Galaxy hops are the variety most commonly associated with Australia and on the Brewer to Brewer Podcast Scott Hargrave of Balter Brewing talks about the evolution of the hop, it’s international fame, and how it helped shape his career.
Grower descriptions, as reported by Yakima Valley Hops, include “flavours of punchy passionfruit, juicy peach and tangy citrus. The high concentration of essential oils and alpha acids make these flavours more distinct through late addition in the kettle, whirlpool or dry hopping.”
Hargrave was interviewed for the podcast by Pete Gillespie of Garage Project brewing in Wellington, New Zealand.
Scott Hargrave: Galaxy is the little Aussie hop that could. It definitely transformed things down here.
I think it made a lot of folks overseas really sort of sit up and take notice of the Australian beer industry, and particularly the hop industry here in Australia. I can’t deny it was a huge part of my history, I suppose, particularly when I [worked at] Stone and Wood.
It’s [a hop that the growers] keep expanding. Then as they expand the orders for it and the demand grows at the same time. It’s growing in distinct areas as well. There’s been a Victorian Galaxy, a Tasmanian Galaxy, but the lots are grouped so ultimately it’s homogenized. But it is the success story of Australia.
Pete Gillespie: It’s pretty variable, isn’t it? This is what I struggle with sometimes is that I can pull off something that tastes great sometimes. And other times not.
I was hanging out with an American Brewer recently. And they said something, which I wish they hadn’t said, because I can’t get it out of my head. And they were like, ah, “you know, Galaxy, it’s okay. But I really struggled with that peanut character.” And I was like, peanut character? And now every time I do a Galaxy beer, I can smell peanuts, peanuts, Peanuts, peanuts, peanuts, peanuts.
Scott Hargrave: I wonder what sort of compound that might be? At one point in time, I was probably throwing more Galaxy in more tanks than anyone else on the planet.
So, when we got Balter going I stepped back from Galaxy. I had all of these snazzy American hops that I really wanted to integrate and explore because I had already done so much Galaxy in my time.
But as you use Galaxy over the season it definitely picks up sort of catty aroma if you’re not looking after it. That’s probably another victim of its own success where if they’ve got to keep expanding and they’ve got to do that in a in a place that’s reasonably close to the processing, you’re probably going to have great lots and shitty lots.
We’ve had a couple shitty seasons weather wise down here as well, and that’s played a part in it, I’d suggest. But it’s definitely variable. I’m guessing that’s why their strategy is to sort of homogenize it [and] bring everything to the middle.
How to brew with Galaxy
Pete Gillespie: And as brewers, we all want to have we want to get our hands on something that gives us the edge and is a little bit better than what everyone else has done. Can you can you offer anyone any advice on the best way to use galaxy?
Scott Hargrave: I would say be very very careful if you’re going to use it hot side.
I think it’s best keeping your powder dry to dry hop but you know relatively short contact time. You can make really explosive beers using just Galaxy on its own, but also if you pick the right ones – Citra is an obvious one – to blend with it [it yields great results].
Blend it with some of the other lesser known Ozzy sisters. I’m guessing most folks might have heard of Vic Secret, but Galaxy and Enigma go well. Galaxy and Topaz go really really well.
The biggest thing is coming back to that soft hands approach because they are such big boisterous colonial hops. They’ve got a lot of grunt and mongrel, they’ve got an awesome, awesome potential as far as sort of fruit character and all that goes.
But along with that they have massively high oils at times, so you’ve got to manage the not so positive characteristics. You can get that in any hops but it’s highlighted in Galaxy.
It’s got all this great, fantastic tropical fruit and peach and citrus character. And then on the other side, you’ve also got, if you’re not careful, you got the catty and overly sort of burnt residue character if you’re not really careful about how you use it.
So stay away from hot side. Less is more. Use them early and fresh. I don’t think aged galaxy is great for anybody.
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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.