Hop Contracts

There was a necessary price adjustment in the hop industry this year, we saw a lot of the most sought after varieties drop in price. This wasn’t all good news as some brewers and hop merchants had contracted at a higher price. That meant selling at a very low margin and on some occasions selling at a loss.

Hops

Geterbrewed brought some incredible value to the microbrewery community and used their buying power to drive down pricing for the homebrew community too but times are changing.

The hop harvest was good in some regions but equally it was very poor in others, drought and other issues have caused some difficulties and we expect a rise in the cost of alpha/bittering hops especially from Germany going into 2019.

If you benefited from the lower hop prices and didn’t have a contract then well done and hopefully you enjoyed that rarity from the hop industry but don’t be fooled into thinking this will happen again next year, the availability of the most sought after hops is going to be reduced.

The structure of how hops are distributed is changing, thankfully Geterbrewed invested significantly in increasing our cold storage this year and are recognised as leading the way in Ireland as the number one hop supplier. That means we are trusted to distribute as we have the ability to correctly handle hops.

Geterbrewed have also built some special relationships with hop farmers that allows us to buy hops direct from the farm.

If you own a brewery and want to secure a consistent supply then we recommend you get yourself a hop contract. Geterbrewed will provide hop contracts for hop supply in Ireland allowing you to keep pricing and costs stable and consistent

It is highly unlikely that there will be the same amount of surplus hops available in the coming year. Many brewers now spot buy hops as they are constantly changing recipes and say they don’t need a consistent supply of the same hop varieties.

I would urge caution with this approach, if you want to have a look at securing some hops for your brewery for next year, its a good time to talk now don’t leave it too late to get a hop contract.

 

Leaf Hops at Geterbrewed

Geterbrewed have been able to use their growth to drive down the price of hops in the microbrewery and homebrew industry.

We now have direct at source buying power and refrigerated storage to ensure we are correctly caring for the product. Our hop farmers actively seek perfection so we want to ensure we provide the correct service when handling, storing and repacking the hops

Leaf hops are only offered in 100g foil vac packed pouches for the homebrew market and 5kg foil bales for the microbrewery market. We offer a much larger variety of hop pellets in various quantities but experience has told us to repack leaf hops in one set size.

The quality of the leaf hops are the best we can possibly source, as we buy direct from the hop farmer and pay a fair price we know the hop product is premium quality.

I’ve covered the pellet vs leaf debate in previous blog entries but some systems are only set up for use with leaf hops, you can try using nylon hop bags as a work around to use pellets in these systems

Leaf hops or whole hop cones are usually kiln dried and pressed on the farm that they have been harvested at and usually within hours.

I have seen this in action, the hops are harvested and brought in on the back of a trailer and the vines are stripped to leave just the whole cone. The cones are then kiln dried to a moisture content of around 10%.

Leaf hops are never processed they are simply dried and packed. The farmers we buy our whole hops from cold store their hops, we keep that level of preservation up with the correct cold storage at our warehouse and then when we repack we use quality foil myler pouches which are nitrogen flushed.

During the drying process in the kiln the farmers are acutely aware that this is a delicate drying process, you don’t want the room filled with aroma believe it or not as you want to preserve that.

Usually hop farmers don’t have a pelletising plant so if they want pellets created they send the dried leaf hops/ whole comes to be processed into pellets.

I’ve held freshly kilned hops in my hand straight out of the hop kiln and they are definitely beautifully floral at this stage.

leaf hops, whole hops

To add to our catalogue of extensive brewing products we have again added a large range of the finest leaf hops.

Cryohops – Luplun2

Cryohops are designed for enhanced flavour, aroma and yield

Cryo hops

Geterbrewed have a fresh batch of Cryo Hops landing into our warehouse at the start of this week. Not many suppliers are trusted with these hops as you have to handle them very carefully to ensure they are stored and subsequently sold in optimium condition.

We have a purpose made distribution centre for storing all our all grain brewing ingredients, in the hops section all the hops are cold stored at 4 degrees, we then nitrogen flush and foil package all hops that are repacked into smaller amounts, this level of careful packaging and cold storage ensures we offer the best hops on the market and can be trusted as a reseller of cryohops.

Developed by Yakima Chief – Hopunion, Cryo Hops™ represents the most innovative technology in hop processing. It uses a proprietary cryogenic separation process which preserves all components of each hop fraction, producing two simultaneous co-products, LupuLN2™ and Debittered Leaf.

LupuLN2 is the concentrated lupulin of whole-leaf hops containing resins and aromatic oils. It is designed to provide intense hop flavor and aroma, enabling brewers to dose large quantities of hops without introducing astringent flavors or vegetative cone material. During early R&D trials, brewers specifically cited ‘juicy’ and ‘resinous’ characteristics.

LupuLN2 offers twice the resin content of traditional whole-leaf and hop pellet products, and should be dosed at approximately half the amount by weight.

Cryohops Luplun2 boast;

  • CONTROLLED, NITROGEN-RICH PRODUCTION
  • SOLVENT, HEAT AND PRESSURE FREE PROCESSING
  • INTENTIONAL PRESERVATION OF LUPULIN GLANDS
  • INTENSE HOP FLAVOR AND AROMA
  • COLD-PRESSED PELLET PRODUCTION
  • INCREASED EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Hops Supply

The hop industry is changing and rapidly, we now have the onset of a stable market in the craft beer industry in America, that means that the growth and spike is starting to settle down, the hops that have been planted 2-3 years ago  to allow this upword trend to continue are starting to become available and we have an excess of some varieties.

American hops still tend to be the most popular and most sought after, plus we have some desperate need for the super sought after australian hops too

We have contracts for hops that we agreed at a higher rate than we can now buy on the hop spot market but we have to honour them, hop merchants don’t want to drop the price at the same time as all it will take is a poor harvest this year to throw the whole industry on its head, some say this would be welcome to teach brewers a lesson who don’t honour contracts.

We had a traumatic hop harvest in Germany last year for example which has seen  some difficulties in sourcing quality German hops this year for some brewers, we have been able to step in and resolve these supply issues as we had contracts in place with the German hop farmers. There is a value on hop contracts when things go wrong you see!

The hop politics that goes on in this industry is unreal, you guys have no idea the complexities we face when sourcing hops, the tactics employed by our competitors and the large hop merchants.

Thankfully we deal direct with many hop farmers who have left their buying co operatives as they want to achieve a higher price for their product, we pay that higher price, it’s a fair price, we do still have to contract with them but because we have built a relationship we do so that it is mutually beneficial for both of us

What we find is we need a premium quality product and we then need to transport it and store it correctly, there is a cost involved with handling these hops correctly, keeping a product at 4 degrees especially during a heatwave isn’t cheap.

We won’t stock and sell a variety of hops unless it is the best we can possibly source, we then care for the hops correctly, any hops that we repack are done so in our cold store distribution warehouse, we use quality foil packages and vac seal and nitrogen flush, again this is a cost.

We are brewers ourselves and we understand what a premium hop product is, have confidence we are supplying the best hops

We try to use our buying power to drive down the hop prices in the UK & Irish hop market, in recent years we have revolutionised the price and range of hops available, not only for the homebrew market but for the pro brewers, we have sourced a wide variety of the finest hops and maintained stock levels.

We don’t let our brewers down, we ensure they have the hops they need

 

Hops

Have confidence in the hops we supply, the finest available and the latest harvests

Geterbrewed supply a large amount of hops to the homebrew and microbrewery community throughout Ireland and the UK

The key to our success and high quality starts from where we source the hops and they how they are transported to us and subsequently stored and re packed as necessary.

Geterbrewed have invested heavily in the correct equipment to correctly cold store hops, we store all our hops at 4 degrees. We use top quality foil bags for all repacking and they are nitrogen flushed and vac packed.

We have now built up strong relationships with hop farmers from across the globe, we pay a premium price but buying direct allows us to give the growers a little more and in turn they care about the quality of the product we receive.

You will hear nightmare stories about containers of hops being taken through the Panama Canal without correct refrigerated transport, this results in a poor hop supply when it arrives into the UK/ Europe. Recently we have new hop suppliers pushing this out at cheap prices making people think they are providing a saving.

We have our hops transported and stored correctly, we now have the expertise and experience to ensure we are providing the very best hops we can. We know our hop stocks are the best in the marketplace.

In recent years we have focused purely on t90 hop pellets for numerous reasons which I have covered on previous blogs but as our microbrewery business has grown we can now offer leaf hops to Microbrewers that have systems that don’t work with hop pellets.

We are proud of the quality of our hops and are pleased to have been able to drive down the price of homebrew  and brewery hops as we have expanded our buying power.

Experimentation with Hops

Dave Hewitt from Simply Hops did a talk recently in Dublin about Hop Trends, Dave was a Cockoo brewer for many years prior to joining Simply Hops, he’s great craic and all round decent bloke. We had enjoyed a meal and a few beers the night before the talk and had put the world to rights about hops and the pros and cons of the industry but he did a short presentation and I’d like to share a few of his points

5 Hop Varieties make up for 52.44% of the total acreage of growing

What are those 5 popular hop varieties? 

  • Amarillo
  • Citra
  • Centennial
  • Mosaic
  • Simcoe

Ask yourself why? Why is it that we must all use a certain type of hops for a certain type of beer. I guess that Dave was highlighting here why so many brewers follow the herd.

His point was…. Experimentation is critical

Look at Cascade its 40% cheaper than Citra, look at using a variety in a different way, be creative, hop flavours will develop differently with different yeasts, build layers of hop flavour

His talk was short and sweet, he’s not keen on seminars but his point was well made, get experimenting…

 

The Latest Harvest of Hop Pellets

 

We are lucky to have the finest quality hops at our disposal plus recent advances in the home brewing industry allow us to brew amazing quality beer at home, we have been blessed since starting this business, as a home brewer years ago I used to struggle to source good quality brewing ingredients. It’s one of the reasons I started this business and now 5 years later we are attending the hop harvest in several different countries to talk about what hops we are purchasing for the year ahead and in some cases we are signing hop contracts 3 to 5 years in advance to secure access to the most sought after hops in the world.

When I think back to the quality of the hops I used to buy its very frustrating, if i had access to the ingredients we supply now, if we had the knowledge of what good hops should be like also it would have saved me dumping so many brews that just weren’t up to standard.

Home brewers now demand the freshest of brewing ingredients, the level of attention and the scientific approach towards brewing means we can only supply the best if we want to succeed.

When you get a passion for great quality hops it’s hard to describe just how important an ingredient they are. I love to brew hop forward beers and I can honestly say there is something therapeutic and relaxing about enjoying a hoppy beer after a hard days work at Geterbrewed.

So we have updated the Geterbrewed website with the latest hop harvest, we have some of last years stocks left in some varieties but all the big names and most sought after hops are in there.

We have learnt how to correctly handle hops, from storage to packaging and not forgetting quality. Hop quality can vary greatly from region to region, we visit our hop farmers to build up our relationships and to always be learning, we work with hop growers that are actively seeking perfection.

Hops have many uses in brewing, modern craft beer tends to be currently focusing a lot on the hop aroma and flavour. Hop bitterness is now accepted at a higher rate with the wide range of DIPA’s available. Hops contribute to Mouthfeel, foam and lacing and flavour stability but the main reason brewers started to use hops was for their anti microbial properties as hops actually help to preserve the beer.

Hop farmers work harder than most farmers and it’s a very challenging industry, I’ve walked through the fields inspecting the hop vines, it surprises me the level of care that they have to provide to grow successful harvests of hops, likewise at harvest time they won’t start the harvest until they feel the quality is perfect.

What i’m trying to describe is the sheer passion our hop growers have, they genuinely work in harmony with nature, we see their passion and we know the quality is the best available to us, so try the new hop harvest varieties and let us know how you find them

Happy Brewing

The GEB Crew

 

Hop Contracts For Microbreweries In Ireland

Hop Contracts

This is a serious topic folks so if your going to contract hops do it right….

Geterbrewed have been supplying hops to breweries for a few years now and we have found the attitude towards hop contracts worrying at times, don’t get me wrong the large proportion of our brewers manage their hop contracts well, but some are reck-less and don’t consider the impact this might have on our business if they get the quantities wrong.

Brewers basically have two choices they can contract hops at a set price or they can buy on ‘Spot market’ prices, the contract secures the hops and quantity were as spot market is only when surplus is available. Generally Spot market prices are higher than contract

Geterbrewed are proud to say they have never let anyone down on a hop contract, if you contract hops with us we make sure the availability is there. Some hop merchants regularly don’t fulfil hop contracts and then you see some brewers thinking this is the norm so they over contract and you can see the problems this may bring.

Geterbrewed is a hop merchant plus we are a small family run business, we work closely with our hop merchants and hop farmers, we have to honour our contracts so when someone contracts recklessly it has a huge impact. If you don’t know how to plan your hop usage then don’t guess! If you need more hops throughout the year we can usually source them so its better to be contracting a safe amount.

Geterbrewed Cold Store their hops and if a package needs broken down into a small amount they are nitrogen flushed and foil vac packed to preserve freshness, we allow brewers to draw off their contract as they need it but we do ask for good communication so we can ensure we manage our stock levels correctly. A Hop Contract is a serious agreement that can be challenged legally and you need to be taking it seriously.

We’ve had a few people walk away from hop contracts and others let us down with volumes but we have to pay our contracts so be prepared to be challenged legally if you get it wrong!

What is a Hop Contract?

In its simplest terms its an agreement between the hop merchant and the brewery on what hops they are agreeing to take for a set term, usually based on an annual requirement of each variety, forecasts can be up to five years in advance

Why Should I Hop Contract?

Simple to secure the most sought after varieties, plus the cost savings per kilo and it allows the growers and hop merchants to plan

How do I get a Hop Contract?

Contact us and talk about your requirements, good communication is key, if we know how you will order and what varieties you plan to use an when its fairly simple, we enter into an agreement and you get the hops you need when you need them

What volume of Hops do I need to Contract?

Geterbrewed cover all sizes of hop contracts, from brewpubs wants to secure small sought after varieties to some of the largest breweries in Ireland.

How far in advance should I contract hops?

Geterbrewed recommend you contract at least 3 years in advance if you are wanting to provide security of supply for the most sought after varieties

In summary the hop industry is serious business we have farmers, their workers and a whole chain of people that rely on an income, plans need to be concrete and the contracts need to honoured. Be responsible!

Hop Farming – What’s it Like?

Hop Farmer Get Er Brewed
Hop Farming – What it’s like to be a hop farmer

Geterbrewed receive many emails from local guys interested in starting a hop farm but lets face it we don’t have the climate in Northern Ireland, we source our hops from a wide range of sources, some from hop merchants and some direct from the hop farmers. We buy hops from American , Europe and Australia, we focus on quality, traceability, consistency of supply and then cold storage and the correct handling and packaging. But what about the hop farmer, does anyone think about their imput to the Craftbeer Industry

I want to highlight one hop farmer in particular, my friend Mihael from Slovenia, we have became great friends as a result of the hop business and we have really pushed Slovenian hops in the UK & Ireland collectively. In my opinion the current issue with the use of hops is that many home brewers aren’t experimenting with different varieties, they tend to use a lot of recipe books and as many of the homebrew books are written in America they specifiy the use of American hops, so lets step out of that safe textbook recipe and try something that will produce a truly unique beer, we brewed a collaboration brew with a Slovenian Brewery using only Slovenian Hops and it was really excellent. Look out for it ‘Three Bad Bears’ Hillstown Brewery & Lobik Brewery Collaboration

I have got to know Slovenian Hops well in the past few years and Mihael and his family are driven to acheive perfection, they work ethic is clear when you visit and I have to say they always impress me, the very farm yards and kilns are spotless clean, they are genuinely passionate about their business. I’ve asked Mihael a few questions and noted his answers to help highlight to you what it’s like to be a hop farmer, read on…

1. What is it like being a hop farmer and what made you get into hop farming?

We are a third generation hop growing family, my Grandfather and my Dad got into growing hops primarily for economic reasons. The region that we live in has been growing hops since the 18th century but due to the impact of the hop market and worldwide hop trade the volumes can come and go. After Yugoslavia fell apart we lost a large market percentage but with the current European Union we have been able to export hops, we are passionate about the quality we want to grow the finest hops we possibly can , we are not driven by price we want to focus on quality

2. Does the region that you live in produce a different quality hop to other regions within Slovenia?

Due to Climate change the growing region has started to become more and more important, we are blessed with our location and we can grow some beautifully impressive hop varieities as do our friends and colleagues. We work very closely with a collective of farmers in our area, we are constantly striving to bring better results.There isn’t any set scientific stats to suggest that the hops in this region are better than other parts of Slovenia but when you look at the hop analysis and you see alpha acids and oil contents at a 20% higher rate comparing to other regions then we are thankful for our location. There is alot of factors that impact each individual region, for example daily maximum temperatures during maturation of the crop, pest and disease management and harvesting at the correct time and following a low temperature drying base.

3. Many Irish and UK brewers regard Slovenian Hops as being used purely for bittering, what have been the recent developments been in flavouring and aroma hops?

I wouldn’t say that we have been regarded as good in bittering hops ever? It is perhaps a misconception and I would like to see that opinion change. We don’t have high alpha acid varieties in our portfolio of hops. Historically some German Magnum hop plants were used to breed Slovenian Dana which has roughly the same alpha acid range. Slovenian Hops have a strong reputation for Aroma and Noble aroma hops. Varieties like Aurora, Styrian Golding, Bobek and Savinjski Golding are dominated in our fields. Since the worldwide explosive interest in Craft Beer the Slovenian Hop Institute has tried to breed varieties that are more attractive for the Craftbeer sector. You will see an example of this research already in the marketplace with the variety “Wolf”, it is also perfectly rounded bitterness with high alpha acids for bittering. Checkout the new varieties Styrian Cardinal, Styrian Dragon and Styrian Fox.

4. What way does the year get broken down in terms of hop farming?

Our hop farming schedule is from middle of March til November. The ground works required during Spring come with high labour costs. We need to clean the fields from wooden parts of the zhizomes, stringing of new wires. The Twining of the hops takes place during May/June. During the peak growing season we try to keep the fields clear of weeds, in doing this we are not using any chemicals or the popular choice elsewhere to use Glyphosate preparators. We focus on proper mechanical processes instead of chemicals.

During the July/August period we are checking constantly to manage diseases, we are fighting against all kinds of mites and moulds, to provide a healthy crop on occasion we do have to use some agricultural products to keep the plants healthy to produce cones full of aroma. Infected hop cones have many disadvantages or bad smells in your beers if this isn’t cared for.

At the end of August we commence the harvest, this is when we work the longest hours. There is a wealth of information and scientific papers of when to commence the hop harvest but in reality we rely on our pinch of instinct and lifetime experiences. The most crucial part in the harvesting window is hop drying…Never more than 58 degrees celcius and it has to be carried out as quickly as possible. We ensure that a huge amount of hot air is blowing through a few layers of hops. There is an old proverb “The more you can smell around the barn the more you lose at the end”

After the drying process in the kiln we re moisten the hops which keeps the product stable while we pack them.

5. Hop Farming is one of the most difficult choices to make in farming, do you focus solely on hops or do you farm anything else?

We are 100% focused on hop farming. Since we don’t strive to own anymore property or land we try to maximise the output from our current fields, this isn’t an easy task but it is enough, at the end of the day we reach the point where all the work is still a joy and a pleasure.

6. What size is your hop farm?

We are around average for Slovenia, working slightly below 15 hectares

7. How long does it take to grow hops?

After we put the rhizomes into the soil it takes up to three years until they reach full maturity, this changes depending on the variety you grow but usually its a 3 year average.

8. Is it difficult to grow hops? What are the challenges?

It depends, if you have a goal and see yourself in a ten year timeframe, taking into consideration what you want to be and what you want to bring to the market, then its a really rewarding and nice job. We feel the proudest when our customers give us proper feedback. Sometimes it isn’t always positive, buy hey, that gives us a new goal, to improve ourselves.

The single biggest challenge…. the weather! In the past this didn’t have the same impact there used to be a good solid average yield. But in the last ten years things have really changed, we are constantly breaking temperature records, participations variations during the growing season are problematic. We can cope with a few months of dry hot weather as we can irigate but hail stones….we can cope with the damage they cause

9. How long can you keep hops?

In proper conditions, up to four years

10. How do you recommend hops are stored?

On the lowest temperature possible, perfect scale is from 0-5 degrees and nitrogen flushed foil bags to avoid any oxidation

11. What is you preference for brewers to use, pellets or leaf?

Brewers often explain to me that with the cones they get much more aroma but they lose more with the green matter, we are happy to supply either hop cones or pellets. European brewers mainly uses pellets for a heap of positive reasons

12. Have you ever smoked a hop?

Licking your fingers during the harvest is brave enough, so smoking is really not needed

13. What is your favourite hop variety?

From a hop farming perspective , its Aurora. Its resistant to many diseases and its always consistent plus brewers love it

14. What predictions do you have for the future of hop farming?

Like I already mentioned before the weather is becoming a huge factor but there is lots of other issues we are facing. Labour costs are going up and we want to have happy people working for us in our fields, at the end of the day they bring in the crop, their impact is huge on the finished hop product.

In the other hand, the civilised society look down on hop farming as an ugly industry but overall we are one of the most precise and advanced branches in agriculture. We don’t do anything from our own instincts, every little thing is planned, forecast and trackable, we want to protect our environment like it is for the future generations.

“The main players in shaping the hop industry are the you the brewers. I’m asking you to take a look at what you are doing with the craft brewing industry, all of you are talking about the famous C varieties, I challenge you to try something old, something traditional, expand your portfolio and don’t be afraid to look for something new. We are here for you, striving to grow only the finest quality hops and predict your needs accurately be realistic. Regardless of the crop the brewing business should be solid and stable through the whole chain.”

Whole-Leaf Hops vs Pelletised Hops a contentious debate

Whole-cone hops or pellets this causes more heated debate among brewers than anything else.

I suggest that it is difficult to dispute that pellets are better where it counts – flavour, storage-capacity and easy-of-use.

This is not intended as anti-leaf propaganda and it should be noted that leaf hops do give off clearer floral notes – so if that is you are looking for in your beer, then whole-leaf hops are definitely advised. In any other sense, pellets are definitely a better choice even when it comes to the actual taste of the beer. They impart character quicker than leaf hops do, they provide more flavour, and most importantly, they are more consistent in flavour.

There is something romantic about using actual hops in your brewing and there is definitely something to be said for that. However there is nothing romantic about having to clean out the mess of spent hops from brewing and fermenting vessels including clogged valves – or ending up with a poorly hopped end-product because of the varying hop alpha and difficulty in estimating the hop utilization correctly.

Pelletised hops are essentially hops crushed into pellet form. This takes place within two or three days from harvest – while the hops are still very fresh. In the process, the leaves and stalks of the hop are removed, leaving only the cones in the pellets. Because pellets no longer look natural but instead industrial, some brewers have the notion that they are inferior to using actual hops, but this is simply not true.

Better Flavour

Firstly hop pellets give of more flavour than whole-cone hops. According to studies, hop pellets give roughly 10% more bitterness, flavour and aroma compared to whole-cone. In crushing hops for making hop pellets, the lupilin glands inside the hops are crushed, which means you get a better extraction rate of alpha acid – leading to more bitterness when the alpha acid is isomerised in the boil.

In many blind tests, pellet hops have come out on top in terms of flavour and scientists have found similar results by analysing the chemical compounds in the flavour profiles. Various tasting studies report similar results – that the flavour intensity was favourably affected by the use of hop pellets when comparing to whole-cone hops and it has also been shown that pellets increase the flavour stability brew-to-brew.

These are some of cited reasons that pellets are preferred to whole-cone by professionals, who want consistency in their product.

Having said all this, many people claim that whole-cone gives off a better flavour when it comes to dry hopping. However the results from blind tests are inconclusive. On top of which, whole cone hops introduce more oxygen to the beer and soak up more of the wort and they are also impractical in the brewing process for reasons given below.

Easier Storage

Having tried to deal with the big, contentious issue – which type tastes better – we can move on to talking about what everyone agrees on: pellets are way more practical, not least because how easy they are to store.

Pelletised hops take up less space, pellets have less surface area, so they oxidize more slowly which means they stay fresh longer and have a better flavour for longer. Pellets have a lower rate of alpha loss than whole-leaf hops, with only 10-20% loss over 12 months at 20oC and almost no loss at all in a frozen state. They last up to 3 years in a normal refrigerator. Whole leaf hops, on the other hand, last approximately 6 months and in the best-case scenario up to 1 year by which time they will not give anything close to their original flavour. Smelly socks and parmesan cheese have both been used to describe the smell of old hops.

Very, very fresh whole-leaf hops may be equally as good as (some would claim superior to) pellets, but the high alpha loss rate removes any advantage and only brewing with fresh, seasonal whole-leaf hops would restrict brewing to three months a year!

Easier Brewing

The use of whole-leaf hops produces more mess to clean up and can clog up the nozzles and valves of your brewing vessel. Dry hopping in the fermenter produces another difficult cleaning job. Pelletised hops are generally hosed out with very little effort.

It is advisable to use a muslin bag when dry hopping with whole-leaf and to weigh down the buoyant leaves ensuring that they are wetted and that the flavour gets into the liquid. This means you typically need to use more 10-15% more hops (because of the muslin bag retaining some flavour) increasing the cost of dry hopping with whole leaf hops.

Pellets, on the other hand, avoid many of these problems. They are small and easy to handle, and for home brewers, they eliminate most of the issues you will have with whole-leaf hops in the dry-hopping process. They also soak up less wort than whole-leaf hops, leaving you with more beer! The one problem with pellets is that they give of more trub if used loose in for example a dry hopping situation.

This may lead to some clogging issues similarly to whole-leaf hops, but these can be solved by using a muslin bag when brewing and/or by using a strainer on your siphon when siphoning the beer. Also, you should make sure to use a finer strainer when brewing with pellets so that less hop matter transfers to the bottle.

In short: Choose pellets (most of the time)

The bottom line is that pellets are not only easier to store and to use; they are more consistent when it comes to their flavour and they actually give off more flavour – seemingly contrary to popular belief among some brewers. While there definitely is something to be said for the romantic factor of using whole leaf hops “the way it has always been”, and they do give off better floral notes for example, pelletised hops in our opinion win in the long run on usability, storability, cost effectiveness and most importantly the end result.

I may be harbouring a certain bias because when I started brewing full time professionally on the 13th of August 1979 at a brewery with a German designed brewhouse it was specially designed for pelletised hops. It was several years before I became familiar with the problems associated with whole hop usage.

Written by our friend George Thompson Brewing Consultant