Catastrophic Hop Fire

This seems ... not good:

YAKIMA, Washington (AP) -- Federal investigators were set Tuesday to begin an investigation into a fire that ruined about 4 percent of America's yield of hops, used as flavoring in the brewing of beer and ale.

The fire started shortly before noon Monday in a 40,000-square-foot (3,600-square-meter) warehouse operated by S.S. Steiner Inc., one of the four largest hop buyers in the Yakima Valley of central Washington. By mid-afternoon flames engulfed most of the building, sending up plumes of smoke and a pungent aroma....

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. More than 40 families grow hops in the valley, which is dotted with orchards, vineyards and farms.

The fire destroyed or ruined about 10,000 bales, each weighing about 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and likely worth $1.75 to $2 a pound, Ann George, administrator of the Washington Hops Commission in nearby Moxee, told the Herald-Republic.

Four comments:
  1. I wonder if it smelled like ganja in Seattle.
  2. "Flavoring in beer and ale"--oy!
  3. I think I could get by on two or three bales this year, in a pinch.
  4. Maybe the crop was mainly for use in macropilsners--how could you tell if they used fewer hops in Bud Light anyway?
Rest in peace, wee hops--we never tasted ye.