Simply Hops – Getting Great Beer to the People

Simply Hops Guest Post from Daniel Christmas & Emily Swann

Getting Great Beer to the People

At Simply Hops we have been thinking a lot recently about what needs to be upheld and protected within craft brewing, not only for it to continue to grow and flourish, but to an extent for it to transition to its next phase of life? We love craft brewing and we know the genie is out of the bottle now, hopefully meaning craft will be around forever. So, we have to ask these questions to make sure that as much as possible, our own business reflects the ideals of craft and supports it in to the future.

In our opinion one of the cornerstones of craft brewing is localisation; A breweries ability to bring beer styles from all over the world and make it available to the local community. It plays a massive part in the building of a brewery’s sales from its inception, continues to be part of a brand’s customer foundation as it grows beyond its own postcode. It is an essential part of the culture and tone of the craft community.

People buy from people. It is said many times, but in our experience it holds truer than ever in the craft brewing world. At Simply Hops we are making sure that across the UK, Europe and Scandinavia, we have people on the ground working with local heroes to help get the best understanding of customers’ needs. We’ve recently started working with Get Er Brewed in Ireland for exactly this reason. In Ireland more than anywhere, craft brewers are struggling with the ability to build a strong local base. Looking at the Irish Craft market actually gives us a really good insight as to why localisation is so important.

Reliable numbers are never easy to get hold of in these things. In the US, craft beer is often said to make up around 15 – 16% of the market. In the UK it’s been estimated at around 5% but still growing. In the rest of Europe, it can vary from country to country, but the overall picture is towards growth and the taking of a larger share of the market. In the whole of Ireland however, estimates are that craft beer accounts for around 3% of the total market and growth is slow. Nonetheless, when you speak to the people involved in the independent craft brewing industry in Ireland, you still get all of the passion and dedication that you get elsewhere. They see themselves as part of a bigger community and work in the same collaborative way that is pretty much expected among craft brewers. Their beer is just as thoughtfully crafted and offers the same quality and excitement to their customers. So why is the market not responding in the same way as many other places?

geterbrewed

Jonathan and Deborah Mitchell run Get Er Brewed, based in Randalstown in the North of Ireland. They have grown from supplying home-brew and wine kits initially, to now being a major distributor to the craft breweries in Ireland. As well as Simply Hops they work with Crisp Malt and Lallemand Yeasts delivering to craft brewers across Ireland. They have been concentrating recently on making sure that they are able to deliver the best quality ingredients to the customers they deal with. But they are both ambitious and the lack of growth in the market is seen as equally unnecessary and frustrating. Jonathan says “I love Irish craft brewing. The brewers I meet on a daily basis are really killing it when it comes to passion, quality and innovation. There are some things we need to catch-up on here in Ireland though, that will see the craft beer market bloom. When I go to the mainland UK and throughout Europe, I see breweries bringing in locals to their taprooms and bars. The locals love having something that is new, exciting and most importantly “theirs,” right on their doorstep. They are able to interact with the brewers and staff, and in a way that they never can with large scale breweries. It creates both passion and loyalty in the consumer, making them the perfect ambassador for the breweries as they spread the craft word to their friends. It also gives the brewery a financial boost as they are able to shift some of their volume through a short supply chain and protect their margin.” Deborah adds, “It’s all about real interactions no matter who your customer is. We have built our business on face to face communication. We have become our own brand that naturally incorporates all of the values we uphold in our business. The same holds true for the breweries.” Jonathan continues, “Licensing makes running something like a tap-room or pop-up event very time consuming or expensive. The costs of the licenses in Ireland can be eye watering, which makes setting up a tap room a non-starter. Even for pop up events, each time you have to apply to the courts to transfer licenses from already licenced premises. It makes doing these kinds of things difficult and certainly means that anything spontaneous is out of the question. The result is that the brewers can lose a very powerful marketing tool. With so much passion an energy in Irish craft brewing you can almost feel the market straining against its restraints. It’s ready to go!”

Heaney Brewery

Mal McKay is energetic and smiles easily. It gives away his love of what he does. He also sees his local market as key to his future success. He has just finished building his new brewery on his family’s farm (former home of the famous poet Seamus Heaney) and is about to begin brewing his craft beers sold under the Heaney brand. As soon as he starts speaking to us, it’s clear that he plans to overcome any obstacles in his way. His opening sentence is possibly tongue in cheek, but you get the sense he means it. “Anybody that hasn’t heard of us yet soon will. This has all come about from a love of beer, and me and friends homebrewing to make clones of the beers we love. It just went a bit too far one night when I said to my wife I wanted to put a brewery in at the farm. “Wise up” she said, which I did for a while. Then I went a bit mental and decided to do it anyway. To begin with we’re going to focus on some good everyday, everyman beers. I think a good brewery needs to be able to offer a good core range. I have good some great ideas for some big recipes down the line though. The biggest threat to me here is getting the local consumer to understand that they should be buying proper beer. We should be supporting local brewers whenever possible and that means drinkers, the publicans, the staff in the pubs, the hotels, the restaurants and the independent off-sales. They keep saying there’s no demand for the craft beer. But how can there be a demand for it in your pub if you don’t have it in your pub. I guarantee if you put it in your pub, people will buy it.”

O'Brother Brewery

O Brother Brewing in Kilcoole In the South of Ireland, is busy. The radio is loud, the keg filler is being operated at full-tilt and space is very much at a premium. It’s a similar scene that you get from many craft breweries. Fast paced, hard work designed to turn out premium beer. Barry O’Neill, one of the founding brothers (there are three) nonetheless finds time to speak to us about his view of the future. “We set up in the back-end of 2014. Just myself and my two Bro’s. We used to work part time in our Uncle’ Off-licence. We got a reputation for turning up to parties with weird and exotic beers from all over the place and it started a love of beer. We became passionate home brewers then outgrew our dad’s garage so made the leap from very diverse careers to brewers. We spent about 3 years getting the brewery together before we eventually got going here in Kilcoole. We wanted to brew what we feel is lacking in the Irish market, which is big hoppy beers in the American style. We wanted to put Irish beers on the map. In 2011 when we first started looking at this there were very few breweries that were not playing it safe. Now though, there are loads of Irish brewers doing really great things. With regards to the future we are looking at the growth of the market, or rather the lack of it. I think it’s going to be hard yards to keep making in-roads in the market now. I feel this especially when we hear our consumers saying “I got the new craft beer from brewery X” and I know that that particular brewery brews our entire annual production 8 times every day. We have to educate the consumer about the difference between a brewery like this where we have 4 people grinding it out every day because they love what they do. Compared to a brewery that spends more on one advertising campaign than we do in a year. It makes it hard for us to get in to the bars and pubs and to get taps for the people to try out beer. If we can get more locals involved with us, it helps us get that message out”

Rye River Brewery

Finally, we spoke to Bill Laukitis, Head Brewer at Rye River in Kildare just outside of Dublin. Rye River could not be described as a small brewery by any means, with an output that far exceeds that of many of the other breweries we spoke to. They are just opening a new taproom and have excellent distribution through a number of sales channels across different brands. You would expect then that Bill’s view point might be slightly different. But he is clearly an independent brewer who has the love of craft within him. He speaks proudly of “his” Irish brewhouse and the beer they make. “This is the first brewhouse manufactured in Ireland for over 100 years. We wanted to bring this type of engineering back to Ireland so we linked up with a local engineering company and the kit is working pretty well. We’re on course to brew 28 times on the 25HL system this week. We’re pretty proud of the beers we make here. 25 core beers and 30 unique special recipe beers last year. It keeps us very busy.” At this point Bill does something that many craft brewers will do when you ask them to talk openly about beer and begins to talk in-depth about the technical aspects of the water he uses (among other things). It’s great to watch a man so full of love for what he does. We suspect that at this point, Bill would love nothing better than to be teaching the world to brew craft. We do eventually get him back on track though. “Craft brewing is a community and back where I grew up in the states it’s a lot easier for a brewery to open up its doors and let everybody in. Somewhere to share their beers and get to know each other. I think making it easier for breweries to do that would help a lot in the future. It would also help with tourism. A lot of people visit Ireland to try beer. There is a famous beer or two that people come for, but it would be great if it was just as easy for them to visit the great craft breweries in the country.”

It’s quite clear then, that all of the ingredients for growth of the craft market are there. The passion and the skill are poised waiting. Irish brewers are doing all they can but what the Irish market shows us is that connection to your local market is key. It is that interaction combined with the brewing and the beer that grows the market and at Simply Hops we are hoping to see all of the brewers across Europe build ever stronger support bases. Legislation and licensing changes are just part of this. Our support as a supplier is also important and we plan to do all we can to help.

How long do hops last for?

Everyone wants the latest hop harvest, if your striving to achieve that amazing fresh hop aroma in a dry hopped IPA that maybe the case but on occasion sometimes the latest harvest might not be the best option…

Growing and harvesting conditions can affect the final outcome of the quality of the hops so the latest harvest may have been a poor yielding year and the previous harvest maybe the better option. The previous harvest will only be a better option however if the hops have been stored correctly.

So how do you store hops correctly and how long will they last?

The question of how long hops last for will of course raise a few more hop related questions and there is many variables, the main variables to be aware of are;

  • Temperature
  • Light
  • Oxygen

The above key points are highly relevant but will affect each variety slightly differently.

Geterbrewed have invested in cold storage to ensure all our hops are stored below 4 degrees. Correct cold chain storage from the hop farm to our cold storage warehouse is time consuming to do correctly so the latest harvest may take a little longer to arrive but its good to know the reason is we want you to receive simply the best hops in the brewing industry.

Sending hops in a refrigerated container is also much more expensive but again it preserves freshness. We want to provide the finest hops to our craft brewers and home brewers so we have set a clear focus on handling the hops correctly.

Geterbrewed recommend that when you receive your hops you store them in a fridge below 5 degrees. Hops exposed to high temperatures will degrade fast resulting in substantial losses of alpha- and beta-acids, the higher the temperature the more the hops will degrade with degradation doubling every 15 degrees.

Hops exposed to UV light will also degrade quickly and lose their flavour and aroma and can actually generate off flavours in your beer. Geterbrewed have invested in premium quality mylar foil packets to package the smaller quantities of hops for home brewers. We buy container loads of hops and they arrive in pallets made up of boxes of hops in 5kg, 10kg and 20kg foil bags, for craft brewers we ship in these volumes but for home brewers we open one of these pack sizes and breakdown into smaller volumes usually 50g, 100g, 225g, 450g and 1kg

When we have visited hop farmers during harvest we have noted when they cut the bottom of the bines they have a maximum time limit of 2 hours to get the hops picked and into the processing plant as the sunlight will degrade the hops. The foil packaging we use prevents UV rays, vapours and moisture getting into the hop package so they are preserved for ultimate freshness, we also nitrogen flush and vac seal the foil packages.

Oxidised hops aren’t pleasant and can cause cheesy off flavours in your beer, we mitigate this with our handling and packaging and storage methods. Hop Flower or Hop Leaf degrade and oxidise much quicker than hop pellets.

We prevent oxygen pick up with the packaging that we use, a high micron foil package that is nitrogen flushed and vacuum sealed ensures the hops have the best packaging for storage, combined with cold storage means we can confidently put a 3 year shelf life on our hops, we can stand over these hops to guarantee freshness for this period of time

Geterbrewed Hop Packaging

We have recently ordered new foil packaging that has a resealable ziplock, these new hop packs will start to roll out at the end of the month, ideally if your resealing it should be carried out with a vac sealer but if you squeeze out the air and use the ziplock and place back into cold storage this would help preserve the hops and slow down the ageing process.

We are passionate about providing the best hops in the brewing industry, this is only achieved by handling and storing the hops correctly, we hope you appreciate the time and effort this takes but most of all we hope you notice a marked difference in the quality of our hops.

 

Australian Hop Harvest Tour 2019 – Tasmania Hop Farms

Australian Hop Harvest Tour 2019 – Tasmania Hop Farms (3.5 Minute read)

HPA Tasmania

We have never visited anywhere before and thought we can see ourselves living there until we visited Hobart in Tasmania, it was beautiful and we loved every minute of it, in life we are passionate about our industry and these experiences make working in the craftbeer industry like we are genuinely living the dream.

Tours of beautiful hop farms combined with great company and a few Karaoke’s made for a very memorable trip

We got picked up at the Hotel by Owen Johnston from HPA, he’s a legend in the Australian Beer Scene and a great laugh to spend time with, a short journey to busy Park Estates saw the “hopporn” continue.

We arrived at HPA Bushy Park which covers 255 Hectares of land growing five varieties Cascade, Enigma, Galaxy, Ella & Superpride, they have been growing hops here for 153 years

Owen HPA Hop Rockstar

Owen was a very knowledgeable host and I tried my best to document his informative tour, Bushy Park boosts many natural environmental attributes, they have the necessary cold winters where the soil is -1 for at least 3 to 4 days to ensure it starts the proper dormancy period for the hops balanced with the right length of daylight hours in summer.

The summers are exceptionally warm so the rainfall is bolstered with water pumped from the rivers to feed aerogation , both top and bottom aerogation is carried out

It’s a complicated geological area with great soils in the valley floors. Bushy Parks doesn’t export any Alpha, their main hop exported is Galaxy

They harvest Galaxy for approximately 10 days and in Tasmania they harvest each variety before moving onto the next. Galaxy was officially released in 2009

Owen explained that in 2007/8 the make-up of the harvest was approximately 90% alpha to 10% aroma and currently it’s less that 8% alpha (for domestic use only) and 92% plus modern aroma made up of their 5 proprietary blends.

The US hop market moved away from Alpha market which has pushed Europe to increase Alpha which has knocked on an unprecedented change of variety in the field in Australia.

There are 340 active brewers in Australia and it’s great to see so many utilizing the local hop varieties, we enjoyed some awesome brews which showcased what can be achieved from the Australian hop varieties

Brief History of Hop Farming in Tasmania

1803- Hops 1st Started

1830- Steady Production in Hobart and Northern Suburbs

1865- Bushy Park started by Ebenezer Shoobridge

1866- 1st Year Harvest

1867- The building of the Text Kiln, it’s a heritage listed building still in standing. Called the ‘text kiln’ as it has biblical subscriptions on the exterior. This kiln brought industrial capability to the area which in turn allowed small family farms to diversify and add hops to their portfolio of products, Shoobridge (the founder) then processed the hops for them

Text Kiln Bushy Park Estates

Fast forward to 1987/8-1992/3 this saw the hop farms that were owned by ‘Big Beer’ be bought back by Barth Haas and the European and American sides of the business gave a route to market for Hop Products Australia (HPA). At this stage it was 40% domestic and 60% export half of which went to America.

1960’s- Saw the production of mainly Pride of Ringwood

1990’s- Saw the above supersided by Superpride

When Big Beer (CUB & Lion Group) owned the hop farms they grew just what they wanted. When HPA took over it changed to “Choice & Variety” and this became the mandate of Craft and HPA’s role was to help craftbrewers create diverse and interesting beers, which takes us to modern times and their five proprietary blends focus on aroma and are the most sought after hop varieties in the globe right now.

Joined during the tour by Tim Lord MD of HPA, a real gentleman and great host. We looked over the valley of a recent addition of 20 hectares of Galaxy and then enjoyed a BBQ in the hop breeding gardens having a rub, sniff and a few beers and soaked up this incredible experience. Grace treated us to an feast of of food and ice cold beers, it was delicious.

One hop that stood out in the breeding garden was HPA 016, there is currently 10 Hectares in the ground and the stand out aroma was delicious fruit forward character with Mandarin, citrus peel and pine, talk to us about forward contracting this!!

HPA 016 experimental hop variety

HPA Bushy Park manage all their own propagation which puts them in a strong position if replanting was required and this will also allow them to assist with propagation for the Victoria Expansion.

Getting in amongst the hop breeding garden allowed us to see what varieties are coming through and get an understanding of how the process of creating new hops works, it’s a very lengthy process and cannot be rushed. I noticed Pollen bags on the bines and it was explained that they use this process to stop flowers being wind pollenated so they ‘Shake and Bake’ which creates the pairing they want.

Once we enjoyed lunch we moved onto the processing plant and again it was meticulous clean showcasing the World’s Best Practice, focusing on getting the hops pelletised and into foil and packaged stable.

We stood over the floor of Enigma 100 kilo plus bales packed onto pallets of 6, the aroma you can’t imagine the aroma it was epic to experience this! The characteristics they test for at this stage are Alpha, Oil and Moisture (8-11%)

Enigma Hop Bales

The temperature has to be steady before being sent to pelletising or cold storage

The theme at HPA Bushy Park Estates seemed to shine as “The Highest Possible Quality balanced with the lowest possible variants”

HPA have full traceability from Lot number back to the field, Geterbrewed are committed to maintaining this level of quality to the end brewer.

Galaxy Hop Valley

Deborah giving the thumbs up to an amazing experience, once again thanks to all the staff that made this possible at Hop Products Australia and Simply Hops

We love what we do, we love the way you do it and we look forward to seeing you all again

Sincerely Thanks for the experience

Kind Regards

Jonathan & Deborah

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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