Tag Archives: herefordshire

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!

Brook House Hops Vastly Increases Acreage in Deal

Good news has never been far away recently and after a successful first 18 months of trading and a positive annual hop walk last August, we recently invested over £100,000 into new equipment and are now expanding three fold by increasing our acreage into neighbouring Worcestershire.

The owner of Britain’s largest area of hop farm ‘Newnham’, also independent, recently saw what we were doing here at Brook House and called on the team to manage the farm which is just half an hour (15 miles) north of our existing land and HQ in Bromyard, Herefordshire.

The owner was considering turning the farmland from hops to asparagus as the English hop market is at times uncertain, due to the popularity of hop strains grown in America, New Zealand and parts of Europe.

Naturally and without question, wanting to preserve the ancient tradition of UK hop growing as much as possible, we took the land under our wing and began to sell the British grown hops directly to brewers.

After this success – the hops were very popular indeed – the owner, being concerned that the skills required to grow hops were in danger of dying out, is now working with Brook House Hops instead of taking the big and expensive leap into vegetable crop farming.

The cooperative means that Brook House Hops now manage the land in Worcestershire and the owner of Newnham is actively involved in our business, through not only the use of the land but also with his valuable knowledge and input in decisions going forward. Supporting the farming of high quality British hops on his land is what he really wanted in the long term, so it’s a win win situation!

The great news is that by keeping Newnham as hop farmland, Brook House Hops are saving around 10% of English hops from disappearing. The late harvested varieties grown at Newnham are a good complement to the hops grown at Brook House Farm.

With three sites now in the cooperative, Brook House Hops grow roughly an amazing 15% of all hops produced in the UK. And with UK hops rising in popularity across the world, this can only be a good thing for brewers and the industry – having an independent cooperative, offering the finest locally grown hops to put in their beers.

Yet the story does not end there. Adding 200 acres to their UK hop growing portfolio is just the beginning. At the beginning of 2020, we also intend to restore the early 1900s traditional farmhouse on site into compassionately designed offices and a showroom for customers, as well as invest in a large 1,000 square metre processing centre and cold store.

Once complete, this will be the first dedicated on-farm cold store for hops in the UK. It will enable us to get all of our hops into cold storage less than 24 hours from picking, helping to preserve aromas for customers and further increase the quality of our (already) immensely high quality UK grown hops.

Owner Will Kirby is feeling very optimistic: “Farmer-owned hop growing cooperatives have worked very well in other countries like Yakima Chief in the USA, and HVG Germany. It is exciting to bring other farms into the Brook House umbrella.”

Farm Manager Henry Smith, who actually grew up on Newnham Farm, is confident and enthusiastic about the move: “I’m really excited about replicating the attention to detail we have worked on at Brook House Farm on a larger scale in the Teme Valley. The valley floodplain has extremely fertile soil and we are looking forward to experimenting with the aromas we can get from the ground here.”

“We are focussed on getting high-quality British hops into the hands of our customers – expansion to Newnham will allow us to serve more brewers with our prize-winning hops. Growing on two sites will also reduce any risk brewers take if they buy all of their hops from one producer. We can’t wait to get started.”

Finally, positive news for the locals is that because Brook House Hops are tripling in size, the team will be expanding greatly. There are openings for talented sales and operations people already, to find out more e-mail sebastian@brookhousehops.com for more details.

Hobsons Brewery: A Case Study

Founded in 1993, Shropshire based Hobsons Brewery has a strong ethos of sustainable practices which includes supporting local businesses and having reams of eco-friendly credentials.

In fact their use of ground source heat pumps, wind turbines and rainwater harvesting earnt them an award in 2010 from the Society of Independent Brewers – the proudly named ‘Best Green Business Award’, which they were delighted with.

So it makes great sense that when they heard about local hop farmers, Brook House Hops, just 20 miles south in Herefordshire, they were intrigued to say the least.

Owner Nick Davis, admiring the bines at hop harvest time

Nick Davis, founder of Hobsons Brewery explains: “We had heard of Brook House Hops and then they called us and I was instantly impressed with their story. Not only do they grow their own hops just miles away in the rich Herefordshire soil, but they also work directly with breweries which offers us more flexibility when purchasing. It’s great having a positive, friendly, relationship between grower and brewer.”

Hobsons started out with Brook House by trialling some UK grown Goldings, Fuggles and Chinook varieties, which went down a treat with the brewers. “We were really happy that not only could Brook House sell us the hops, but they could keep them well looked after in storage for us until we needed them. That was really helpful!” Nick adds.

Hobsons is also really pleased with the range Brook House offers. Nick explains: “After trying out the Brook House Hops, internally, people were excited. They often offer limited, special varieties of hop which helps give us an edge when brewing one off or limited edition brews. The brewers were pleased with the ability this gave us to add contemporary flavours and profiles to our recipes”.

Nick out in the hop fields

So what is next? “More visits for banana cake and cups of tea!” Nick mentions with glee, explaining how it’s been so easy to work with and get along with Brook House. “We are also looking to purchase some Challenger green hops and some full hop bines for decoration too”.

It seems Hobsons Brewery are very keen on their hops and Brook House offers them something which fits just right – a sustainable, locally grown product which packs a great punch and makes great beer. What more could you ask for?

Nick is a fan of traditional hops yet also loves new and exciting hop varieties

New Zealand Hops – What is All The Fuss About?

New Zealand hops are the most sought after on the market right now. But why? They have a tropical flavour profile that aligns perfectly with the IPA craze, which could be the main reason. But is that it? Is this the reason why most brewers find access to them limited and they are thus so hard to come by?

Hop bines

In this article, we will dig under the surface a little and explore the different reasons why hops from New Zealand are in such high demand.

They are very tasty hops

The most obvious answer to why hops from New Zealand are so popular is that they help to make great beers. These hops are cultivated and processed to a high standard – not to mention they have a flavour profile that suits the beers we like to drink – so it makes sense that they are highly sought after. New Zealand hops are also unique in their chemical composition, which is partly down to the New Zealand terroir, meaning that the individual essential oil and alpha acid composition cannot be replicated elsewhere in the world.

Hops

They are hard to come by

Beer writer Stan Hieronymus over at Appellaion Beer did some research following the 2019 New Zealand hops harvest which clearly shows why demand is outstripping supply at the moment. The quantity grown is tiny compared to other popular hops right now, so there is a mad dash and then they are gone. But things are looking up if you are keen to use types of New Zealand hops in the coming years…

“New Zealand Hops Limited harvested 44 percent more hops in 2019 than 2018. Production of Nelson Sauvin, one of the most sought out hops anywhere, increased 35 percent and Motueka 69 percent. However, demand — particularly for Nelson — continues to exceed supply. A little math makes it obvious why. Farmers in the American Northwest harvested about 107 million pounds of hops in 2018; NZ Hops 2.3 million.” (From Stan’s July Newsletter)

Insightful. Stan also mentions that New Zealand growers expanded their acreage by 70% this year, which is good news for everyone. At the same time, 90% of the 2019 crop was already sold before harvest, so it could take a while before we see the prices drop and for the hops to become more readily available.

A full report on the 2019 New Zealand hop harvest should soon be available at New Zealand Hops, grower cooperative website.

Glorious fragran hops

We love new things

There is also a very human reason why brewers are so keen on these hops; they are new. Experimenters and creators love new ways of creating their art. When a unique variety of paint comes out, artist flock to try it. When a new way of recording music is found, musicians must see what it can add to their sound.

Craft brewers are absolutely no different. When a new hop comes to town, they have to try it to find out what it can bring to their beer. It’s exciting. It is a new tool in their toolbox, something to improve the complexity of their beers with.

As dedicated hop growers and beer drinkers, we at Brook House Hops are very grateful that New Zealand hops arrived on the scene and we want to do everything we can to bring them over to the UK for brewers to play with. It’s a great time for beer right now.

Battery Hill Hops on tour

Recently, to cement our love of the New Zealand hop offering, we took the three Clayton brothers from New Zealand’s largest hop farm on a tour of UK breweries and brewing history. They found it fascinating and we had a great time.

Traditional versus Modern UK Breweries
Left: Greene King, Suffolk
Right: Camden Town Brewery, London

Our partnership with them means that we can supply hops like Riwaka, Rakau, Pacifica and Nelson Sauvin in the coming years. At present, we have some 2019 Motueka in stock online, so get in there quick if you would like to brew with this extra special, zesty beauty!

For more info on Brook House Hop’s adventures, follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.