This, the fourth edition of The Pursuit of Hoppiness, means we have come full circle through the seasons, now arriving at my personal favourite, Autumn. Coming from a farming family, this time of year has always carried a special significance, as well as many happy memories of helping with the harvest.
For the brewers, the harvested crops of importance are of course both barley and hops and whilst the former is grown and gathered widely throughout the world, the latter involves far more of a localised and specialised cultivation. The hop plant will only flourish within a very narrow band of latitude in areas with a distinct climate and so the New Zealand brewers are fortunate indeed that our own Nelson region satisfies this criteria.
No wonder the annual hop harvest is much anticipated – just ask the likes of Richard Emerson – and this Autumn, discerning drinkers have been searching out those ‘special brews’ (I’m not talking Carlsberg here!) that have been created using the fresh or ‘green’ hops picked at this time of the year and then added directly to the wort.
For Richard’s own creation, Emerson’s Harvest Fresh Hop Ale, New Zealand Hallertau and Nelson Sauvin have been thrown in large quantities into the kettle near the end of the boil, whilst Ally Clem’s now legendary Mac’s Brewjolais this year features the Cascade variety, collected by hand from the aptly named Mac Hop Farm, situated near Motueka.
Of course, the inaugural ‘SOBA Weekend Away Social’ just happened to coincide with the annual Marchfest Beer Festival, which also showcased local Nelson beers brewed with this season’s harvested hops and needless to say the event was enjoyed enormously by one and all. However, one excursion which involved no beer whatsoever(!), proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend, this being a tour around New Zealand Hops, the grower-owned company based just outside of the city.
Doug Donelan, the CEO and ex-brewer, gave us a fascinating insight into all aspects of the industry and a guided tour of the plant, which was full to the gunnels with this year’s crop that had just been harvested from the 16 local farms that make up the co-operative. A very big thanks to Doug for taking time out on a Saturday morning, at his busiest time of the year, to host our group.
For more on the ‘Weekend Away’, turn to page 18.
Until next time….cheers!
Nick Page, Editor