Hops post-Repeal

(Above Left)  Hopping a batch of ale at Pittsburgh's Duquense Brewery, circa 1950

  (Above Right) A similar scene in Pabst's famed Milwaukee brewhouse (now closed) in the early 1980's

(Below) Anheuser-Busch Van Nuys CA brewery, 1972

AVERAGE HOP USAGE (in pounds) 


1915 - .65

1935 - .70

1940 - .58 

1945 - .43 

1950 - .43 

1955 - .37 

1960 - .33 

1965 - .29 

1970 - .23 

1975 - .21 

1980 - .22

1985 - .21

1990 - .22

1995 – .2

2000 – .1

2005 – .1

2008 – .3

[ABOVE] Figures from

The Brewers Almanac

[BELOW] Slightly different stats from other industry sources which show the same result.

  "After fifteen years’ vacation in the brewing industry the manufacturing of beer today is a new industry.   The brewmaster has not forgotten his art, but it has been necessary for him to perfect a changed formula since the new generation of beer drinkers is not satisfied with the old flavor.  The same ingredients are used in the products today as formerly, with the exception of the strong hop flavor, since this is what is objected to by the majority of new beer drinkers.”

---Wm. Knapstein, Knapstein Brewing Co., New London, WI 1935

In a 1940 internal financial analysis,  the Piels Bros. Brewing Co., known for brewing authentic German-style beer in the pre-Prohibition era, noted that, since Repeal, the company's "...main savings came from a 27 percent reduction in the pounds of hops per barrel for both its Dortmunder and Pielsner (sic) brews.*" Piels beers had previously used a percentage of Saaz hops imported from Czechoslovakia.

*from Beer of Broadway Fame - The Piel Family and Their Brooklyn Brewery

Graph which appeared in a post-WWII-era hop growers' publication, THE HOPPER [January 1946] noting the dramatic rise in US beer production (in red) in the post-Repeal decade occurring at the same time the average hops-per-barrel (in green) was going down, resulting in stagnation of hop usage overall (blue line).

The relatively heavy consumption (of hops) by breweries before 1917 is explained by the high hops-beer ratio… Beer manufacturers anticipated a resumption of former habits with the repeal of prohibition, and began to manufacture and sell beer containing 0.702 pounds of hops per barrel. It became obvious that the tastes of the new generation of consumers were different from those of the pre-prohibition consumer. Adjustments…took place to satisfy the new kind of consumer demand.

    Most brewers are inclined to believe that the consumer preference for the so-called light beers will continue in the postwar era. As conditions now exist, this would mean a hops-beer ration of 0.5 pound, or less, of hops to a barrel of beer. Present practices in the industry are such as some brewers are using as low as 0.3 pound of hops to a barrel of beer, which would indicate that an acceptable beer can be made with a lower average hopping ration than that now obtaining in the industry.


USDA, 1948

"In the course of this quarter of a century (from Repeal in 1933 to 1958) the character of the American beers has changed considerably.  They became lighter in body and less flavorful, much paler in color, and much milder in hop character, and also more delicate in taste."

"It is remarkable that the amount of hops used per barrel is half of that used in 1934."

"There is also an unmistakable trend to a single type of American lager with special types of beer, dark beers for example, having practically disappeared in most markets."

"The decline in production of top-fermented ales has also been a notable change in American brewing practice.  At the beginning of the period ale production amounted to about 15 to 20 per cent of total malt beverage output; today it is probably not more than 5 per cent."

---- 25 Years of Brewing, (1958) American Brewer magazine

Dr. Stephen Laufer and Earl D. Stewart, of Schwarz Labs., Inc


"hops equivalent" = hops + hop extract

In more recent decades, it is also the result of new higher alpha acid strains of hops, which when used results in a beer of the same bitterness using  fewer hops.)

(Note - In 1964 [RIGHT] the USDA speculated that part of of the decrease in the pounds per barrel of  hop usage by the US brewing industry overall might be attributed to a stabilized market which resulted in fresher hops. 


BUDWEISER's IBU's in the post-Repeal era

1946 -  20 1

1970's - 17 1

1981 - 152

1980's - 14 3

1990's - 12 4

2012 - 7-8 4

( 1 Joseph Owades 2 Bitter Brew  3  All About Beer 3/84  4Alc. Bev Testing News)

2 Bitter Brew also notes that Bud Light, upon release in 1982 had 17 IBUs, to "give it more flavor" than Miller Lite. at the time the #1 US "light beer".

4 Some current European versions of AB's Budweiser (supposedly brewed to same recipe) are labeled as 10.5 IBU's.  

Coors Banquet and Coors Light are "well under 10" according to Coors' spokesperson, Ethan Stienstra.


"Whereas most American pilsners were hopped in the

13-17 IBU range, Bushwick pilsners* were usually in the

20-25 IBU range and were as high as 29 IBUs in the late 1950s."

* Brooklyn-brewed beers such as Rheingold, Schaefer, Trommer's  and Piels

  The Bushwick Pilsners: A Look at Hoppier Days

Ben Jankowski


The average IBUs in American lager beers fell 25% in less than two decades, according to statistics from J. E. Siebel Sons' Co.


"...Recent trends to lighter, milder and more widely acceptable beers have drastically reduced hopping rates compared to those of twenty or thirty years ago..."

The Practical Brewer, Second Ed.- 1977

Master Brewers Assoc.  of the Americas


“The level of bitterness in American beers has decreased in the last 10 years by maybe 20 percent and the whole flavor level has come down…”

Joseph Owades, quoted in the New York Times, May 12, 1982


Olympia Beer

Mid-1970's - 22 IBU's

Late 1990's - 8-10 IBU's

Larry Sidor, Ass't Brewmaster at Olympia

later with Deschutes and now his own Crux


"American-style lagers IBU's averaged 15-20 IBU's twenty years ago to fewer than 10 today."

(2006, Siebel Institute, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal)

(Above) First delivery of hops at the recently purchased Carling brewery, Frankenmuth, MI - 1950's

(Below) Anheuser-Busch hop storage in St. Louis, 1942