Should we open our doors to Resellers and Growers?

Here at The Lupulin Exchange we’ve been wrestling with a really big question that we want your feedback on: Should The Lupulin Exchange remain limited to commercial brewers or should we allow growers and resellers to list hops for sale?

We have no interest in cutting Brokers out of the equation - in fact, the Lupulin Exchange is explicitly designed for commercial brewers with broker contracts. It’s currently not possible for a grower or reseller to list. On the other hand, we’ve been really surprised by the number of calls we’ve received from resellers and growers (both big and small) who want to list hops. Is there a way for us to include these folks without causing problems? Would that be good for the industry?

Personally, I've always valued the relationships I've had with brokers, and I've never brewed beer with hops that didn't come from a broker. In addition to stabilizing supply and mitigating the risks that come with relying on hops from a single grower, brokers invest millions to process and store hops in the best possible conditions. That’s what it takes to get the quality of hops to which we are accustomed.

You won’t see changes to the Lupulin Exchange in the short term - this is a big decision that we don’t take lightly. We want to do what’s right for the industry. So this is an open call to our industry: Would you like to be able to purchase hops from any of the following on The Lupulin Exchange? Please chime in below or on social media.

  • Small Growers – Most seem okay with the idea of allowing small farms on the Lupulin Exchange – these are often niche growers who don’t contract with brokers. These farms typically sell all of their hops to nearby brewers who want to brew a one-off beer with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Contracted Growers – these are often larger farms who supply one or more brokers - this is where contractual issues get muddy fast. Some of these farms believe they have the right to sell their excess hops (un-contracted lots) on The Lupulin Exchange – some of the brokers we’ve talked to have a different perspective or even exclusivity clauses in their grower contracts. But then again, there are legitimate times a grower would be allowed to sell hops outside of their broker contracts.
  • Resellers – Have you ever seen the episode of Always Sunny where they buy a bunch of gasoline and plan to resell it once prices go up? Well, now there’s a bunch of those guys in this industry. Some of them are doing sketchy things like repacking hops from legitimate brokers. Brokers are starting to deal with these guys buy requiring TTB numbers to buy/contract hops. These pseudo brokers/lupulin scalpers/hop flippers come in many forms, and they all seem to want to use The Lupulin Exchange to do their bidding.

We will be rolling out a reputation system (like ebay's seller & buyer ratings) in the near future which might help. What do you think? Is it fair to list broker lots next to those from an unknown farm? Would you want to deal with the hassles of buying hops from a possibly unsavory reseller – or from a farmer you don't know?

Do you have questions for us or other thoughts? We would love your help making these decisions.

UPDATE: In early 2015, we launched a platform built specifically for growers and brokers. TRELLIS is currently used by growers and brokers of all shapes and sizes to list hops, manage order fulfillment, power online stores, and more.

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