Sea Of Green
April 15 2015
“for any true hop enthusiast a trip to the hop fields really is something akin to a spiritual experience and not an opportunity to be passed up.”
I wrote that back in 2011 when I visited the New Zealand hop harvest for the first time, and it still holds true.
If you love beer you will love the hop fields.
Walking through a hop field is a sensual experience in the truest sense of the word. When you walk between the rows of bines you have a sense of being totally immersed in a sea of green. You are cut off from the rest of the world. All you can see is a 16 foot high corridor of green disappearing ahead and receding behind. It’s not a dull green, it’s almost luminous. It strikes me that there are a frustrating lack of words in English to describe the green of a hop field. If a colour can be exuberant then that is exactly what hops are. From the lush dark green of the leaves to the verdant lime of the cones that hang everywhere in dense clusters. The rows of hops stifle sound but the smell is intense, especially as the hops reach their harvest peak. It’s a resinous, earthy citrus, with a touch of raw onion and garlic (which sounds bad but isn’t) and far more than a hint of hops illegal cousin. It is heady. All I can say is that it is special. I find it moving. If I had to describe the feeling I get when I walk through the hop field I’d have to say that it reminds me of the feeling I’d have as a child waking up on Christmas morning.
Oldham's Farm March '12
This year we’ve been lucky enough to work alongside New Zealand Hops and the Plant and Food Research team based in Motueka trialing some of the new hop varieties they’ve produced. When they made the offer to visit them for harvest I jumped at the chance to share this experience with some of those who have joined the Garage Project. We’ve grown since I hauled our 50 litre brewery to the harvest back in 2012 to brew in the hop fields. We now have a great little team of passionate young brewers at the Garage, but none of them had ever been to the hop fields before. The spiritual dimension aside, visiting the hop harvest as a brewer is a sobering reminder of the immense amount of work that goes into producing the raw materials required to make beer. Brewers often hog the limelight but frankly we’d be buggered without the work of the hop growers, the maltsters and researchers who produce new varieties we all love to get our hands on.
We walked fields, saw the hops in all their verdant glory, we helped to hand harvest the bines at the research station in Motueka and then, back in Wellington at the brewery got to brew a beer with fresh green cones, chilled rather than dried and delivered straight from the fields. Sea of Green, is the result, a fresh, crisp Pilsner bursting with the unique aroma and flavour of freshly harvested New Zealand hops. As a brewer, I can say with all honesty that it doesn’t get much better than seeing the hops in the ground, helping to pick them and then brewing with the fresh cones, all within a matter of days.
After visiting the hop harvest again I remain convinced that it is a spiritual experience and after this trip I know I have a team of converts.
If you want a taste of the freshest hop harvest beers that New Zealand has to offer then make sure you take part in this year’s Hopstock. Sea of Green will be available at The Southern Cross Garden Bar Restaurant from today while stocks last.