March 19, 2015 by 250 Beers
Good news for Brisbane-based admirers of Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale…!
Tour of the Galaxy – Stone & Wood’s Hop Harvest Pilgrimage
The smell of the fresh hops hits the nostrils before you reach the Bushy Park gates. Before the long vertical bines hanging from the trellises lining the fields that disappear into the distance are visible, you’re welcomed by a punchy, zesty aroma that lifts you above the previous evening’s haze and awakens the senses from the early morning mist.For Stone & Wood Brewing, they’ve made it. Each year the regional brewery, located in the Northern Rivers of NSW, make the pilgrimage down to Tassie to check out the new season of hops that they’ll use in their beers for the year ahead. They call it the Tour of the Galaxy.
“The tour started with a need to get our young new brewers closer to the raw ingredients that make up our Stone & Wood beers. The tour has grown as the business has grown and now it’s just as important to get people from across the business to understand our hops – specifically Galaxy and its importance to our Pacific Ale,” said Head Brewer and Co-Director Brad Rogers.
The Galaxy hop is the protagonist of the brewery’s Pacific Ale, becoming the most internationally recognized Australian variety from its tropical fruit flavour. When it simply had a cultivar number of 94-203-008, Brad knew he had to use it when dreaming up the beers he and the other two founders Jamie Cook and Ross Jurisich would brew when starting the brewery back in 2008 because of its distinct aroma and local origin.
“We wanted to be true to the Australian hop industry, and use locally grown hops (and malts). It’s important for us to know the grower, to know the garden, and be able to create the strong relationships we have today with HPA (Hop Products Australia).”
HPA are celebrating their 150th consecutive harvest this year and business has never looked better. Ten years ago, it was a different story but with worldwide demand for new world hops that elicit flavour and aroma, rather than the traditional alpha variety that were used to preserve and add bitterness to beer, Sales Manager Owen Johnston said it’s meant HPA has been able to invest in new infrastructure for both their farms in Tassie and Victoria.
“For the guys who live and work out here, they’ve seen what this transition has meant for us to reinvest and sustain hop growing and with us sharing the driveways with many of the surrounding houses to get access to the hops fields, we are entwined in our community,” Owen said.
“Apart from having an excuse to catch up over a few beers, getting breweries like Stone & Wood down to the hop fields connects them with agriculture and gives meaning to THE unique ingredient which is hops.”
“It was so good to be face to face with the farmers who are focused on growing the best quality product year on year. I will never forget breaking apart the plucked Galaxy hop from the bine. The smell of the hop exploded with a fresh fruit aromatic that can only be experienced while you’re standing in the field. It was like a Pacific Ale on hyper volume!”
It was this fresh, hoppy punch of tropical fruits hitting the nostrils that immediately made Stone & Wood think of their home on the edge of the Pacific ocean, inspiring their Pacific Ale.
With Brewsvegas kicking off on Saturday in Brisbane and the Galaxy being harvested, Stone & Wood couldn’t resist sending a hop runner down to collect the freshest of the fresh to create a special local release called New Season Pacific Ale.
“We’re celebrating the magnificence of hops!” Brad commented.
Because the driving force of flavour in Pacific Ale is the late dry hopping in the fermenter, Stone & Wood will additionally ‘wet hop’ the brew by dunking a few bulging bags of freshly picked Galaxy hop cones into the tank giving them a good 24 hours or so to give the beer an extra fruity resinous whack!
Stone & Wood’s New Season Pacific Ale will be available on tap across the city from 23rd March but will be pouring freely from the taps at their ‘Surfari’ event on Sunday evening at Wandering Cooks.
For more information check out the website stoneandwood.com.au