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Agriculture stories

Brewers descend on Bushy Park

Edition 193_Hops

The world’s boutique brewers descended on the small village of Bushy Park for the annual hop harvest as the thirst for craft beer continues to explode.

Brewers from all corners of the globe made the pilgrimage to this sleepy corner of Tasmania, lured by the promise of niche hops that are prized for their unique flavours and aromas.

The five-week 2018 hop harvest wrapped up in early April.

Hops have long been intertwined with the history of Tasmania.

They are one of the state’s oldest crops with the first batch planted back in 1864 by Ebenezer Shoobridge at Bushy Park in the fertile soils of the Derwent Valley.

Fast forward, and the industry that Ebenezer pioneered is booming in Tasmania’s undisputed hops capital.

Australia’s largest hops producer, Hop Products Australia (HPA), has just wrapped up its 153rd harvest at Bushy Park, and is inundated with demand from overseas buyers eager to get their hands on hops for boutique beers.

HPA has 230 hectares under cultivation and marketing manager, Owen Johnston, recently told The Mercury: “Today we have brewers from Poland visiting to look at our hops and tomorrow a brewer from Germany.”

In fact 60% of HPA’s Bushy Park crop will be exported to more than 26 countries just to meet the thirst for craft beers. The USA is the biggest destination.

Everyone it seems wants one thing - Tasmania’s new aromatic hops.

These hops are like herbs in cooking: they add subtle flavours and notes that give each beer its own individual characteristic.

“Galaxy is our single biggest variety and accounts for half of our production,” Mr Johnston said.

“Every international visitor wants to see Galaxy because it’s easy to identify in beer. Brewers love it.”

While Galaxy may be the star of the show, it is just one of the aromatic hops that Tasmanian producers have been developing over the past decade.

During this time they have moved away from supplying commodity crops for large breweries, instead turning their attention to premium niche products for boutique operations – and with great success.

A measure of that success, according to Mr Johnston, is that Tasmanian hops now flavour beers in almost every European country.

“This is a prime example of Tasmania playing to its agricultural strengths,” he said.

One of the state’s craft beer pioneers shares the excitement generated around these innovative new hop varieties.

Willie Simpson opened his Seven Sheds Brewery 10 years ago and said the importance of aromatic hops to boutique brewers cannot be overemphasised.

“In recent years seven very exciting new varieties of aromatic hops have been grown in Tasmania,” he said.

“The development of these new hops on our doorstep is one of the main reasons that Tasmania’s craft beer industry has been able to expand at such a rapid rate.”

When Seven Sheds Brewery opened its doors in the bucolic countryside near Railton, in Tasmania’s north-west, there were just a handful of craft breweries.

Today, according to Mr Simpson, “there are 25 and counting".

“This is a turbo-charged industry and the number of boutique breweries operating in Tasmania has increased six-fold since we opened our doors.

“This accelerated growth has been especially rapid over the past three to four years.”

Mr Simpson points out that Tasmania has a historic beer culture and Seven Sheds taps into that by producing full flavoured ‘character’ brews, crafted using traditional methods, such as shallow open fermenters.

Seven Sheds Brewery currently offers enthusiasts 12 different beers on tap, including its flagship – Kentish Ale.

It also offers a great tourism experience.

As Mr Simpson said: “We have a cellar door that attracts 5,000 to 6,000 visitors every year, all keen to sample that special taste of Tasmania.”

And if you would like to explore all that Tasmania’s craft breweries have on offer – including meeting the passionate makers behind our boutique beers – why not take a journey and follow The Tasmanian Beer Trail? For more information visit Tasmanian Beer Trail.

Image courtesy of The Mercury

11 April 2018, Edition 193

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