This summer I was lucky enough to have 8 nights in Nelson soaking up the sun, sea, and sand (not to mention a local beer or three). Whilst driving the region on many a trip to ferry the kids to the beach, the one thing that really struck me was the sheer number of hop bines on display.
They’re quite alien to anyone not from the region (rising finger like into the sky and twisting gently in the breeze) as this is pretty much the only place you’ll find them.
The fantastically benevolent climatic conditions (it was about 5 degrees warmer than in Wellington the day I arrived) and generally fertile soils make for perfect hop growing conditions. If ever there were a visceral representation of terroir - it’s what you see and feel standing in the sun, surrounded by the verdant hills in Nelson; it’s no wonder NZ hops are sought after worldwide.
On this note, you may have seen a few Kiwi beers pop up in recent months sporting strange ‘elemental’ hop names like today’s from 8 Wired. NZH-102 is the catchy name for a trial hop that is currently in development through the Bract Brewing Programme.
This is an initiative set up by NZ Hops Ltd which promotes the creation of new hop varieties grown in the Tasman region, and delivers them to a select group of about 60 global brewers to produce unique/experimental brews.
The Nectaron hop is an example of where the process leads. After 17 years of development, this hop was finally commercially released in 2021. Now you can find it popping up all over the place to great effect.
Essentially, the brewers work with the trial hops and feed back to the growers, who then choose the best varieties to plant in order for them to reach maximum crop coverage.
This is a key part of the whole shebang. It’s not just about making damn fine hops to make tasty beer, but also about pushing and increasing the environmental sustainability of the NZ hop industry. More and more breweries are attempting to make carbon neutral beers and the hops need to fit with this trend.
Let’s get into the beer and give some feedback to the process!
Pours a light amber gold with a white head. The nose is beautifully clean and enticing with ripe citrus, apricots and gentle tropical mango hints too. It’s certainly hoppy but there’s no dank armpit going on here. The palate is wonderfully light and ethereal but not at the expense of the flavour and there’s some gentle bitterness to tighten things up too in the finish and some savoury notes that begin to surface as the palate figures things out. Reminds me of summer ales (when done well) - and feels like the sort of beer you could just keep drinking.
Well, that’s a fabulous beer which really showcases the hop which by all accounts has some real potential.
Feedback is key in the Bract Brewing Programme and ultimately impacts on the innovation pipeline. From what I can find online, some breweries have systems in place for customers to do this… but I couldn’t find anything on the can allowing me to give my two pennies worth for this beer. A missed opportunity perhaps, after all, the opinion of “we” the consumers is surely one of the most important factors? I guess ultimately people will vote with their feet by either buying or not buying the beers
So give this beer a whirl and if you like it, buy some more - and you may just find more of NZH-102 on the shelves in the not too distant future. It might even have a proper name by then too…