A look into the benefits of the growing hops industry - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

A look into the benefits of the growing hops industry

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BENTON COUNTY AND PROSSER, WA - Twenty years ago, for one reason or another, many area hop growers went out of business.

Many other hop farmers struggled through the tough times, and none of them could have expected then what the reality is now: an agricultural gold rush. Craft breweries are popping up around the northwest and America at a rapid pace, driving demand for various varieties of hops to levels never seen before.

Washington State University's Doctor Doug Walsh says the combination of more breweries opening and more hops being used in each beer make for a perfect storm.

Walsh adds that the growth of this industry throughout the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities provides job creation in the area as well.

"Think of how many craft breweries have opened, how many restaurants, jobs everywhere, and good jobs," said Walsh. "You're taking something that is still relatively low cost, grain and hops, and adding water, a little bit of fuel and selling it for five or seven dollars a glass."

And it comes at a perfect time for farmer Keith Oliver, who stuck around during the bad years and will now reap the benefits of patience as the craft beer industry continues its historic expansion.

"The existing growers who have hung in there through all the down years have a chance to expand and make some money now," said Oliver.