Tag Archives: hops

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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