HOP STOP; NEW ZEALAND HOPS
Our initial Hop Stop blog taking a sniff at American hops rocked your socks off, so the next instalment turns our attention to our Kiwi friends, the New Zealand hops! Now, they may not be quite as abundant in the breadth of variety available, but they're damn important to many of our most famed brews, so they deserve a bit of a nod and wink, we think!
Hop to it!
Before we get to the illustrious lexicon of describing the flavour and aroma of New Zealand hops, let's just have a chat about hop flowers vs pellets, shall we? This is something we get asked about a lot, and we see a lot of misunderstandings about the benefits of both doing the rounds on a daily basis. So here's the skinny, courtesy of our brewster, Charlotte;
"Hop flowers are the whole cone of the hop plant, and come to us after they have been picked, dried and packaged, but that is pretty much the only processing they go through. They’re suitable for use in the boil, so can add bitterness and aroma to beer, and are also sometimes used to dry hop the beer for a final aroma hit.
However, we prefer to use hop pellets due to their increased solubility, resistance to oxygen pick up and because they are better suited to dry hopping. Hop pellets are hop flowers that have been milled and pelletised under pressure almost immediately after picking, so all the delicate flavours and aromas are preserved. Pellets store better and take up about a quarter of the space that whole cone hops do, making them much more environmentally friendly and cost effective to ship. They’re also more homogenous so alpha and oil analysis is much more accurate in pellet hops, which is important for consistency.
When dry hopping with whole flowers, the hops tend to stay floating on the top of the beer, so the aromas do not infuse into the beer as effectively. Pellets break up into tiny pieces and fall to the bottom of the FV so there is much more contact with the beer, making them much more effective"
The last point here is a salient one. Dry hopping is something we're crazy for. Like, head over heels bonkers about. Our patented hop canon makes this more efficient, effective and powerful by shooting hops through sealed pipes straight into the top of our big conditioning tanks. Not only does this ensure we are driving as much hop character into the beer as possible, filling it to bursting with aroma and flavour, it also ensures that we're not opening the tops of our tanks up to the elements, preserving the quality of our brews.
New Zealand hops
There are two beers stalwarts you may have encountered that display the joys of New Zealand hops wonderfully; firstly, it's in our IPA is Dead ranges. Kohatu made an appearance this year and Motueka was one of the stand-out single hopped brews from 2013's range. If you've tried these, you'll have a really solid understanding of what NZ hops are known for. Think massive tropical fruits, mangoes, pineapples, passionfruit, loads of lime, a bit of kiwi (naturally) and melon. Mega fresh on the nose, and ultimately pretty damn fruity and juicy. There are also a lot of floral notes that come through from the likes of Motueka and Kohatu, and you get a hit of pine from them as well.
Vic's Secret is an Australian hop that we'll add in here as an honourable mention. Orangey and citrusy, it smacks of that tropical flavour that NZ hops are renowned for. It's a pretty new hop in the grand scheme of things, but we had a little play with it in a limited edition, keg-only single hopped IPA last year too. Our brew team is really keen on experimenting more with Vic's Secret, so watch this space for more appearances soon!
The second, and probably more prominent encounter you may have had with a New Zealand hop is our dear old friend and hop idol, Nelson Sauvin. This plays an important role in Punk IPA in particular, where it is used for bittering and aroma in the boil as well as during dry hopping around two weeks before filtration. Not only is it a big leading hop in Punk, but Chaos Theory is a Nelson Sauvin single hop beer and it's been used for DogWired (our collaboration with 8Wired), Electric India and Tongue Tied.
The hop growing regions in New Zealand are Marlborough, Motueka and Nelson, and these regions are renowned for the characteristics they give hops. Terroir is a term used to describe the environment and soil qualities of a region, which impact on grapes and hops grown there, and in the case of Nelson Sauvin, terroir has a huge influence. As you may have noticed, the name is a lot like Sauvignon, the white grape variety. Sauvignon blanc grapes grown in New Zealand share the same environment as Nelson Sauvin hops, and as a result a lot of parallels can be drawn when comparing their flavours and aromas. Kiwi fruits, melon and gooseberry are all very present in both. If you're big on your white wine but aren't quite sold on beer yet, hunt down a single hopped Nelson Sauvin IPA. It may just change your mind!
What's your top NZ hop?