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HopUnion Merges with Yakima Chief Craft Division

HopUnion LLC announced today that they will be merging, effective August 1, with Yakima Chief’s craft division. Yakima Chief will continue to independently run their other divisions. But the craft beer side of their hop business will be folded into HopUnion’s and almost nothing will change there apart from having more hops to offer and the addition of longtime Yakima Chief east coast salesman Jim Boyd.

From the press release:

“We believe this merger will help provide more selection of hop varieties as well as better stability in the supply and demand chain,” said Ralph Olson, general manager and one of the owners of Hopunion Craft Brewing Sales, LLC. “Our ability to take care of the needs and desires of the customer will be greatly enhanced.”

Olson said that by combining the two companies there will be improved efficiencies in pellet plant production with the ability to produce larger volumes of consistent product.

Prior to the merger, Hopunion Craft Brewing Sales, LLC and Yakima Chief, Inc. were providing specialty hop varieties to the craft brewing industry.

Joining Olson in the new company will be Ralph Woodall, Jim Boyd and David Edgar, who together have over 60 years of experience in the hop industry. Support staffs from Hopunion Craft Brewing Sales, LLC and Yakima Chief, Inc. will be located at the Hopunion Craft Brewing Sales, LLC office in Yakima.

Ownership of the new company includes several Northwest growers who specialize in producing premier aroma hops. With these grower partners, the new company will be able to continue to provide the consistency in quality of hops that customers have come to expect from both companies.

“We will now be able to provide greater coverage in North America for the craft brewing industry,” Olson said of the merger. “And, it will allow us to help nurture craft and specialty brewing internationally, a growing segment of the industry.”

I spoke to Ralph Woodall this morning and it sounds like the merger is all positive. According to Ralph, the two can now stop competing in this area and start working together which should be a boon to craft brewers. Both have, as I understand it, great reputations in the industry though HopUnion certainly has the more public face (and puts on the best industry parties — especially when they work alongside Joanne Carilli from White Labs). Gerard Lemmens had been the public persona of Yakima Chief but he left the company last year for Brewers Supply Group and has all but retired to London now. So this merger makes a great deal of sense for both parties.

HopUnion, even before the merger, was the biggest supplier of hops to the craft beer industry with Yakima Chief solidly at number two. Post-merger they will own a sizable share of the market, though the craft beer market represents a fairly small percentage of total U.S. hop production. Best of luck to the Ralphs, David, Jim, Jennifer, Dave and Becky, the Johns and the rest of the wonderful folks at HopUnion.

The infamous Ralph’s from HopUnion. From left: Ralph Olson and Ralph Woodall, with Rob Widmer, of Widmer Brothers Brewing. I took this at the 15th Anniversary Party for the Celebrator Beer News.

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