It’s hop harvest time in George, South Africa…

South Africa has been experiencing very dry conditions, however good rains early in the hop growing season and the more recent warm weather has helped to fill out this year’s harvest of hop cones. So much so that our SAB Hop Farms team is expecting to yield a bumper crop of approximately 830 tons this year!

Hops grow best at latitudes 40 - 54, however, the team based in George has been uniquely successful in growing hops at 34 - 35 degrees latitude.

South Africa produces 1% of the total world hop volume; however SAB, our South African subsidiary, receives a significant percentage of its hops from SAB Hop Farms.

From this year SAB Hop Farms will also be supplying SAB with hops for brewing Castle Lager and Castle Lite outside South Africa, as well as selling hop products to approximately 140 micro brewers and a growing number of international customers.

Eight private growers, the three SAB Hop Farms and the SAB research unit where the team do most of their hop breeding will take part in the harvest, sustaining approximately 110 permanent jobs for the industry and 700 seasonal jobs.

SAB Hop Farms have many new varieties under development within their breeding programme. During 2015, they began an expansion programme that enabled them to increase production of their most popular hop flavour varieties, including Southern Aroma, Southern Passion and J17-African Queen. SAB Hop Farms’ other varieties also include Southern Star, Southern Dawn and Southern Promise. 

Due to the latitude, daytime in George can be about three hours too short for some of these varieties, so for part of the growing season they use high pressure sodium lights to extend the daylight hours. Currently, less than 30% of the hops grown in George require lights, but SAB Hop Farms are focusing their research on breeding truly African varieties that don’t require the extended daylight hours to develop good yields.

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