Australia produces around 1% of the world’s hop supply. Not a significant number by itself, but what is significant is their focus on breeding, development and global marketing. Most of the hops currently grown down under are well regarded by American and other craft brewers for their unique flavors and aromas and high alpha acid content (re: IPA appropriate).
Australia’s nationwide beer production is dominated by macro-styles, but like many parts of the world, they’ve been experiencing the strong beginnings of a craft revolution over the past ten or so years. Australian breeding programs have been releasing hops since the 1950s mostly for domestic use, but with the ever-increasing demands of global craft brewers who want to satisfy their customers’ broad, exploratory tastes, acreages are increasing and expanding.
So what’s the big deal with Aussie hops, in a nutshell? BSG Craftbrewing says the “‘house style” of Australian hops is “…one of pungent, musky tropical fruit – a perfect complement to dank/piney American varieties.” These flavors not only pair intriguingly alongside our classic Pacific Northwest hops but also offer some relief from tried-and-true flavors like old-school “C-hops” like Cascade and Centennial. Variety is an important facet of the craft beer industry, and tropical and fruit elements in hops have been incredibly popular over the past several years (see Citra™ or Mosaic™) wherever they’re grown. Here’s a quick overview of some main Australian hops.
Pride of Ringwood
Released in 1953, Pride of Ringwood is considered the dominant and archetypal Australian hop. Its higher-alpha status means it’s a fantastic bittering hop. Breeders have developed it further into a variety called Super Pride which unsurprisingly is a higher alpha version with many similarities. Super Pride is widely used for large-scale Australian lagers.
Galaxy hops are perhaps the most well-known Australian hop outside of the country. With major flavors of peaches and passionfruit, the hop is obviously on-trend and fairly versatile.
Hop Products Australia calls Topaz a “rare gem.” Yes, I know, it’s terrible. Puns aside, Topaz comes from a truly global background, breeding-wise, with North American, English, continental European and Australian roots, so it is actually incredibly unique. Light tropical fruit and lighter grassy notes are its predominant elements.
Galaxy’s “half-sister” hop, Ella has many similarities but is considered somewhat more mellow. Because Ella’s parentage includes the noble hop Spalt, it also has notable noble/continental aromas and flavors. This is particularly intriguing since Ella’s alpha acid content is quite high (which is very unlike our friends the noble hops.)
Australia continues to develop exciting new hop varieties, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing them featured in both European and American craft beers. It’s a fun chance to try the result of our global craft beer and hop growing industries. Innovation and sharing taste delicious, after all!