Our thirst for fresh, exciting hops knows no boundaries.
Making a clear case for this statement is our latest small batch release, Air Drop Pils. Here is the story of what it took for its sensational flavors to greet your lips.
The story starts in Wellington, New Zealand in May of last year, fresh from an Australian whole flower hopped pilsner collaboration brewed with Leo and Brooks at Nomad Brewing Company (http://www.nomadbrewingco.com.au/about-us/) in Brookvale, Australia. Within two hours of landing in Wellington the amazingly fun and talented brewing force at neighboring Fork & Brewer (http://forkandbrewer.co.nz) brewpub, Kelly Ryan, had me standing in front of the open garage doors of, you guessed it, Garage Project Brewery. Once inside, the smells, tastes, and hospitality told me to pursue some further collaborative efforts with New Zealand brewers.
I say ‘further’ because after too little sleep Kelly and I were brewing a New Zealand hopped version of HopDevil at Fork & Brewer the next day. Our delicious ‘Devil’s Fork’ picked up a Bronze medal at the 2015 Brewer’s Guild of New Zealand Awards; one of 12 medals Kelly took home with his great brews at that event!
After sampling all that Wellington had to offer, I was off to the hop growing region outside of Nelson and the hospitality of Doug Donelan, CEO of New Zealand Hops (http://www.nzhops.co.nz/history). Doug heads up a substantial operation for the processing, warehousing, shipping, and sales of locally grown hops which is essentially a cooperative of about 17 hop farming families. Family pride and a concern for the highest degree of quality shines through all aspects of the operation. Doug was kind enough to take me further into the lovely region, to the town of Motueka where the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research facilities are headquartered. Surrounded by a myriad of developmental fruiting plants including LOTS of kiwi fruit, Dr. Ron Beatson, Science Group Leader, greeted Doug and I with 40 samples of new and unique hop varieties for us to assess. This was a wild experience as many of the samples were from single plants whose future rested entirely on the results of these professional assessments. Dr. Beatson noted that in most harvest years they select “approximately 100 standout seedlings (single plants)” from their crosses, that typically narrow down to less than 5 selections – reaching large scale growing trials per year. Conveniently, a fully staffed a 20-liter brewery is on site to trial contenders at the peak of their condition. As often as it is joked about, that day provided me with a truly ‘research and development drinking’ experience.
In the depth of winter here the collaborative correspondence with Jos and Pete, the founding, creative forces of Garage Project began in earnest. It was confirmed that they’d be visiting our area in May for the Craft Brewers Conference. Their admiration for Prima Pils steered the conversation pretty quickly toward brewing a pilsner together. The notion of a New Zealand hopped pilsner is not so crazy when you consider that many of the signature varieties from New Zealand have their origins in European varietal rootstock. Pacifica, first released in 1994 was developed from Germany’s Hallertauer Mittlefrüh variety. Motueka, an aroma variety developed by the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, was bred by crossing a New Zealand selection with Saaz rootstock. It is prized for the impression of lime that it often delivers.
Since our Garage Project buddies seemed ready to indulge all of our New Zealand hop fantasies we were also able to get Southern Cross and Nelson Sauvin into the inspired recipe.
Nelson Sauvin, a variety bred from the New Zealand’s ‘Smoothcone’ became quite a sensation after it was released in 2000, as it’s impressions are readily compared with the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. Southern Cross also arose from “Smoothcone,” along with the addition of an early Californian type and the durable English variety, Fuggle. With this tempting mix we had many of the world’s greatest hop regions represented. Timing was certainly on our side as Jos reported that hop harvest was pretty much wrapped up in New Zealand on March 23, so the bulk of our hops would be coming to us as freshly harvested in the whole flower form!
The full story of their delivery and and arrival here is well documented in the brand artwork supplied by our creative friends on Aro Street in Wellington. That said, we assure you that no sheep were actually dropped during this air drop as the art suggests. We just wanted to be sure that you understood that it involved New Zealand!