Tag Archives: hop farming

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!”

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.

Success Leads to Major Investment in New Cutting-Edge Equipment

Rather excitingly, we have recently invested over £100,000 into our facilities on the back of customer feedback and encouragement, purchasing a much sought after hop pellet mill.

Since launching last year, business has boomed due to the popularity of not just home grown, locally sourced hops but also the unique aromas that come from our hops which are grown in the rich, red, Herefordshire soil.

We have been asked a lot by customers to provide pelleted hops alongside our whole leaf offerings. Being a business which prides itself on its care for customers, we readily invested in the new pellet mill which was just installed at our farm in Bromyard, just outside the Malvern Hills in Herefordshire.

“Our main goal is to serve the needs of brewers, so we are building relationships with them and trading in ways that benefit both parties.” says Sales Manager, Sebastian Nielsen, “that means selling hops directly and sourcing interesting and unique varieties, which we can do thanks to our farm relationships across the globe. When customers started asking for our hops in pellet form, we took the decision to seriously consider the request.”

So last month, we decided to take the plunge and made a 6 figure investment into a state of the art, low-temperature pellet processing facility. It was fundamental to us that no corners were cut on this project, so the equipment we sourced had to be strictly top of the line.

Brook House hops going in to the pellet mill to be transformed into pellets

Brook House hops going in to the pellet mill to be transformed into pellets

Owner Will Kirby notes: “the key to the pellet creation process is cooling and making sure the pellets do not reach high temperatures, as this would mean they lose their vitality, flavour and aroma. Brewers want the freshest hops and we wanted a solution which gave us pellets but maintained that Brook House freshness.

“Happily, we have achieved that with this investment! The pellets crumble beautifully when rubbed in your hand but are not so soft that they can’t withhold storage, handling and transportation activity. Our pellets also go straight into a cold store after being nitrogen flushed and vacuum sealed, where they are stored between 0-5 centigrade to maintain freshness. Quality is so important to us and we think we have invested in the perfect solution.”

Farm Worker Robert Demczuk with the laser temperature gun, monitoring temperatures

Farm Worker Robert Demczuk with the laser temperature gun, monitoring temperatures

After a week of setting up the equipment and testing the process, the team are now in full production. Pellets are going through industry leading processing procedures at low temperatures and then going straight to the cold store.

“This investment symbolises our commitment to quality” Sebastian adds, “brewers want high-quality pellets that dissolve properly in their brewing process. This is a state of the art pellet mill and our goal is to make the best pellets on the market.”

Fresh Brook House Hops Pellets

In the spirit of collaboration, we initially sent out samples to a few select few customers who volunteered to help them get the consistency spot on, now they are available for sale on our online shop and via their sales team.

Visit the shop today!

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

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.