Based in Yakima, Washington, Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) is a 100% grower-owned hop supplier for the global brewing industry. Sourced from a network of multigenerational family farms from across the Pacific Northwest, YCH provides brewers with solution-based hop products that honor the hard work of their hop growers. The original group of grower-owners was formed in 1988, and YCH has been operating under its current name since 2018. It is now the largest hop supplier in North America, selling hops globally with offices in Belgium and Hong Kong, as well as distributor partnerships in places all over the world.
Most of the company’s revenue is driven by multi-year contracts. Because of the dynamic nature of both the agriculture and beer industries, the contracting and ordering process is unique and complex. YCH sells hops to commercial breweries, as well as distributors that also contract with and sell to breweries and homebrew retail shops.
Customers come to Yakima from all over the world to see, smell, and touch hop samples, allowing them to select exact lots from specific farms and fields based on aroma profile and quality score. Once customers have selected the specific hops they want, they can reserve them for their pre-negotiated contract volumes and pricing for the following calendar year, after the harvested hops have been processed. Inventory that isn’t under contract is sold through the Spot Market in cases weighing up to 44 pounds, and through the Homebrew Market in one- to two-ounce packages.
The largest customer segments are macro breweries, craft breweries, and distributors. These customers buy hops on contracts ranging from one to five years in duration. However, commercial breweries will also choose to purchase some hops from the Spot Market. It is typical for nano-brewers — neighborhood breweries on a relatively smaller scale — to only buy hops from the Spot Market. Larger craft brewers will often purchase “hops on spot” to supplement their unexpected needs throughout the year such as limited edition, one-off, or seasonal beers. Homebrewers who produce small batches of beer as a hobby typically buy hops in much smaller packaging sizes from retail shops, though they can now purchase directly from Yakima Chief.