The Others is a monthly series looking at the people who aren’t brewers that help to produce beer and get it onto your tastebuds. This month, the hop merchant…
In the last edition of The Others, we took a look at the work of the Hop Farmer. Once the Hop Farmer has grown and harvested the hops, they pass them onto the Hop Merchant.
The Hop Merchant is essentially the middle man between the hop farmer and the brewer. Charles Faram has been providing hops to customers since 1865, and current managing director Paul Corbett has been with the company since 1989, when he joined as a “market manager”.
In the years since, the number of people employed by Charles Faram has increased to 16. In total, across the UK, Paul estimates that there is around 900-1000 people working in the hop industry in the UK. It is at a critical point, and at risk of losing the people with the relevant skills, and also being unable to sustain itself.
If I was to write everything that Paul Corbett told me on the afternoon I spent up in Worcestershire last year, it would take several pages. Indeed, I wish I had a recorder to record everything, rather than having to rely on written notes. Paul is definitely a man who knows hops, and is worth listening to if you ever get the chance.
The hop merchant gets the hops in bales that are then split down into smaller quantities for distribution to the brewers. Due to the limited storage space of many breweries, much of the hops ordered will be stored at the hop merchant until they are required. Certainly at Faram’s, there was a number of sections in the warehouse assigned to various breweries.
One problem the hop merchant does encounter is the difficulty in predicting demand, and also weather, both of which can limit what is available. At Faram’s, there are some contracts running up to 2017, ensuring those brewers will be able to brew their beers.
Next on The Others, I shall be looking at the backbone of beer, malt.