Tag Archives: hop farm

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.

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

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.

English Hops are Underrated

The British have been growing hops since the 16th century, but intense hop flavours have dominated the craft beer industry in recent years, often sourced from the USA.  We believe English hops are vastly underrated and we want to explain why. Perhaps we can even encourage a few of you to use more of them in your beers!

The British ‘terroir’ (read: a sense of place, felt by things such as the combination of soil and the climate) means that our hops are lower in myrcene compared to hops grown almost everywhere else in the world. But what does myrcene do for a hop plant?

In a nutshell, hops that are low in myrcene content typically have a more moderate aroma intensity, which actually delivers far more delicate and complex aromas to the beer.

Hops

The low alpha acid levels in English hops also provide an earthy and slightly spicy flavour, which is why they get used in pale ales/india pale ales as well as stouts and porters. Versatile and complicated, they give more than some might expect.

It is no surprise therefore that brewers across the world put our UK gown hops into their ‘session’ beers. English hops don’t give you a smack in the face as soon as you take your first sip, they typically play with your taste buds and encourage you to take another sip, and then another, and then another…

The combination of Goldings and Fuggle hops is renowned globally. Think about it – if you want to produce a complex yet drinkable beer, it is hard to go wrong with a mix of these two classics.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the very popular hop Citra, is a 3rd generation of the British Fuggle?

We are exporting a large amount of our English hops to the US this year and we are always looking for new customers who might want to try some in their next brew. The staples of our inventory will be Goldings and Fuggle, but we are also open to supplying alternatives like Admiral, Pilgrim and Target.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or if you are ready to place an order: hops@brookhousehops.com

Time to Celebrate with our First Ever Annual Hop Walk

Based just beside the stunning Malvern hills, just off a country lane in Bromyard, Brook House Hops are a hidden gem in the Herefordshire countryside.

Boasting just shy of 100 acres of hop fields, we have been selling our UK hops to brewers all over the country since last year but this year was our first ever organised hop walk.

Alongside brewers from far and wide, the Brook House team joined representatives from Hobsons Brewery, Wye Valley Brewery and Marston’s Brewery on a day out at the farm, exploring the long and luscious hop bines out in the fields and discussing the industry and what was next in store for beer.

Sebastian Nielsen, Sales Manager for the farm, said it was a great day of celebrating British produce: “Our ethos is to provide the best UK grown hop products to support brewers in their quest for the creation of unique, crafted products. We are unusual in that we sell hops directly to brewers, instead of through the big merchants. We want to directly support brewers and the hop walk was a great celebration of UK industry. We even had lunch provided by Legges – legendary 4th generation Bromyard butchers!”

Sales manager Sebastian Nielsen providing green hops for Boss Brewing

A young, ambitious team, Brook House have a unique story to tell and we were keen to spend a day with likeminded people with a passion for beer and hops. The farm has a history of world-class, award-winning hop cultivation thanks to the rich, red, Herefordshire soil and in the past, it was famous for all types of farming from rearing livestock to growing cider apples. We sell differently too – directly and not through hop merchants. By cutting out the middleman, we believe we can listen more closely to trends and provide their customers with a personalised service.

The event was a big deal for the region, Sebastian continues: “In the brewing world an annual hop walk is a big event, looked forward to all year round as an occasion for brewers, beer writers, beer enthusiasts and hop farmers to get together and enjoy each other’s company whilst watching the annual harvest. We hope that everybody got something from the day.”

The tour took the groups out into the fields to look at the beautiful hop bines, sturdy and strong after a great year of sunshine and plenty of rain, as well as into the working production plant, which was busy with harvest workers. There we watched the hops being taken from the bines, separated from the leaves, dried and processed, ready to be sent out and made into great beer.

Many brewers took the opportunity to grab some green hops – hops that are not yet dried, and therefore give the beer a uniquely fresh and crisp aroma. Green ale is a growing trend in brewing, and it tastes best when the hops are as fresh as can be. What could be better than hops direct from the UK countryside?

After the tour, lunch was served and the debating started. Which is best – UK or US hops? What are the trends for 2019? How is the New Zealand harvest doing? What types of beer are popular and growing right now? It certainly made for an interesting roundup to a great day and a wonderful celebration of what makes Brook House proud to be a part of the UK brewing industry.

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