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A Reluctant Start

I didn’t want to do it, to be honest!

laughs Paul Corbett, managing director of Charles Faram.

As a hop merchant since 1865, the company was wary of expanding into other areas. But by the late 1990s, more small breweries were opening, and Charles Faram’s customers were suggesting they stock malt as well as hops.

Paul gritted his teeth and set aside one bay in their warehouse. He ordered what he thought was enough malt to last a few months. It sold out in two weeks. He re-stocked and that malt sold in another two weeks. “We then thought, hmm, there must actually be something in this!

We kept on adding different types of malt, and the further we expanded it, the more we decided it was a really good thing to do. We’ve gone on to become a ‘one stop shop’ of great ingredients. Brewers can make one order from one company with one invoice and one payment. Simple as that. Many collect everything together on one pallet too, That saves on transport costs.

Hop Forward

When Paul started working at Charles Faram in 1989, the hop growers stocked just three hop varieties: Challenger, Golding and Fuggle. Now they have 150 different varieties on offer.

The quest to provide better choice for brewers resulted in the company introducing new hops, including American Citra® and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin™, into the British market. Recently though, as Paul says,

My focus is turning back to the UK for development of new flavours.


Good Breeding

Hop breeding works by bringing together two parent Hamulus Lupulus varieties by preparing pollen, making controlled crosses, raising seedlings, and planting out. Male plants are grown alongside female ones to help provide disease resistance in the female hop plant progeny.  The idea is to produce progeny that grow well and abundantly, and that have great flavour and aroma-giving qualities.

It usually takes six years from the initial cross to commercial availability, and it involves thousands more failures than successes. But a few remarkable results make it worth all the effort.

Charles Faram invests in the British Hop Association’s breeding programme as well as in their own Charles Faram Hop Development Programme.

A big focus has been on combining British hops, which are known to flourish in the hop yard, with American hops, with their strong aroma and flavour profile.

The goal is to breed strongly aromatic hops with interesting and recognisable flavours, like citrus and tropical fruits, it wasn’t known whether the British soil and climate could achieve that. To be honest, I never thought we’d get his far with pushing the flavour on domestically grown hops. But the new varieties are expressive, fruity and exciting – and we’re still going. Every year our plant development team gets a huge increase in flavours and another 10-15% in aromas out of them. We just had another 26 samples of different British hops which were just incredible. I rubbed and sniffed them and thought, bloody hell, we could be stood in an American sample room sniffing their hops. So who knows how far we can go?

The Hop Development Programme has seen exciting new British hop varieties like Olicana®, Jester® and Harlequin®, released, with many more to come.


The underlying importance of this breeding is to be more sustainable and environmentally aware.

Producing our own varieties of hops in the UK will minimise food miles; reduce the environmental impact of shipping varieties around the world; and reduce the carbon footprint of the brewery. As a responsible business, we’ve got to help brewers source ingredients closer to home and help them to lower their footprint.

While he advocates buying more local ingredients, Paul says

I wouldn’t say to somebody you’ve got to use British hops regardless of whether they produce the flavour you want in your beer. It’s up to hop breeders to develop varieties which produce great flavours in beers. That’s what our past 10 years of hard work have been about – and what the next 10 years will be about. Flavours to entice and delight. Grown here.



Hopping Back to Hop Forward

As well as developing new varieties, the British Hop Association is exploring its archive of hop varieties: a real treasure trove. It includes dozens of hops bred in the early and middle decades of the 20th century (often with an American hop as a parent) which were considered too intensely flavoured for beer back then.

Paul comments

Brewers at the time thought, ‘oh god, we can’t possibly put that in our Best Bitter! The taste’s too overwhelming.’ But that changed 10 years ago when people wanted these experimental varieties and new flavours.

Exploring the old archive of hops has led to varieties like Bullion and Ernest being reintroduced.

Going backwards is also a step forwards.

This is also true of the malts Charles Faram offers. Paul has seen mounting interest in our Heritage Malt varieties like Chevallier, Plumage Archer, Hana and of course Maris Otter.

While they give a nod to the past, they also add an interesting dimension to modern beer styles.

Malt Matters Too

Brewers love all those Heritage Malts – and the experimental, limited edition Small Batch series that Crisp produces. As beer styles have evolved, Extra Pale, Wheat, Oat, Rye, Chocolate and coloured malts have also been in increasing demand. Our customers are often looking for something a bit different. Many of them want to push a few boundaries, going beyond what the guys producing quality best bitter for years and years have been doing.

That is one of the reasons speciality malts and grains which promote haze have been selling well in recent times. Conversely, so has Clear Choice, which helps reduce haze – and extend shelf life.




We have been working together for over seven years. The relationship between us works because it works for brewers and distillers. It ensures that even the smallest of craft operators have access to a fabulous range of malts as well as hops.

It’s a true partnership between Crisp and Charles Faram as we are able to leverage each other’s strengths,” says Colin Johnston. “We really value the ability that Charles Faram have to send malt to any brewery in the country, no matter the size. We sometimes struggle to send out pallets less than one tonne directly from the maltings, but for a Charles Faram customer, it’s no problem to order a couple of sack of malt alongside their hop order. We would always encourage breweries to get in touch with us through our website or give us a call and we can advise brewers what delivery options are available from the partnership.

Charles Faram will happily add 25kg sacks of malt to a brewer’s regular order of other ingredients and send everything direct in one delivery. Then as the brewery or distillery grows, there will usually come a time when Paul has to say to them that maybe it’s time to go back and speak to Colin about deliveries direct from our maltings.

Winning Support

Charles Faram’s business is not just about selling. They are heavily focussed on customer support. This saw them win SIBA’s Covid Supplier Initiative Award 2021 (for which we were highly commended for their efforts) and SIBA Supplier of the Year in 2021. They were voted for by brewers in recognition of the extra mile gone by the team at Charles Faram to provide meaningful support during a year challenged by the pandemic and pub closures.

They love to share their considerable expertise. Similar to Crisp, the brewers in Faram’s team can always assist with technical and commercial questions.

The company is also well known for the annual Charles Faram HopWalk which welcomes brewers to the yards to see the hops being harvested and to get first impressions of the coming crop. Before the walks, there’s a series of sessions and seminars. These allow brewers to meet with all aspects of the beer industry in one place, and share information and ideas about new products.

The Charles Faram HopWalk is an event the team at Crisp never miss. It’s a chance for us to meet brewers who buy their malt through this excellent third party.

We can present brewers with new and different products. And the chats add to our insights about small-scale users of our malt. Plus, we get to learn more about hops every time we go. I highly recommend getting on to the invitation list!

says Colin.

New in 2022 will be Charles Faram’s Hop Academy. Aimed at new, trainee and developing brewers, it’s there to help give a much deeper understanding of the hop industry and the beer industry as a whole. Their team of experts will cover everything from hop breeding and environmental impact; to contracting; to sensory analysis of hops; and hop use in the brewery. It’s a day long course.

Crisp and Faram’s, Hops and Malt
Partners at Your Service

There deserves to be excitement for British malts and hops right now: both are delivering more opportunities than ever to produce spectacular beers.

A4592_Paul-&-Crisp-maltWhether it’s pairing wheat and oats alongside very fruity modern British hops, or combining heritage malts like Chevallier with archived hops like Bullion, the chances to produce stand-out, novel brews just keep on growing.

And of course brewers should never overlook the faithful mix of Crisp’s floor malted Maris Otter with Charles Faram’s Golding and Fuggle. They are classic combinations for the simple reason that they just work really well together.

Over the years, our idea has been to supply as many different ingredients as possible to give brewers an opportunity to have that whole range of flavours they can get into a beer. It’s up to them to have the artistic ability to then bring all those raw materials, those ingredients, together to create their perfect beer.

Happily, that artistic ability is thriving among customers of Crisp and Charles Faram. Cheers.


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