The North American arm of global hops supplier Barth-Haas today announced a “strategic investment” in Yakima Valley Hops, a company that started nine years ago as an experiment on eBay and grew quickly alongside the craft boom.
John Snyder, who co-founded Yakima Valley Hops with Jeff Perkins, said the deal would help them get high-quality, in-demand hops to brewers throughout the year. "That consistent supply, yearlong, is our focus," he said.
John I. Haas and Yakima Valley Hops declined to disclose the terms, but a source close to the deal told Craft Beer & Brewing that “the Haas investment is non-traditional but meaningful, allowing YVH to operate with independence and board involvement by Haas."
Snyder said that Haas invested in their business as a partnership. "We're still running the show. Yakima Valley Hops is not Haas-owned. This is not a buyout. ... We're partners. What we're doing is getting access to the gold standard."
John I. Haas is part of the Barth-Haas Group, the world’s biggest hops supplier. Founded in Germany in 1794, the company in recent years has invested in developing new aroma and flavor hops—like Citra, Galaxy, and Mosaic—while interest in specialty beer has blossomed worldwide.
Perkins and Snyder were students together at Central Washington University. In 2010 they were dipping their toes into homebrewing when a friend, whose dad worked in hop storage and purchasing, handed them a garbage bag full of the stuff. It was far more than they could use or freeze, so they tried to sell the rest on eBay. It worked so well that they bought more to re-sell, and soon found that they had become hop brokers.
They founded Yakima Valley Hops in 2012, specializing in direct-to-customer sales over the Internet (via YakimaValleyHops.com and, for wholesale, SpotHops.com). Their customers now include thousands of independent breweries and more than 40,000 homebrewers.
"We were always expanding," Snyder said. "Since the garage, we started renting a little space and warehouse. We'd knock a hole in the wall and expand. ... We needed to align ourselves with a large broker to keep supplying our growing craft and homebrewer market."
Snyder said their expansion, with backing from Haas, will give brewers more options and help them to avoid the costly secondary market. "When they have to buy everything for a year, it puts them in a tough spot financially. It's sweat equity. Every dollar means a lot to them.
"We need to make a margin, but also on the craft side, they need to make a margin, but also on the homebrewing side, they need to keep brewing without breaking the bank."