay the prices.

25 Aug. 2016

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