Galaxy hops are recognized for possessing amazing citrus, peach, and passion fruit aroma, especially when used as a late addition in the process. The flavor of Galaxy becomes more distinct when used late in the kettle, whirlpool, or dry hopping. It can be tempered depending on the different hops, malt, and yeast used.
The flavor is initially quite intense upon production but then mellows as it matures. These hops are known among IPA lovers for these overflowing fruit flavors. Tropical island aromas dominate the nose, it lifts you away to a far off destination of flavor, reminiscent of Australia’s coast, where these hops are grown. Galaxy hops are recognized for being highly versatile. They can accent and compliment or take center stage as the primary flavor. Their high alpha acid content makes them especially suited to aroma hopping, and the distinctive mixture of citrus, passion fruit, peach, and hints of grass is sure to stand out.
It’s an Aussie-native hops which hail from a lineage of male European cultivars. Descended from German variety Perle, Galaxy® is a unique Australian breed of hops which has the distinction of sporting the highest percentage of essential oils in the hobs industry. These were then bred with local Australian high alpha varieties.
Hop Products Australia, the exclusive grower, first began their search for a hop that was uniquely Down Under with some Old World flair. Breeding, for what would become Galaxy, begain in 1994 when an Australian female plant known as J78, which is a progeny of the variety Pride of Ringwood, was crossed with a male derived from the high alpha German Perle. After the initial breeding stage, the new hop variety was grown and evaluated across several test plots. It was eventually released in 2009. Galaxy hops have become so highly sought after; distributors are limited to how much they can buy so and have to contract for it years in advance.
Hop farming in the country of Australia came on the heels of the continent’s colonization. It all started with the rather colorful father of Australian hop cultivation, also possibely the founder of Australia’s first commercial brewery. James Squire came to Australia in 1788 after he was convicted of stealing a neighbor’s chickens, this after being arrested for highway robbery several years before.
The change in scenery did little to mend his ways. He was charged with stealing once again, though this time, instead of chickens, it was horehound, a medicinal herb also used in brewing beer at the time. He was given a reduced sentence of 150 lashes for the crime.
Squire was freed in 1792 and granted 30 acres of land. He immediately went to buy the plots around his, for a measly shilling apiece. Over a few years, he built his plot up to something close to 1,000 acres. He started a farm which included the first hops and later opened at tavern called The Malting Shovel Tavern, where he served the beer he’d brewed with his own hops to any weary traveler in need of refreshment.
The other person responsible for the hop industry in Australia is William Panlook, a Chinese immigrant’s son. Panlook’s father was killed during the race riots in 1857, which forced the then 11 year oldest son to provide for his family. There are stories of him walking for days with big sacks of rice on his back to take to his family, often having to endure racist taunts along the way. Established in the 1890s by William and his brother Ernest, the Panlook family moved one valley over to the Ovens Valley and started their small farm. When the Panlook family first started growing hops here in the 1890s, the business was tough. There was a theory going around that Australian hops weren’t suitable for beer making. They ultimately prospered, providing an important crop to the Australian economy.
Much a changed since then. At the foothills of Mount Buffalo National Park in the small hamlet of Eurobin, Rostrevor which grows hops for brewers across Australia and worldwide. There are more than 300 hectares dedicated to growing hops. Some call it a magical place, nestled in the Victorian Alps beside a sweeping bend of the Ovens River – a perfect spot to enjoy a fine ale after a hard day’s farming.
Moving ahead to today, and the main player in Australian hops is Hop Products of Australia (HPA), which controls about 90% of hobs production. HPA owns Bushy Park Estates and Rostrevor Hop Gardens, farms which has been growing hops since before 1866. They are two of the oldest continuously operating hop farms in the world.
Galaxy found quick popularity with Australian brewers and those in other countries. This variety has one of the highest percentages of essential oils known, making its fruity aroma/flavor character unique and inviting. It first appeared commercially in the U.S. in Widmer Brothers Galaxy-Hopped Barleywine ale in 2011, an ale that is sadly no longer available.
Galaxy hops remain one of the most sought after varieties even today. The farmland dedicated to producing Galax increased greatly by 48% between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Even so, HPA could not fully supply the contracted hops this year because of some fluke weather that lowered harvest yields. Despite this bad luck, much of the expected yield for 2017 is already under contract.
Sadly, Galaxy is under patent, so rhizomes are not available to the home brewer community. However, don’t worry, there’s plenty of great hops such as Cascade, East Kent Golding, and Magnum that are available for anyone looking to make hops a homegrown ingredient. If you plan on growing hops in your backyard, talk with someone who’s experienced to help you in your endeavors. Consider before you choose the variety you want to grow; it is good to talk to other local growers or possibly someone at a local homebrew supply store. They may be able to point you toward hop varieties that grow well in your area.