Tag Archives: craft beer

New Partnership with US Based Yakima Chief Hops

We have some great news for what has been a very strange year so far – we have recently partnered as a product distributor for the UK with Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) of Yakima, Washington in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

A 100% farmer owned global hop supplier, Yakima Chief Hops has served the global brewing industry for more than 30 years. Their mission is to foster connections between multi-generational family hop farms and the world’s finest brewers, which meant a synergy was found with us as an independent hop farm ourselves.

Owned by 15 hop growers from across the Pacific Northwest, YCH is uniquely positioned to tell the stories of where great beer begins. With a company rooted in family farming, YCH not only values quality and transparency, but also innovation and sustainability.

Sebastian Nielsen, our Sales & Marketing Director is delighted with the new partnership: “Partnering with YCH is another big milestone in the growth of our business. They visited our farm a couple of years ago and inspired us with best practice around hop growing, storage and processing. We share the same values around quality and maintaining close relationships directly with brewers, so it is a perfect match that will benefit our customers greatly.”

Despite recent set-backs due to Covid-19 instigated pub closures across the world, the craft brewing industry continues to expand and YCH reached out due to its desire to remain committed to forming strategic partnerships with approved distributors. They noted that the UK & Ireland in particular had experienced significant growth in the craft beer community, counting more than 2000 breweries in the region.

Maria Skalli, European Distributor Accounts Manager at YCH notes “At YCH, we value the opportunity to connect with distributors and breweries of all sizes, no matter where they are in the world. Local distributors are particularly well-equipped to work alongside our regional sales managers, to help us reach and satisfy the needs of breweries of all sizes and needs across the world.”

As well as Brook House Hops in the UK, Loughran Brewing Stores Ltd in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have also come on board, with the plan to better serve local customers across the whole of Europe.

Skalli continues “Our local YCH team members Katie Richardson and Jason Little are looking forward to working with Brook House Hops and Loughran Brewing Stores. We are excited to find synergies with these distributors to ensure that our brewing customers are happy with the solutions we offer.”

By working with local distributors across The Pond, YCH can offer a variety of options to craft breweries big and small, to get the best hops into their beer – these partnerships also create value for brewing customers as they allow for more flexible delivery sizes, access to local YCH inventory and improved delivery times.

With our existing Herefordshire and Worcestershire farms bringing brewers an incredible portfolio of UK hops, we are thrilled to be able to level up our US hop offering too. Using state of the art modern local refrigerated warehouses, we can deliver products to exacting standards with quick turnaround times, things which are important to both our ethos and that of YCH.

We also supply a wide range of additional brewing ingredients, providing brewers with the convenience to purchase all their supplies from one place, cementing our tempting offering for brewers across the continent. Both us and Loughran Brewing Stores operate family farms of their own, which means we share a unique passion with YCH for growing quality ingredients, knowing that great beer starts in the field.

Visit our homepage to check out our range of hops, malt and yeast today.

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!

Tap Social Movement: A Case Study

Founded in 2016, Tap Social Movement grew out of a passion for good beer and social justice.

Tap Social Movement

When they went out looking for hops to use in their brews, they came across Brook House Hops and over the years since, a flourishing working relationship has developed.

Head brewer, Jason Bolger explains: “I searched online for hops and found Brook House, who had a great selection of varieties and a really easy to use online shop. I ordered the hops and they were delivered the next day, fresh and smelling great. I love the Brook House story and we’ve never looked back. Owner Will Kirby even drove some over to me in Oxfordshire once when I was let down by a supplier!”

Tap Social Movement were one of Brook House’s first major contracts and Jason says he was impressed with their business ethos as well as the quality of their hops. “The Brook House team are always helpful, knowledgeable and well organised. We have brewed with US, New Zealand and European hops supplied by Brook House over the years and they have helped us make some stunning beers. Our customers have loved every brew, and in the brewery, we’ve all been really struck by the gorgeous aromas and freshness of the hops, not to mention the pretty competitive prices.

Head Brewer Jason looking in on one of the Tap Social brews.

Head Brewer Jason looking in on one of the Tap Social brews

Tap Social Movement use Brook House Centennial hops in their flagship, Good Size Eh – American Pale Ale (APA), which has the perfect chemical and aroma profiles for IPAs and American-style pale ales; giving citrus, floral, resinous notes with a focus on lemon.

Along with brewing, Tap Social Movement provide training and employment for people serving custodial sentences, helping them rehabilitate by offering support in brewing and business start-up, and providing 1-to-1 support to help them secure permanent employment. As a craft brewery dedicated to not only brewing, but also social justice, Jason appreciates having everything easy to hand.

“After a long day, it can be a struggle when you remember you needed to order some supplies, like hops. It’s very helpful that using the online Brook House Hops system can be done once the kids are in bed! I can check stock and look for new varieties, order whatever I need and pay online, check in on my account information and know the hops will arrive fresh the next day, ready for brewing. It’s very convenient!”

Tap Social Movement have big ambitions and after a recent expansion tripling their brewing ability and upping their fermentation capacity to 14,000 litres, Jason is looking forward to the future: “You’ve got to brew something which you love and you know your customers will love too. And sometimes, it’s all about the hops! Working with Brook House Hops gives me flexibility, choice, quality and expediency.

I introduced Brook House Hops to another UK brewery supplier, Paul’s Malt – and together their products make fantastic beer for us here at Tap Social. These working relationships give me the chance to do something I love, whilst maintaining my ‘support independent, support people’ ethos. And now Brook House have invested in a pellet mill, I’m really excited to try their homegrown UK varieties in pellet form next!”

Dark Beers for Dark Nights – A History and Exploration

We’ve noticed that a lot of local beer houses have been holding special dark beer events and dark beer festivals since the nights started drawing in in November. There also seems to be more availability of dark ales and speciality, often stout or porter based craft beers.

So it got us to thinking: why is it that dark beer and cold, dark nights seem to go hand in hand?

Well, after some research we’ve realised: there is a historical reason for it, in the first instance…

Back in the ‘old days’ of brewing, before pub cellars were temperature controlled, beers were brewed when the season was best for their ingredients and maturation. It was nearly impossible to ‘lager’ (from the German, ‘lagern’, to store) beers in the hot summer months, plus new barley was harvested in autumn and beer could be brewed and then stored safely during the colder months.

That meant that lighter beers which took less time to ferment were left for brewing in the warmer months, with the remaining barley that had survived the winter.

Technology may have evolved, but our tastes, not so much. Consider this: does warmer weather make you reach for the lighter flavours and aromas of pale ales or lagers? For most this feels instinctive. And there’s undeniably something comforting about sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold, dark night with a pint of dark, rich beer.

In history, as darker, stronger ABV beers kept for longer and autumn was harvest time, this lead to a rise in popularity of brewing dark beers and storing them during the cold months. Naturally then, dark beers were what was available in dark, cold months. Plus, the longer a beer is aged, the stronger it is and the more complex the flavours are and the story returns to the fact we find comfort in something warming.

Most people think simply of stouts and porters when they hear ‘dark beer’, but there is much more for the beer experimenter. Another (often) dark style of ale is old ale, which was first brewed in the 18th century and is currently seeing a return to popularity. There is also the classic ‘nut brown ale’ style of beer, most popularly made with English hops Fuggles and Goldings for that distinctive, British taste.

A Brief Bit of UK Dark Beer History:

  • Porter originated in the early 18th century, its name coming from London porters who needed the nourishment that beer gave, to carry out their manual labour jobs. The style was a medium-bodied dark beer which had a lot of malty flavours, balanced by hops.
  • The strongest versions of these porters were called ‘stout porters’, or ‘stouts’ for short. When companies such as Guinness and Murphy’s became household names, many people assumed the creamy, complex beer style was simply a stout.
  • So what is the difference between stout and porter now? Some say porters use malted barley and stouts are primarily made from unmalted roasted barley, which is where the coffee flavour most people associate with stout comes from. But this isn’t the case for all brewers, and each brewer has their own style, so unfortunately there is no exact definition between the two!

Along with the UK hop legends, there are many hop strains which go well in dark ales. Chinook for example is lorded as a great hop for making a stout, due to its dual ‘hopability’: as a bittering hop the beer will take on a smoky bitterness, but when added as late-stage addition it will give subtle hints of grapefruit alongside spicy tones.

There are so many varieties of dark beer it’s no wonder the ‘dark season’ begins earlier and earlier each year, if indeed it is still a true ‘season’ at all. Imperial stouts and imperial or Baltic porters, known for their high ABVs and distinct, intense flavours go viral often and have their own following.

Hops such as Magnum with its black pepper, herbal and pine aromas or Target with assertive notes of sage, citrus and spice work well with these beers due to their clean, high alpha acids and complex characteristics.

The list goes on and on: milk stouts (a stout containing lactose, a milk derived sugar giving the beer a sweetness to it some are enamoured by), oatmeal stouts, German Dark Lagers or ‘Dunkels’, Black IPAs, Hazelnut Stouts, Peanut Butter Porters, coffee stouts. And the best bit is that they all have endless flavour possibilities due to the huge amount of hops we can now gain from around the globe.

It really is a great time to be a brewer!

What have you brewed recently? Leave us a comment and let us know, we love hearing about your brewing exploits. As always, if you would like advice on hops or to know more about our homegrown or imported varieties, get in touch today: hops@brookhousehop.com.

The Story of Brook House Hops

As a team running a hop farm, we have a surprising amount of career history between us in stockbroking, investments, tech start-ups and enterprise software. So where did the hop journey begin?

The Career Change into Hops

First things first: there’s Will. Will is our owner and the farmer at Brook House Farm. Will used to buy and sell shares, then he started investing in tech-focused start-up businesses. After a while doing this, he decided he wanted a change for his family, so he moved to Brook House Farm in Herefordshire – a thriving fruit farm – in 2015.

Will and his family outside their home at Brook House Farm

Will and his family outside their home at Brook House Farm

Will started growing hops, shortly joined by farm manager Henry.

See, Henry grew up on the biggest hop farm in the UK and spent his childhood getting involved with all aspects of growing hops, so was the perfect guy for the job.

After studying hard at university, Henry moved to the city and worked as head of marketing for an educational software company. But after a few years of office life he soon realised that farming – specifically hop farming – was completely ingrained into the person he was and he longed to return to the countryside.

Henry Smith – Farm Manager

Henry Smith – Farm Manager

He soon left the corporate world and began managing a few small hop farms in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. His big opening came In November 2015, when Will offered him a job managing Brook House Farm. This role came with exciting plans to transfer a cider apple and arable crop farm into an ambitious hop enterprise.

From Software to Craft Beer

Next, enter Sebastian, a successful business manager and associate of Will’s.

Sebastian used to work in Enterprise Software and has had a variety of sales and business development roles in the last 10 years. It only took a few visits to the farm during the 2018 harvest to convince him that a move into the world of hops was exactly what he was looking for.

Sebastian Nielsen – Business Manager

Sebastian Nielsen – Business Manager

So after a successful harvest and enjoying the hop life, Will decided with associate Sebastian Nielsen to officially launch a hop farming business, with a view to doing things differently. And Brook House is different, in that we sell our hops directly to brewers, instead of through the merchants.

Launching a Hop Farm

Brook House Hops was officially launched in 2018 – with a strong intention to supply craft brewers independently with the unique hops being grown at the farm, as well as hops from other farmers Will knew around the world.

The Brook House Hops team are hard-working and resourceful, working long hours during the harvest season to make sure all the hops are cultivated efficiently and packaged quickly to maintain their freshness.

A number of staff including owner and farmer Will and his family live on site, meaning that the working of the farm and running of the business is a lifestyle, not just a business. The passion shines through in everything they do.