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FB-14If you’ve ever smelled fresh hops, you know.

You know why brew­ers use this crop to fla­vour their beers. Why some of them obsess over the choice of hops. Why some want a par­tic­u­lar vari­ety from a par­tic­u­lar place. You know why this crop has been grown for cen­tur­ies. Why new strains keep being pro­duced. You know that while grain and water are the basis for so many alco­hol­ic drinks, hops are what makes beer, beer.

Each year the top of the South Island is keenly watched by brew­ers, because, come March, the hop har­vest starts. The same earth that makes for great grapes and hemp also grows amaz­ing hops. The brew­ers scramble for their boxes of fresh green hops and brew straight away.

Time is of the essence, as fresh hops degrade very quickly. Usu­ally they are whisked into the kiln for dry­ing, but if you want the fresh hop fla­vour, time is not your friend. The fresh hops are put dir­ectly into refri­ger­ated con­tain­ers, which extends their life by roughly 24 hours. The boxes of chilled hops are taken as quickly as pos­sible to the brew­er­ies, where often mash­ing in has already star­ted so that the hops can be put straight into the boil. Last year, one brew­ery even set up a brew­ing kit in the hop fields to brew straight off the vines.


It’s all about the oil.

Green hops have loads of oil in them. This is what gives green-hopped beer a very dif­fer­ent fla­vour to oth­er beers. In the past, brew­ers have even thrown fresh hops in a blender to get max­im­um oil from the product.

Some brew­ers cre­ate new recipes designed to com­ple­ment the fresh­er fla­vour of the newly picked hops. Oth­ers use old, famil­i­ar recipes to taste how they are changed by the extra oil. Most fam­ously, Søren from 8 Wired Brew­ing in Blen­heim used green hops to cre­ate a fresh ver­sion of his world-renowned Hop­wired IPA. The taste was best described to me as “green, like you ima­gine grass tastes like” (but not what grass actu­ally tastes like). In oth­er words, a fresh­ness you can’t get from dry hops.

The idea of ‘Brew­jolais’ isn’t new, but only in recent years has it been con­sidered a cel­eb­ra­tion of hops. This year’s Hop­stock fea­tures a vast array of brew­ers from Nel­son, Wel­ling­ton and Auck­land. It’s anoth­er chance to show off the amaz­ing products that are com­ing out of craft brew­er­ies all over the coun­try. The man behind Craft Beer Cap­it­al (SBC), Sean Mur­rie, sees it as a chance to edu­cate the beer drink­ers of New Zealand.

If I go into a place with a thou­sand wines, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d say, ‘Just choose one for me’,” Mur­rie says. The growth in the ‘craft beer’ sec­tion of the mar­ket has been massive over the past year. The new selec­tion of styles and brands can be daunt­ing for new drink­ers, and fest­ivals like Hop­stock have been launched to both cel­eb­rate beer itself and help make find­ing a beer you like less difficult.

Such fest­ivals also bring punters into our many craft beer bars. There are 16 CBC bars par­ti­cip­at­ing in Hop­stock this year, most car­ry­ing two of the fresh brewed beers. Sta­cey Walsh from Little Beer Quarter and Sean Gold­ing from Golding’s Free Dive see the event as a chance for the craft bars of Wel­ling­ton to come togeth­er to pro­mote the Craft Beer Capital.

Nel­son is the hop cap­it­al and we’re the style cap­it­al,” says Walsh. “We get to cel­eb­rate with them. They provide the hops, the brew­ers work their magic, and we provide the customers.”

Hop­stock is a great chance for all the loc­al bars to work togeth­er and cel­eb­rate beer,” Gold­ing says. “We’ve got bars from Kel­burn Vil­lage Pub to Hashigo Zake all doing the same thing, show­ing off this fresh-hopped beer and show­ing off the qual­ity and breadth of the bar scene in Wellington.”

As with last year’s Hop­stock, the freshly hopped beers will be dis­trib­uted evenly amongst the vari­ous bars. So if you want to try them all, you’ll need to do a bit of bar-hopping.

We want to be clear that this isn’t about cre­at­ing a pub-crawl atmo­sphere,” Mur­rie says. “We want people to try new bars and new beers at the same time.” You may want to try the beers as half-pints or tasters any­way, as some will have fairly high alco­hol percentages.

As part of Hop­stock this year, Craft Beer Cap­it­al in asso­ci­ation with Fish­Head are run­ning a “Hop On, Hop Off” bus tour of the par­ti­cip­at­ing bars. Or if you prefer to set your own pace, the beers will be exclus­ively avail­able from 23 April to 26 April at all of the par­ti­cip­at­ing Craft Beer Cap­it­al bars.


Hopstock Bars


Bin 44

Black Dog

D4 on Featherston

Fork & Brewer

Golding’s Free Dive

Hashigo Zake

Kel­burn Vil­lage Pub

Little Beer Quarter


Rogue & Vagabond

South­ern Cross

Sprig & Fern

The BrÜhaus

The Hop Garden

The Tap Haus


Hopstock Breweries

8 WIRED BREWING (Blen­heim)

BACH BREWING (Auck­land)

BAYLANDS BREWERY (Wel­ling­ton)*

BLACK DOG BREWERY (Wel­ling­ton)*

CASSELS & SONS (Christ­ch­urch)*

FORK & BREWER (Wel­ling­ton)




SPRIG & FERN (Nel­son)*

THE TWISTED HOP (Christ­ch­urch)*


TUATARA (Kapiti)

(* First year participating)


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