A $35-million expansion project by Hop Products Australia is well underway at its new farm in Victoria’s Buffalo River Valley. The hop supplier announced this week that the first 50 hectares has been planted at its new site.
HPA’s acquisition of Buffalo River Valley will see the company farm a total of 900 hectares across its sites in Victoria and Tasmania.
This latest expansion comes as demand for HPA’s proprietary hops continues to increase in Australia and overseas.
HPA Sales and Marketing Manager Owen Johnston told Brews News that the company just isn’t keeping up with demand.
“In the main, we are really struggling to keep up as we enjoy being adopted by new brewers all over the world,” Johnston said.
This latest expansion aims to increase total hop production by 50 per cent over a period of six years. The move follows HPA’s $15-million project completed between 2015 and 2017 that saw a 75 per cent increase in overall production.
Phase one of the current project will include planting of an additional 100 hectares as well as building a new harvest complex comprising six kiln floors and space for two new pickers. Phase two will see an additional 150 hectares under vine with an extra six kiln floors at full production by 2024.
The project is expected to employ an additional 20 full-time staff and a further 130 casual employees.
Johnston told Brews News that while HPA is focusing predominantly on Galaxy, followed by new hop variety 016, the company has enough flexibility across its farms to ensure it can respond to changing market demands.
“Galaxy in the full picture of the 300-hectare picture is still the majority variety that we’re going to predominantly plant,” Johnston explained.
“Galaxy is far and away in the demand side, so we’re really scrambling to catch up there but others like 016 are just starting to emerge, so we don’t know the demand but we know what supply is coming.
“The good thing is, given our propagation capabilities on the farms, we can still pretty much respond to the plantings we require.
“There is still quite a lot of flexibility there for us to determine the exact variety mix.”
Johnston said determining supply and demand was a “constant iterative process” with HPA constantly reviewing its supply and balancing that with demand for different varieties.
“When a beer is successful, we want to be right there with it and ensure that we play our role,” Johnston said.
“It’s certainly a constantly moving landscape for us.”
Johnston said that more than 65 per cent of HPA’s total production has been earmarked for export, of which half will go to the US.
“The US is by far our single biggest market,” he said.
“But that’s not to underestimate the importance of the Australian market, which is growing rapidly as Australian brewers experience and adopt our portfolio of varieties.”
Johnston told Brews News that he has no reservations about the continued popularity of hop-forward beers.
“The biggest beer style in the US craft sector by volume is still the IPA,” Johnston explained.
“Of the top five volume styles in craft in the US, four of them are IPAs and one is an American pale ale – all very hop-forward styles.
“The emergence of barrel-ageing and sours and all the iterations of fruit that could come out, that’s fine, but volume plays an important role here and we need to be aware that while choice and variety in craft are awesome, a lot of varieties of beer and beer styles are of tiny volumes.”
“I don’t see a macro trend towards less hoppy beers just right now.”
The first commercial hops from HPA’s Buffalo River Valley will be harvested in 2020.