The smell of the fresh green Galaxy Hops hits before you reach the Bushy Park gates. Before the long vertical vines hanging from the trellises lining the fields that disappear into the distance are visible, you’re welcomed by a punchy, zesty aroma that lifts you above the previous evening’s haze.
Ah Galaxy, she’s a late bloomer. She matures after the other varieties cultivated by Hop Products Australia have been harvested and sent on their way but as we pull in, we can see she’s ready. Evenly strung along the wires like threads on a loom, her now tightly formed hop cones are waiting, as if in line, for harvest. Our Brewers Brad and Nic were in heaven.
“I was overwhelmed by each bine carrying almost enough finger sized Galaxy cones for a batch of Pacific ale,” Nic reminisces.
Coming to Tassie to see the protagonist of our Pacific Ale, is like a pilgrimage. This hop has become the most internationally recognized Australian variety and is responsible for giving our most popular beer its distinctive aromatic tropical fruit and citrus flavour.
Once upon a time, these same fields were planted with only bittering varieties but over the past 5 years, with small-scale brewers decidedly wanting to produce more than crisp, dry lagers, HPA are investing in providing new cultivars to produce top quality hops that bring new flavours to quality beers. Of this year’s crops, over 40% are new proprietary flavour and aroma hops and HPA predict that this will rise to 80% within a few years. This is something that makes us weak at the knees!
Following the tractors, headlights still on in the early morning light, carrying the bouncing bundles of bines towards HPA’s processing facility, Tim Lord – Managing Director and Owen Johnston – Sales and Marketing Manager walk us through the process that the hop cones take, being stripped from the bine, sorted from the foreign matter and laid in the kiln.
For our Brewers, this is like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Hooks trailing bines, conveyers whisking the cones on and upward, through and around in a controlled flurry surround them and all the while that botanical fresh smell abounds.
The Galaxy hop is an ingredient they work with every day and yet when they open a new bag to add into the kettle or dry hop into the fermenter, they don’t tire of the smell and never wish to decline at least a taste. Nic was hoping the smell of the fresh hops would stay in his clothes for the trip back across the Tasman.
So with this 2014 release, the Brewers just couldn’t resist creating something a little special and with good timing for this week’s Brewsvegas in Brisbane. The lads have brewed a fresh hopped New Season Pacific Ale. Because the driving force of flavour in Pacific Ale is the late dry hopping in the fermenter, we are able to supplement and complement that with a very late “wet hopping” by dunking a few massive bulging bags of freshly picked Galaxy hop cones into the tank giving them a good 24 hours or so to give the beer an extra fruity resinous wack!
For us, producing these two limited releases isn’t about creating something better, it’s about creating something different. Creating something that embodies our philosophy of making the most of ingredients that are fresh today and keeping it simple.
If you’d like to taste the Galaxy hops in action, buy Pacific Ale online.
Of course, Tassie is a long way from the warm waters of Byron and so it only made sense to catch up with a few friends, share a couple of beers and enjoy the great local food and also throw in a bit of culture….
Hobart and its surrounds are buzzing with venues and wineries offering great food, impressive tap line-ups and world class wine. With our tight schedule, deciding what we would have to miss was difficult.
And to Bill and Chris from Lark Distillery, it is always a pleasure seeing other passionate people putting the same kind of priority on quality and embracing the handcrafted element of producing their product. The tasting of your whiskeys is worth savouring, even if it was 10am in the morning…..