The 2023 Australian Hop Harvest: Getting a taste of Australia’s terroir
Ever since Galaxy® hops exploded onto the American brewing scene in 2009, interest in Australian hops has steadily increased. Today, as brewing trends shift toward lower-ABV beers with lots of flavor, we think American brewers can gain a unique perspective from their Aussie counterparts—and continue to create exciting new flavors with Aussie hops.
That’s why our relationship with HPA (Hop Products Australia) is so important. HAAS® and HPA are two divisions of the BarthHaas Group, which also includes BarthHaas in Europe. HPA is the world’s largest producer of Australian hops, including varieties like Galaxy® Eclipse®, TopazTM, EllaTM, Enigma®, Vic SecretTM and more—and HAAS has exclusive distribution rights to HPA products in North America.
Every two years (global pandemics aside), the HAAS team heads to the Land Down Under to visit our friends at HPA for the Australian Hop Harvest, and to see what’s new and interesting. In the spirit of collaborative innovation, we began inviting some brewing friends to join us as we toured the hop fields, tried the local cuisine, and soaked in the magic of Victoria and Tasmania.
“It’s all about terroir. Australian hops provide a flavor that American hops simply cannot,” said Amaey Mundkur, Eastern Key Account Manager for John I. Haas. “They’re extremely unique in their profiles. Back in the early 2010’s, brewers started really enjoying South Pacific flavor characters—which are far more tropical, a lot of passion fruit, pineapple, guava, those kinds of flavors—and they saw Aussie hops as a huge new frontier, flavor-wise.”
For this year’s harvest, the HAAS team (Amaey; Barbara Stone, Western Key Account Sales Manager; and Roy Johnson, National Sales Manager) was joined by a contingent of American brewers, including folks from Firestone Walker, Treehouse, Terrapin Brewing, Hop Valley, Von Ebert, Coronado, Abita, and Humble Sea. Their trip took them from Melbourne to Bright, Victoria and over to Hobart, Tasmanian, with plenty of stops along the way.
“Brewers are like chefs. They love to go to the source, to walk through the fields, to pick the fresh hops, to taste the local beers and talk to brewers there,” Amaey explained. “So, about eight years ago we started inviting brewers to come along.”
“When you think about it, 90% of the hops grown in Australia are grown by HPA,” noted Roy Johnson. “And those hops are sold to American brewers through HAAS and HAAS distributors. So this is the great way for brewers to get deep knowledge about what makes Australian hops so special, and to see why our relationship with HPA is so important.”
After a stop at the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in Badger Creek to check out the kangaroos and koalas, the crew headed to Rostrevor Hop Gardens, HPA’s facility in Bright, Victoria. There, Owen Johnson, Head of Sales and Marketing at HPA, gave a great overview of the history of HPA, a “state of the state” on acreage and hop production for the year, as well as an overview of HPA’s breeding program and the up-and-coming experimentals. According to the HPA 2023 Crop Report, HPA picked 847 hectares (2,093 acres) across Victoria and Tasmania, which resulted in 1,821 tons of hops. This was a 37 hectare (91.5 acres) (4.5%) net increase and a 164 ton (9.9%) net increase year-on-year.
“HPA has invested $50 million into growing and modernizing the operations—it’s really impressive to see all the hard work coming to fruition,” said Amaey. “And, on a more personal note, it was nice to see Allan and Gail Monshing. It was their 50th and last harvest at Rostrevor and everyone was really touched to meet them. Allan grew up on the farm and is the farm manager there. Plus, we got to spend a lot of time with Owen, Elise Griggs, Grace Irwin, and Jamie Morrow from HPA, touring the fields, checking out the production facility, and exploring the experimental yard.”
Of course, there’s one other important aspect to the trip that makes it so special. It’s not just about Australian hops; it’s about Australian brewing. Because the creativity you find there is born from a unique kind of constraint.
“Australia’s beer culture is defined by taxation,” Amaey explained. “Beers over 6% are heavily taxed. It’s different in America—whether your beer is 4% or 10%, it’s taxed exactly the same. But Australia is like the rest of the British Commonwealth, where beers over 6% are much more expensive to make. That results in a lot of inventiveness on the part of Australian brewers to make super-nuanced beers in that 4.5 to 5.5% range.”
As American brewers look at beer drinkers’ preferences trending toward lower ABVs, the “creativity in the constraints” made the various stops at places like Bright Brewery, Matilda Bay Brewery, and Nagambie Brewery & Distillery all the more interesting. (To get a first-hand glimpse of the trip, check out this three-part video series from Treehouse documenting their travels.)
After Rostrevor, the group headed to HPA’s second farm in Victoria, Buffalo River Valley, where HPA’s investment in infrastructure was on full display with new fields, a new picker, new baling and more.
“The facilities were incredible,” Amaey noted. “And Australian hop farms are so different from the Pacific Northwest. In North America, the mountains are able to accumulate snow, which melts, providing water for the fields. In Australia, the one thing that they do not have is a whole lot of mountains. That’s why the center of the continent is completely arid. They just don’t have that ability to accrue a snow pack to then irrigate fields over time—that’s why everybody lives on the edges of the continent. So it’s all river water that essentially feeds those hops. It gives the field, the whole experience, a really different vibe.”
The next day, the crew made their way back to Melbourne for a quick hour-and-fifteen-minute flight to Hobart, Tasmania, where they visited HPA’s Bushy Park Estates. While the terroir is similar, different hop varieties do well on different farms.
Amaey explained, “There are some latitudinal differences between Victoria and Tasmania. Some of the hops that grow well in Victoria do not grow well in Taz, and vice versa. Of course, there is overlap; Galaxy’s grown in both regions. But things like Vic’s Secret is only grown in Victoria, I believe, and Enigma is grown only in Tasmania.” He went on, “And the Experimental Fields in Hobart are different, too. It’s cool to see how the hops rub a bit differently from Taz to Victoria. Those different terroirs, so close together in one county, it’s really interesting to experience.”
One of the non-hop highlights of the trip? “For me, it was the seafood cruise in Hobart,” said Amaey. “The brewers, they love seeing the local animals. But, me, this is my second trip to Australia and this cruise was amazing. We started with abalone, we had oysters, some sea urchin, some salmon, some lobster, some periwinkles…if you look at Nate’s Treehouse videos, you can get a bit of a view on what it’s all about. It was amazing, the whole trip.”
“Honestly, we can’t thank the HPA team enough for being such incredible hosts,” said Roy Johnson. “Amaey, Barbara and I, we really had a great group of brewers, and we were so excited they could take time from their busy schedules to travel down there with us. I know they appreciate it, and I think seeing the hops and the facilities first-hand really makes a difference when you’re formulating new recipes. It just paints a whole new picture of possibilities. It’s just a great partnership, and a great experience all around. I love it.”
To learn more about HAAS’s full lineup of Australian Hops, visit our product page and search by region. And if you’re interested in getting your hands on some Aussie hops, reach out to your HAAS representative, or your local HAAS Distributor. Cheers!