Tag Archives: breweries

Hop Trading and Exchange in the Age of the Pandemic

Coronavirus, Covid-19, pandemic – all words we don’t really want to hear right now, since the months of lockdown have started to blur into a haze of lost memories and, for many businesses, lost income.

Here at Brook House Hops, we’ve been affected by the boatload as you can imagine, due to our place as a supplier to those who subsequently supply our wonderful pubs. With pubs, restaurants, cafés and other hospitality venues all closed since March 23rd, less beer is being brewed and therefore less hops purchased.

Since March, we have been working hard on “keeping calm and carrying on” and have been bowled over by the efforts of everybody in this industry to come together and support each other, change their offerings and generally adapt to these strange times. We have split our pack sizes down and really dropped our prices and are continually thinking of what more we can do to support this incredible industry.

As pubs and breweries struggle, the industry is starting to see a lot of brewers with excess hops they simply can’t use. And as time has gone on, we have been in contact with some of these brewers and we’ve been trying to come up with ideas to support them.

Occasionally we get asked for hops we don’t grow ourselves, so we thought about it and realised that now may well be the time to buy them from these brewers in order to make them available to other brewers who have continued to brew in these difficult times. We help out the struggling brewery, they help us out by selling us the hops, it’s a circular story of goodwill.

We just had the opportunity to buy some Northdown, which is a cracking UK hop variety with bold berry, pine and spicy flavours, so we decided to take it. We took both the T90 pellets and whole cone hops which were on offer, to help a brewer out, now we intend to sell them on for those who are still brewing and gearing up for the potential reopening of pubs in less than 3 weeks’ time.

Northdown is great for brewing traditional ales, typically combined with Goldings and Challenger which we grow ourselves here on our farms in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. We are really hoping that brewers will get involved in this trade circle, so that these hops go to a home where they can live up to their dream of becoming great beer. You can find them now in our shop: https://brookhousehops.com/uk-northdown-735-p.asp.

The berry notes of Northdown specifically make it a great hop for use when brewing milds, old ales and barley wines, due to their requirement for fruity depths of flavour. Fuller’s ESB and London Pride are hefty, well known classics which use Northdown with great results.

Northdown is a dual-purpose hop which is particularly good in the early to mid-stages of the boil and has good alpha and aroma properties. Its high oil levels give it a distinctive aroma and it is considered slightly higher impacting in flavour than its parent strain, Challenger.

As an independent, we are constantly talking to brewers and working out how to best serve their needs. Buying and selling excess hops is increasingly important in this industry, so we are looking at ways to make this process easier and more transparent. Get in touch with us if you want to share ideas!

Yakima Valley Research Visit – November 2019

Several members of the Brook House Hops team spent a few weeks on the road in the US during November. We try really hard to differentiate on quality, which means we buy hops pelletised at the source in Yakima and invest in selection. Hopefully this means that our customers can brew tasty, fresh beer. We also use the opportunity to talk to growers in the US about changes in best agrononmic practice: how they grow their hops to maximise aroma.

Flying in to Washington State

The trip also took in a number of customers and potential customers in all parts of the US: we visited craft breweries producing under 1,000 barrels per year, up to over 500,000. Some were long-established, others hadn’t yet started brewing.  Some were fiercely independent – others were using the distribution and financial firepower of bigger brewing groups to get their beer into the hands of more people. They were united by a love for beer, and, most importantly, for good beer. We were honoured to get time with some of the most exciting brewers in the business.

Entering Yakima Valley

So what did we learn about?

Firstly, NEIPAs (New England IPAs) are certainly still being brewed, but they are perhaps no longer seen as the new-new thing. Instead brewers are moving a bit back to the west. They are still doing a lot of dry hopping, but this is complemented by some bitterness early-on in the boil – not to proper San-Diego levels – but the beers have more of a kick than recent juice bombs.

Other styles which are increasing in popularity include sours, low calorie beer and low alcohol beers. All of these are trends are also travelling across the Atlantic. One difference in the US is the increasing popularity of hard-seltzers. These aren’t strictly beer – defined as simply ‘carbonated alcoholic beverages’ – but several of the brewers we met are seeing a lot of growth in this category.

Brewers are also trying to broaden the range of hops which they use. Citra and Mosaic remain the mainstays of IPAs, but brewers are experimenting more and more with newer hops such as Strata, Sabro and Idaho 7, as well as slightly longer-established varieties like Cashmere, Vic Secret and El Dorado. There was a bit of nervousness about access – several of these hops are proprietary.

What does this mean for UK hop demand?

There are two big sources of demand which we saw. Firstly brewers are producing more and more beers in a year, in more and more styles. Seasonal, Christmas, English-style ales are certainly a thing and seem to be a way that the passing of the seasons are marked in more northern states.

Secondly, several brewers are trying to differentiate their core IPAs / DIPAs with the addition of UK hops. This is for a warm aftertaste to linger after the initial hit from new world hops. Several brewers are also experimenting with new hops such as Jester and Olicana – newer hops from the public program such as Endeavour and Ernest don’t seem to have travelled as far.

All in all it was an informative visit and one we really enjoyed! We had some great beers at Single Hill Brewing and took in the culture and spirit. We love getting out there and meeting hop farmers around the world and learning about the trends in the worldwide brewing industry. Even though the harvest had been and gone, the land was vast and beautiful in a very peaceful way.

Single Hill Brewing

Single Hill Brewing