Fresh hops snapped up as brewers get hold of green harvest bounty

Picked, prepped, packed and sent to brewers within hours it doesn't get any fresher when you're seeking the best hops for your craft beer creations.
In the midst of the busy hop harvest on farms throughout the Tasman district, a limited number of special deliveries have also been sent on their way to brewers seeking an aromatic boost to their crafty brews.

New Zealand Hops Green Hops programme is a one-off opportunity every year when brewers can register for a quantity of fresh hops up to a maximum of 100 kilograms per customer.

The hops are harvested straight from the bine, with no drying a fragile and time crucial process and used in brew immediately, creating fresh hop beers that are marketed for just a few months each year.

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For some brewers, theres the opportunity of a one-shot chance of extracting the fresh hops full potential.

For others, it is first chance to see what the season of hops has in store.

This week, workers at Hinetai Hops, near Tapawera, were joined by New Zealand Hops staff to collect and prepare the first Green Hops batch for 2021 consisting of the new pemain on the hop market, Nectaron.

From 6am hops are harvested fresh and brought into the packhouse, wet and rich in resin, for processing.

By about 9am the trucks roll in to transport the cones to New Zealand Hops cool store in Appleby.

Brent McGlashen, of Mac Hops in Lower Moutere, west of Nelson, with hop vines shredded in a Boxing Day hail storm.

By early afternoon hops are collected and couriered by chilled transport to distributors in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington.

Most brewers can take advantage of the fresh hops within 36 hours.

However, time is of the essence to preserve the green hop state for optimum aroma and some will even drive from as far away as Queenstown to collect their hops in person or arrange a mercy flight to have their hops flown in to add to a brew already in progress that day.

Tim O'Connell/Stuff
The green hops harvest at Hinetai Hops near Tapawera was part of the annual harvest taking place on famrs around the country.

A total of 22 brewers are involved this year, with Nectaron sent to 18 breweries and about 12 breweries set to receive Moutere hops next week from Motueka producer Mac Hops.

NZ Hops sales manager George Tunstall said while a limit had been placed on orders because you can only do so much by hand, demand for the Nectaron fresh hops had sold out in about four hours.

Tim O'Connell/Stuff
Dean Palmer of Hinetai Hops said this years harvest was looking promising to improve on last years, with the farms Nectaron blocks showing particular growth in yield.

For Hinetai Hops, which has 64 hectares of hop gardens on its 120-hectare property, the season has proved to be better than expected.

Director Dean Palmer said the farm had avoided damage from the Boxing Day hailstorm that devastated crops around Motueka.

While Palmer predicted the harvest would run a little later than usual finishing around Easter a good amount of rain and mild temperatures had resulted in reasonable growth of the bines, particularly the second year Nectaron block.

Luz Zuniga/Stuff
The limited edition brews created with green hops often end up on supermarket shelves or at craft-beer events like Nelsons Marchfest.

We should get six tonnes of Nectaron from the three hectares harvested we got two tonnes last year.

One of those to receive an order of Nectaron was Aucklands Epic Brewing who will be using the fresh hops flown north in an IPA that the brand was known for.

Founder Luke Nicholas said the company had not made a fresh hop brew for five years, but due to customer demand decided the time was right to give it another go.

While he conceded opting for air delivery was not a cheap exercise, the short turnaround that the green hop programme provided made it worthwhile.


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