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General Category => Ingredients => Topic started by: yso191 on August 19, 2017, 04:16:53 PM

Title: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: yso191 on August 19, 2017, 04:16:53 PM
I heard something recently from someone in the hop business that I found discouraging.  He said that a lot of what is bagged for homebrewers is sometimes years old.  They look over their inventory and see what they need to get rid of and that is what ends up packaged for us.

The cold fact is that we are at the bottom of the food chain so to speak.  Obviously at the top are the big commercial breweries.  They get to come in for hop selection, checking out all the different lots, growers and regions, selecting the best of the best.  Then there are all of the contract holders, then spot buyers, and finally you and me.  So not only do we get the hops no one else wants, which we all understand, but also we may get old hops too.  On top of this, we pay the highest price.

I know it is basic economics, and I don't have a problem with that but it still doesn't sit well.  At a minimum I'm going to limit my hop purchases to places like http://www.yakimavalleyhops.com/default.asp  and others that buy off the spot market for sale to nano and home brewers.  At least I can be sure it is the current year!
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: HoosierBrew on August 19, 2017, 04:26:14 PM
I heard something recently from someone in the hop business that I found discouraging.  He said that a lot of what is bagged for homebrewers is sometimes years old.  They look over their inventory and see what they need to get rid of and that is what ends up packaged for us.

The cold fact is that we are at the bottom of the food chain so to speak.  Obviously at the top are the big commercial breweries.  They get to come in for hop selection, checking out all the different lots, growers and regions, selecting the best of the best.  Then there are all of the contract holders, then spot buyers, and finally you and me.  So not only do we get the hops no one else wants, which we all understand, but also we may get old hops too.  On top of this, we pay the highest price.

I know it is basic economics, and I don't have a problem with that but it still doesn't sit well.  At a minimum I'm going to limit my hop purchases to places like http://www.yakimavalleyhops.com/default.asp  and others that buy off the spot market for sale to nano and home brewers.  At least I can be sure it is the current year!


I'm a pretty satisfied YVH customer. And love Ted H's hops from Ebay.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: Wilbur on August 19, 2017, 04:27:26 PM
I try and buy from a local farm in Lewiston, IL. The selection isn't quite as good, but for this year there's about 25 varieties available. I can get wet, pellet, hash, and cone. All from the current year, and supporting a local business. It doesn't have the slick packaging of some places, but it's fresh. I don't have AA% info, but I've been told the IBU is a lie anyway by some old hippie. ;)

I've heard hops stay very fresh if properly packed anyway, not comforting when you hear about bad actors in the business, but it's better than nothing. I always liked seeing Nikobrew post the harvest year.

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Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: denny on August 19, 2017, 06:06:43 PM
I heard something recently from someone in the hop business that I found discouraging.  He said that a lot of what is bagged for homebrewers is sometimes years old.  They look over their inventory and see what they need to get rid of and that is what ends up packaged for us.

The cold fact is that we are at the bottom of the food chain so to speak.  Obviously at the top are the big commercial breweries.  They get to come in for hop selection, checking out all the different lots, growers and regions, selecting the best of the best.  Then there are all of the contract holders, then spot buyers, and finally you and me.  So not only do we get the hops no one else wants, which we all understand, but also we may get old hops too.  On top of this, we pay the highest price.

I know it is basic economics, and I don't have a problem with that but it still doesn't sit well.  At a minimum I'm going to limit my hop purchases to places like http://www.yakimavalleyhops.com/default.asp  and others that buy off the spot market for sale to nano and home brewers.  At least I can be sure it is the current year!

I can pretty much guarantee that YCH doesn't do that.  At least that's the word from people who should know.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 20, 2017, 12:57:25 AM
Some say the same happens for Malt.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: HoosierBrew on August 20, 2017, 01:35:09 AM
Some say the same happens for Malt.


Yep.
Title: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: tommymorris on August 20, 2017, 01:57:55 AM
I have read (and repeated) something similar to what the OP says before. But really, basic economics says the bagged hopped vendors would want to satisfy their customers so they get repeat business. Plus, there are a lot of homebrewers. YCH probably buys a lot of hops and likely is far from last to pick their hops.

OP, didn't you used to work for a hop distributor? I remember you posting pics and talking about measuring AA%.

PS. I buy my hops from Yakima Valley Hops also. They are great. But, I have some YCH that I got free for renewing my membership at AHA.  Those have been high quality also.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 20, 2017, 11:33:44 AM
I have read (and repeated) something similar to what the OP says before. But really, basic economics says the bagged hopped vendors would want to satisfy their customers so they get repeat business. Plus, there are a lot of homebrewers. YCH probably buys a lot of hops and likely is far from last to pick their hops.

OP, didn't you used to work for a hop distributor? I remember you posting pics and talking about measuring AA%.

PS. I buy my hops from Yakima Valley Hops also. They are great. But, I have some YCH that I got free for renewing my membership at AHA.  Those have been high quality also.

YCH is a co-op owned by 8 or more of the Hop farmers. The hops are pretty high quality. One needs to know that the farmers can't pick and process all of their hops of a variety at the same time, it takes days, so some might be a little past their prime.

Hop breeders look for early a late maturation, to spread the the harvest more evenly.
Title: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: BrewBama on August 20, 2017, 11:49:17 AM
I can see that business model being effective. Treating your biggest customers with the freshest selection then selling the rest to smaller customers. I imagine the price jumps with packaging and handling one once bags. I'm OK with that. If I bought tons vs ounces I'd want preferential treatment as well.


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Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: yso191 on August 20, 2017, 03:34:31 PM
Yes I worked for a season in the lab at BSG's facility here in Yakima County.  I have several friends in various places the business - both on the production side and the brewing side.  Additionally the hop business is very incestuous.  There are no clean lines between the pipelines.  Growers often do business with various processors who do business with other processors.  Then Brewers buy from various processors.  The bigger the brewer the more they spread out who they buy from.  It is safer for all concerned.

I agree that big buyers get first choice and all of that.  The only reason I mentioned that part is I wanted people to know (in case they didn't)  That not all hops of a particular variety are the same.  The differences between region, grower and even lot are dramatic.  IMO this fact alone stumps many home brewers re: why their beer isn't like the commercial example.

But it does bug me that a company would not label the harvest year of bag of hops.  Even kept in ideal conditions hops degrade over time - both the Alpha Acids and the oils.

I have no first-hand evidence of YCH doing this, but my impression is that all of them do it if the bag does not list a harvest year.  Also, when it occurs, it is probably not with a high-demand hop.  Those would not be sitting around waiting to be snapped up.

That is until perhaps now...  There appears to be a coming glut on the hop market.  For those that do not know, the hop market is very cyclical.  The cycles have been evened out somewhat with hop contracts, but that can't fix it all.  Many brewers are just this year having a hard time because they have over-contracted.  The market isn't absorbing these hops on the spot market.  Hop prices are coming down.  Some farmers will not make it through the lean times and will do something else with their fields.  That coupled with usual growth in demand will create the next growth phase... and on it goes.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: Steve Ruch on August 20, 2017, 03:50:52 PM
Time to plant some rhizomes?
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: waltsmalt on August 22, 2017, 02:30:50 AM
Time to plant some rhizomes?

Been there.  Done that.  If you really enjoy gardening it's fun, but not really worth all the effort.  After having four different crowns for about 6-7 years (before giving them up to a hop farmer), I appreciate what they go through.  Like most of the people said, I understand what happens and where we sit on the food chain.  That's business, the American way.

Ultimately, if the only thing I left to conquer in brewing is the freshness of my hops, I'll consider it a big win.   ;)
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 22, 2017, 02:13:30 PM
Yes I worked for a season in the lab at BSG's facility here in Yakima County.  I have several friends in various places the business - both on the production side and the brewing side.  Additionally the hop business is very incestuous.  There are no clean lines between the pipelines.  Growers often do business with various processors who do business with other processors.  Then Brewers buy from various processors.  The bigger the brewer the more they spread out who they buy from.  It is safer for all concerned.

I agree that big buyers get first choice and all of that.  The only reason I mentioned that part is I wanted people to know (in case they didn't)  That not all hops of a particular variety are the same.  The differences between region, grower and even lot are dramatic.  IMO this fact alone stumps many home brewers re: why their beer isn't like the commercial example.

But it does bug me that a company would not label the harvest year of bag of hops.  Even kept in ideal conditions hops degrade over time - both the Alpha Acids and the oils.

I have no first-hand evidence of YCH doing this, but my impression is that all of them do it if the bag does not list a harvest year.  Also, when it occurs, it is probably not with a high-demand hop.  Those would not be sitting around waiting to be snapped up.

That is until perhaps now...  There appears to be a coming glut on the hop market.  For those that do not know, the hop market is very cyclical.  The cycles have been evened out somewhat with hop contracts, but that can't fix it all.  Many brewers are just this year having a hard time because they have over-contracted.  The market isn't absorbing these hops on the spot market.  Hop prices are coming down.  Some farmers will not make it through the lean times and will do something else with their fields.  That coupled with usual growth in demand will create the next growth phase... and on it goes.

I have seen many think there will be a glut in the US, and I agree.

On the other hand, there are reports that the harvest in Germany will be way down due to drought (they don't drip irrigate). They will be looking for alpha hops on the world market.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: majorvices on August 24, 2017, 12:01:06 PM
There's a lot of stuff on the spot market that is ancient. Someone tried to sell us 2012 Centennial the other week. Price wasn't that great either. We found some 2014 pretty easily.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: denny on August 24, 2017, 03:53:09 PM
I just communicated with YCH about this in regards to a question for an upcoming podcast.  I can now guarantee you that YCH packages exactly the same hops for homebrewers and commercial,brewers.
Title: Re: Highest price & lowest quality
Post by: Stevie on August 24, 2017, 04:00:44 PM
They are the same in the sense that the kid that gets picked 5th for kickball is a 4th grader the same as the kids that got picked 1st-3rd. I hope they aren't the 9th kid, he smells funny.