The first hops were brought to Australia in 1802 by Glatton for the New South Wales Government. In 1804 Lt Col Patterson brought a few plants to Tasmania and planted at Port Dalrymple on the Tamar River. Early plantings were fairly insignificant in number.
In 1822 William Shoobridge arrived from England with some new varieties of hops. The family were well established hop farmers in Kent and they saw the potential in Tasmania. He had limited early success in his first location in West Hobart due to a lack of water to irrigate.
Hops were grown on Maria Island from 1826 and closed in 1832.
In the late thirties hops were grown at the Farm Station at Port Arthur and continued until 1847 when the Government ceased to compete with the private hop growers.
In 1833 Williamand Ebenezer Shoobridge left Hobart on the steamer Governor Arthur for New Norfolk and then took a pony for 19km up the Derwent River to Humphreyville. William said”this land my son would grow luxuriant hops”. It was not until September 1964 that Ebenezer was able to fulfil this dream when he planted his first hops in Bushy Park.
Irrigation was found to improve the quality and growth of hops.
After the death of William Shoobridge in 1836 his eldest son Richard continued growing hops at Providence Valley with this brother Ebenezer. In 1842 Ebenezer moved to Charlie Hope Farm at Plenty where he grew hops. In 1843 he went to manage an estate at Richmond where he grew hops.
The next move was to Turriff Lodge at New Norfolk. In 1852 he bought Valleyfield in New Norfolk and started growing on a large scale with his three sons, William, Robert and Louis
He then purchased Bushy Park in 1864 and established the major hop farms that continue to this day.
Bushy Park was to become one of the most extensive hop farms in Australia. Bushy park occupied over 1133 acres. Over 3 kilometres of hawthorn hedges were planted to protest the hops. These hawthorn hedges are still to be seen and grow to 12 metres in height.
Shoobridge established a perfect farm not just hops but orchards and vegetables, comparable to the country seats of England. The most notable building and still stands today is the Text Kiln erected in 1867. Apart from the kilns and numerous farm buildings there were small cottages with gardens for the30-permanent staff as well as 94 rooms for the hundreds of workers who arrived to pick the hops.
A brick building contained two large assembly rooms and ten other rooms where there was also an oven for baking scores of loaves of bread for the hop pickers. Meetings of the Working Men’s Club were held, the reading room and library contained 600 books. Cricket and football teams were set up.
Many of the hop pickers were better fed during harvesting than at any other time because the property produced meat, vegetables, dairy produce and flour, they could also buy jam, sardines and other goods. During the hop picking season 12 bags of flour were used at any one time to make bread and 300 sheep killed.
When a family started at Bushy Park theywere given a cottage, garden, seeds a “one eyed pig”, poultry and the use of a cow. The term one eyed pig meaning after an animal had been killed half went to the family that had fattened and raised the pig and the other half to the Shoobridge family.
During the 1874 season 2600 hop pickers were employed in the Derwent Valley, 450 men, women and children at Bushy Park and 120 at Valleyfield.
Hop picking was a very happytime and much chit chat went on in the hop fields. At the end of the hop season a procession of hops and coloured ribbons followed by a grand dinner withmusic, singing and dancing.
Ebenezer believed that if you made your employees happy and comfortable he would attract a respectable class of worker. This he didandcontinues to this day with some families in Bushy Park having a continuous unbroken line of work fromthe original plantingsuntil today!
The hop plant began in China, but it was the Germans in the 11th century who noticed the crop’s capabilities as an ingredient for beer. Hops are used as the herbs and spice in beer to add a bittering element that evens out the sweetness of the malt. Hops can create a full assortment of aromas and flavours in beer.
Hops are the cone shaped flowers on the female Hop Bine and develop exceedingly quickly growing 8 metres high in one year. They are cut down almost to ground level after each harvest.
The flavour of the hop comes from the Lupulin Glands on the inside of the cone. Hops are dried on big drying platforms.
Bushy Park now boasts the largest hop processing plant in the southern hemisphere and HPA exports hops to 25 countries. Local brewer Cascade takes the first harvest hops to craft a unique tasting full-flavoured beer each year.
The “green” hops are transferred to hop kilns where they are spread out drying floor to a depth of about 1 metre. These floors consist of still woven wire mesh through which hot air generated by an oil furnace is forced by use of high speed fans.
The drying period lasts about 10 hours during which time moisture is driven from the hops to the extent that for every 4 kilos of hops originally in the green state are reduced to 1 kilo in the dried condition.
Once dried the hops are then shovelled onto cooling floors where they remain for up to 4 days until a balanced moisture conditio0n if about 10 per cent is attained.
The hops are then transferred into a hop press for baling into a a pack of about 113 kilos. They are then sent to a pelletingplant and processed into pellets for sale.
Hops are now picked by machine which can cut 40 vines a minute. These hops are then transported to the hop complex and wire fingers strip the hop cones and other material from the vine. Mechanical cleaners then separate the cones which are the sent on a conveyor belt into he kiln for drying. There are twelve drying floors which can cry 45 tonnes per day. The original Text Kiln could manage 7 tonnes a day.
As there are no hop fungal diseases in Tasmania the absence of fungicide residues makes them very sought after around the world and they are exported to around 28 countries.
The traditional English Hop varieties of Golding, Fuggles, Lates were grown untilthe late 1960’s when Pride of Ringwood was introduced. This was a high yielding variety rich in alpha acid. Pride of Ringwood was bred by Carlton and United Breweries.
The hop industry struggled in the 1970’s due to a world over supply. At that time, many of the smaller hop farms closed or were amalgamated by Australia Hop Marketers to form what is today one largest hop farms in the world operated by HPA a German owned company.
If interested to learn more browse Hop Kilns of Tasmania that is available in the lounge.