Simon in Australia – Hop Farms
Michael Huddart9 April 2019
Our Head Brewer Simon spent ten days in Australia exploring the beer scene and hop farms.
Finally back on UK soil after a colourful 10-day tour of Australia and broadly in one piece. With the obvious challenges of jetlag, lusting for a glass of red and a fat steak at 6:30 am and feeling ready to party at 2 am on the second day I’m pretty much back in the game!
Flying into Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport for the Australian Hop Harvest and crop selection courtesy of Simply Hops I met up with a feast of other UK Brewers before taking in the cities vibrant craft scene visiting – Stomping Ground Brewery/Tap – Collingwood, Mountain Goat Brewery/Tap – Richmond and Moon Dog Brewery/Tap – Abbotsford
Our first hop farm visit was to Rostrevor Hop Gardens around 250 miles outside of Melbourne CBD near a cool little town called Bright. Located at the base of Mount Buffalo National Park and Alpine National Park as well as Mount Hotham, a popular ski and snowboard resort, it made for a great pitstop housing Bright Brewery/Taproom with undoubtedly the freshest dry hopped beer I’ve ever tried pelletized within hours of being dosed!
They harvest 3 ton per day per hectare over a 28-day picking window 24 hours a day nonstop!! Hectic!!
They are one of the closest hop gardens in the world to the equator and at their peak times of harvest (now) they employ 175 staff (mostly backpackers)
The garden operates a direct chain system primarily which means as soon as the vines are cropped they’re hooked up on chains and stripped of all their cones. The aroma was truly unbelievable!!!!!
They also bale up hops as the plant can’t process as quickly as the hops need to be picked. Ultimately the window is 4 weeks at 24 hours a day but the pelletizing runs for 9 weeks. Each bale holds the equivalent of 800 kg in pellets as there’s approximately 3:1 moisture content that has to be kilned out.
It takes around 8 years of trials before a crop can be considered good enough to even be planted. Then 3 years before it becomes commercially available and during this time if they give it to a selection of Brewers or indeed consumption trends change they ditch it and continue with other trials! Unreal!! All this considered Galaxy didn’t become commercially available until 2008 and only 500 kg of pellets were actually produced!
I do have quite a fun last one… If you look at the hop vines how do you think the shape is formed at the bottom??
Sheep!! 4000 of them herded into different gardens and allowed to graze on the bottoms of the vines for 3 months to allow access to the stalks for cropping and they LOVE hops. It was mentioned in passing that beer/hop trends could have been predicted by which one they gravitate towards first…