New Zealand’s hops have become some of the most coveted varieties for craft brewers around the globe. Sharing some similarities with both Australian hops and newer American hops (such as Mosaic™ or Citra™), NZ produces a number of tropical, bright, fruit-forward hops that are shaking up flavor profiles in beer. New Zealand currently exports 85% of its hop harvest and has been funneling a lot of dedicated time and funding into breeding and development programs for new varieties.
New Zealand has experienced record hop farm growth and expansion especially over the last ten years, , although they still only produce around 1% of the world’s hops. Many farmers in agricultural zones of the country are choosing to diversify their existing crops or make a change from less stable products. Brent McGlashen, a fourth generation New Zealand hop farmer sums up the quickly-changing industry, saying “We had only a handful of customers, now it’s in the hundreds which has really helped because things weren’t looking too good. Hops were a commodity where the big brewers thought they could turn up and offer a price – that’s changed around.” Three cheers for the rise of craft brewing stimulating family farms and small agricultural producers! It’s safe to assume that NZ will continue its current trend of expansion and will succeed as long as our love for both novel flavors and hoppy IPAs remains stable. In the meantime, let’s get a few of the exciting NZ hops out in plain view.
Motueka, named for a historical NZ agricultural district (previously the tobacco farming center of the country) has a noble hop parentage (Saazer) but presents a light lime-like citrus brightness. New Zealand Hops Ltd. describes the hop as “distinctive fresh crushed citrus mojito.”It’s often used to shake up a more classic style like a Pils or thrown in with other fruit-forward hops in an IPA.
Sauvin hops are very exciting. Grown in the same region as NZ’s Sauvignon grapes, the hop demonstrates a noticeable white-wine characteristic. Terroir, anyone? Gooseberries and flavors similar to a cool-crop white wine arise. This hop is at home in a range of beers depending on application and lives up to its delicate unique flavors.
Pacific Gem is a flavorful bittering hop, used primarily in the early stages of the boil to impart a rich bitterness with light elements of berry and oak. Released in 1987 with parents of both NZ hops, UK Fuggle and US late Cluster, Pacific Gem has some bold elements with real global influence.
Waimea is a true new-world hop. Highly useful for bittering with its massive alpha acid content, it’s also considered great as a dual-purpose hop–that is, it can be used at any point in the brewing process, from early boil to dry-hop and aroma additions. Tangelos and fresh pine needles are primary flavors. Personally I think this hop has massive potential appeal to NW US craft brewers: it’s new, punchy, fresh and exciting, and calls out on a level to our own early American craft hop flavors of pine and citrus.
There are many more exciting NZ hops available (and more being developed). I suggest you jump on sampling any beers that utilize them!