Hop Contracts – Did you read before signing?

At CBC 2016 a brewer visited the 47Hops booth. We talked for a while. By the end of the conversation, he wanted to sign a contract. I gave him the contract and terms and conditions to read. He was about to sign them without reading them. It was the 2nd day of the 3-day show. I told him that I’d make sure the hops didn’t go anywhere and suggested he take the contract and the terms and conditions back to his hotel, read them. I assured him we could talk about it the next day if he had any questions. Then he could sign the contract.

The next day arrived and so did the brewer. He was a little hungover, but had the hop contract and terms and conditions in hand. I asked him if he had the chance to read it. He responded, “Naaa … I didn’t. I don’t like reading those things. We like to do business with people we can trust.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We sat down and went over the contract, terms and conditions together. I highlighted varieties, quantities, prices, payment dates, penalties for not paying, how long hops could be stored for free and storage costs once they did kick in. The rest was legal stuff about venue and jurisdiction. It seemed he was paying attention and then signed the contract.

Most of us click the AGREE box on the ULAs for apps and for our cell phone operating systems. Today, people are accustomed to not reading contracts. There’s a great South Park on that called HUMANCENTiPAD. I have to admit, regarding the iOS on my iPhone I don’t read the ULA before agreeing to it. I figure if I want to use that phone that’s the price I have to pay. If it says in there they can track my location, then that’s the price of that technology.

It seems some brewers take the same approach with hop contracts. So many brewers are surprised later … when they have too many hops and discover they cannot just walk away from them. Finally, they read the details of the contracts they signed. That feeling of surprise can turn anger and some get very emotional. That doesn’t help.

Please read your hop contracts. You should read every contract you sign, unless you’re just willing to accept whatever costs there may be to working with a company. Education is never free. I suppose this is one of those expensive business lessons new brewers need to discover not only how to brew better beer, but run a better brewery in the process.