Six Australian hops that make IPAs truly stand out
The HAAS® HopCast™ caught up with Owen Johnston at Hop Products Australia, who was able to take a break from the Australian hop harvest to talk with us. Read excerpts from their conversation.
If you want to learn more about some of the incredible—and often underrated—flavor and aroma hops coming out of Victoria and Tasmania, be sure to listen to the full HopCast on Soundcloud now.
And why not join the HPA Team for the 2021 Australian Hop Harvest, currently in progress. HPA is inviting brewers around the world to join their virtual events. Get to know the HPA team, tour the farms, get technical advice, and join the beer banter in real-time. Sign up for live events or watch the videos to get caught up on what’s going on Down Under.
In the meantime, here are a few highlights and edited excerpts from the extensive conversation between Owen Johnston, Head of Sales and Marketing at HPA, and Roy Johnson, National Sales Manager for John I. Haas.
Roy Johnson: “Owen, could you give folks a little background on HPA?”
Owen Johnston: “We are members of the BarthHaas Group, which is a network of like-minded hop trading companies across the globe. HPA was originally focused on alpha hops but, over the last 10 years, we shifted to thinking about proprietary Australian hops and the unique characteristics they offer.”
Roy: “What are some of the new hop trends in Australia?”
Owen: “There used to be a few-year lag in hop trends down here, but that’s really decreased as craft brewing trends have globalized.” So now, you see a lot of the same trends seen in the U.S. “But with our hot summers, and our drinking culture, you need to make beers that you can have a couple of.” Along with Australia’s taxation rules, higher alcohol beers are still a minor player. “XPAs and American Pale Ales are top sellers, although they are still hop forward, the experience is just a bit different.”
Roy: “When I was down there, just before COVID hit, I was blown away by your operations.”
Owen: “There has been an unprecedented rate of change, driven mostly by the variety change on the farms. Galaxy was already on the market when I started but then Ella, Vic Secret, Enigma, Topaz and most recently Eclipse—their growth is just unprecedented. And as more and more brewers start embracing them, we want to be sure we can help them be successful.”
“We’re immensely proud of what we achieved, with two major rounds of expansion that have led to a doubling of output over the last seven years.” But it’s also driven by a real focus on quality. “We look at highest possible average quality with the lowest possible variance, and that really governs our perspective on post-harvest production. After harvest, we’ll have hops on the water to Haas in just two weeks. It’s really about a focus on cold-chain logistics: from the bale store out to cold store, back to the pellet plant, then finished product pellets, back to cold store, shipped in refrigerated units—we know that these things contribute to really great outcomes for our American customers.”
Roy: “Can you talk a bit about what I think are some underrated hops, but they are just fantastic—and brewers are always amazed when we bring them out.”
Owen: “Eclipse has done exactly that: it’s eclipsed all my expectations and it’s done extremely well. It’s been a long journey. It was originally crossed in 2004 so it’s been in our program a long time, in this leading pack of advanced varieties.” After a few false starts, “we went back and looked at what was easy to use and had clear impact. One of the characteristics of Eclipse is its identifiable mandarin flavor. I like to say, it does what it says on the label.”
Roy: “There are also hops that might be somewhat underrated that really have a great impact on beer: Ella, Enigma, Topaz.”
Owen: “Ella is incredibly versatile, I prefer it on the hot side if you want to drive the spice. If you want to swing the hop back to the floral side, the whirlpool addition will give you that… I like it layered in to give that middle ground, to give that floral and spice complexity behind, say, a fruit-forward profile in an IPA. Ella can fit right in there and deliver that complexity.”
“Enigma is a bit of a sleeper for us with immense potential because it sits outside this citrus, fruit-forward IPA trend. It’s got this lovely white grape, raspberry, red currant, rock melon—it’s quite different.” Because HPA hops are somewhat smaller scale, “I think Enigma has the ability to differentiate a beer on the shelf and set your beer apart significantly.”
“Topaz has this beautiful lifted lychee note with that tropical sweep behind it. If you took it out of early boil additions and use it in the whirlpool—it was quite a unique hop flavor. It’s delicate and at higher doses feels more tropical. Again, it’s a significant opportunity for differentiation if you can pin down that lychee.”
“I think the real opportunity is when it comes to differentiation: understanding these HPA varieties and layering them with Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy or, of course, all the C-hops. The complexity you can get—the spike of lychee among the Mosaic—that’s where you can stand out.”
To find out more about Australian hops from HPA, check out the hops page on our website and search by region for Australia. And be sure to check out the 2021 Australian Virtual Hop Harvest. Or, if you’re ready to brew, contact your HAAS® Sales Representative or check out our Distributor page today.
Cheers—and, of course, g’day!