Hop Products Australia (HPA) have completed their 2021 hop harvest. They picked 675 hectares that resulted in 1,526 metric tonnes of hops. This was a 44 hectare (6.9%) increase and a 25 metric tonne (1.6%) decrease year-on-year across six varieties (Eclipse, Ella, Enigma, Galaxy, Topaz and Vic Secret). Despite total yield coming in slightly under expectation, Galaxy yield grew 7.2% year-on-year. Managing Director Tim Lord was excited to share “this marks 11 years of continuous growth for Galaxy , with the exception of 2016 when HPA was hit with significant hail damage.”
Despite total yield coming in slightly under expectation, HPA’s commitment to responsible contracting will allow them to meet all obligations, with the exception of Ella, which came in 22% under contracted volumes. HPA will work closely with their brewing customers to minimize the impact of this outcome, including identifying suitable replacement hops from their international and advanced product portfolio. Topaz and Cascade were also down year-on-year, but this was due to reductions and idling of acreage. HPA also completed their pivot from alpha hops to almost exclusively proprietary flavor hops. This included grubbing all Super Pride acreage, which remained unplanted this season in preparation for deployment later in the year.
Sustainably scaling up Eclipse, Galaxy and Vic Secret has been the focus of a continuing $35 million expansion of HPA’s Victorian farms. Since the project was announced in 2019 they have planted an additional 270 hectares, 110 of which were planted in 2020. This leaves an additional 30 hectares to plant in 2021, which will take their total farming operations to more than 800 hectares. All additional acreage will reach commercial maturity by 2024, at which point Eclipse is forecast to reach 180 metric tonnes, making it HPA’s third biggest proprietary hop.
This season HPA’s three farms – Bushy Park Estates, Rostrevor Hop Gardens and Buffalo River Valley – endured the La Niña weather pattern which resulted in slightly cooler daytime temperatures due to increased cloud cover, particularly in the weeks preceding harvest. While these conditions had a positive impact on early vegetative growth, the decrease in daylight hours reduced the total number of flowering sites and some cones fought to reach full maturity by their harvest window which adversely impacted total yield.
Eclipse looks set to follow in Galaxy ’s footsteps after exceeding expectations in its second year of commercialization. It has now been used by more than 500 brewers around the world in a range of beer styles including NEIPAs, IPAs, XPAs, pilsners, witbiers and saisons.
Impact in beer remains strong, with this year’s average oil content coming in above the 5-year average for all varieties except Enigma. These high quality outcomes are on track to continue now HPA has restructured the business to create a division of Agronomic Services with the purpose of improving yield, quality, and efficiencies across their farming operations.
“This is an extension of HPA’s strategy to grow alongside brewing customers by continuing to offer choice and diversity through the commercialization of experimental varieties, and supporting successful beers by backing our more popular Aussie hops with significant acreage,” says head of sales and marketing Owen Johnston.
The highly contracted position of crop 2021 means that a very limited amount of hops will be available in the short-term. This situation, together with HPA’s expansion project drawing to a close, suggests that forward contracting is now more important than ever for supply security. “Brewers are absolutely encouraged to communicate their Aussie hop needs sooner rather than later” says Johnston.