Ellerslie Hop devastated but optimistic

The damage at Ellerslie Hop Estate

Ellerslie Hop managing director Greg Croke says he is humbled by the beer industry’s response to the fire that destroyed the grower’s 2018 harvest.

It was reported Friday that a major, non-suspicious fire destroyed equipment, sheds and the majority of Ellerslie Hop’s 2018 crop leaving a “vacant block of land” as a result.

The grower is responsible for large supplies of bittering hops, Pride of Ringwood and Super Pride as well as aroma varieties Astra and Melba.

Croke said it was still too early to know the total impact of the damage but as his team and the insurance inspectors work to assess the costs, he remained optimistic about the next 12 months.

“We’ve got 330 days to be up and running again by harvest 2019, that’s our target, that’s what we will achieve,” he said.

“This is a major roadblock for us, but we’ll get over it, and one of the reasons we’ll get over it is because of the support we have received. That kind of support is what makes you get up in the morning.”

Croke added that even though this is an awful situation, things could have been worse.

“The most important thing for me is that there was no injuries, no loss of life. It’s devastating, but you can rebuild sheds, you can’t rebuild lives.“

Croke also had nothing but praise for the sales team who have been working round the clock talking to brewers and opening discussions to source suitable replacement hops, or shift supply around between breweries that may have excess to spare.

“We’re in a lot of discussion with overseas colleagues to make sure we can offer an alternate product,”he said.

The team have been working all weekend, and I’m very fortunate I’ve got a sensational sales team who worked tirelessly to try and pull together alternatives.”

Phil Meddings, from ingredient supplier Bintani, could only offer words of sympathy for Ellerslie and assurance for brewers.

“Our business is to look after brewers, and we’ll do that, but it’s one of those situations that it’s more than a business thing,” Meddings said.

“Their business is a family business like ours and to have something like that happen is pretty devastating.

“They’re Australia’s second biggest hop producer by volume and Australia needs that. So we just hope they get on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Meddings is confident there will be sufficient hops for breweries around Australia and said there is no reason for the wider industry to panic.

“I don’t think Australian brewers need be worried about running out of hops, which is a good thing,” he said.

“The overwhelming thing is that it’s something that everybody fears that’ll happen to their business.”

It’s sentiment like that is Croke’s biggest takeaway from the fire.

“I’ve got 26 missed calls today from people just offering support… The support and the feedback we’ve had since Friday morning just confirms that we work in the best industry in the world.”

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