Coming Soon… New Zealand Hop Harvest 2015

This week I headed to Nelson (with a bunch of other brewers from around New Zealand) for the day (and night) for a visit to “The Hop Lab” at Plant & Food Research in Motueka. The focus was on the new 50 litre trial brew plant (manufactured by Chris Little Engineering) which is now being used to brew beers with the trial hop varieties to see if they show promise for brewing.

It was a good time of year to do this, as it is a week before the New Zealand Hop harvest begins. The plants have hops on them, the hop growers aren’t too busy to be able to spend the afternoon with the brewers.

I look forward to this becoming an annual event for the brewers and hop growers to catch up and have a chat over a beer. (without the full-page release form having to be signed to taste 90 mls)

Below is a photo gallery showing a bit of what happened. It’s a lot of hop photo, but that’s what I’m into.

Day 17 – Beers of Auckland – Kingtide IPA

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 17 – Kingtide IPA by Bach Brewing Company

HightideBOTTLE: Kingtide IPA
BREWED: Steam Brewing Company
ABV: 7.0%

This afternoon Craig Cooper from Bach Brewing stopped by for a catch up and a beer. The beer we drank was Beachstone Pilsner (very nice) but I had already Advented that. It was getting close to the end of the day and I got thinking what am I going to review today.  Craig said he had a Kingtide IPA in the car. So lucky me he gave me a bottle to taste and write about.

Gees, this is a hard time of year to be doing this. There is so much going on, and so little spare time at the moment. The weekend and next week I hope to have a bit more fun doing this. Alice I think of you each night now as I write this and think how amazing you are. How did you do it?

It was noted that this bottle had a little age on it being bottled in August, but not too bad. The aroma is still pretty fresh , and is driven by a mix of Citra and NZ hop notes. The colour is a gold golden colour. On tasting it there was a little age/ oxidation. BOOM! Armageddon jumped into my mind. Very similar characters of Armageddon after several months in the bottle. I hadn’t made the connection before.

Next thought, ” hey wouldn’t it be fun to taste these beer next to each other”. Lucky I had a bottle of Armageddon IPA in the fridge.  What were the chances of that. Nek Minute. I had a glass of Kingtide IPA and a glass of Armageddon IPA. The colours are very very similar, possibly the same +/- 1 or 2 EBC. The aroma of the Kingtide IPA was more obvious with the Citra and NZ hops, Armageddon just wasn’t doing it tonight for me. (will need to check the dry hopping on this batch). On tasting the Armageddon IPA, it was leaner in the malt but the hops were greener and more aggressive, and Kingtide had more malt, less hops and a little alcohol sweetness (7.0% vs 6.66% abv).

Funny how my thoughts kept rolling along, and wondered why I had never thought them before. How close are these beers in taste? They are made in the same brewery, Steam Brewing Company. By the same brewers, with the same yeast strain. Different hops are obvious. The brewer who wrote the recipe jumps to mind also. Another common thread. These beers are brothers from nearly the same mother. Could these beers be called as close as DB Draught and DB Double Brown (well maybe not since they are said to actually be just one beer). But they are pretty similar.

Two really great beers from the same brewery.

So there must be a discussion that could be had about contract brewing right about now. Beers from the same brewery, etc, etc.. Maybe I’ll sleep on this over the Christmas break and see what pops out the other end.

Craft Beer in Auckland

#craftbeer, #auckland, #newzealand, #bachbrewing #kingtide #adventcalendar

These links might help you find out what is on tap around Auckland

Hop Selection 2014

I’ve just spent the week in Yakima, Washington, USA during hop harvest time. This is the third season I’ve visited specifically to immerse myself in all things that were happening with hops in the region at this time.  It has been a busy week visiting hop farms, talking to hop growers, attending Hopunion’s Hop & Brew School, and tasting a few locally brewed IPA’s.

Hop selection has become an important part of the year for Epic Beer . Each year flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Yakima, WA, USA at the time the hops are harvested makes all the difference to the taste of our beer. We are one of just 90 brewers that select our hops from Hopunion LLC

Selection means you get the opportunity to be presented with a range of different “lots” of hops from different farms and growing areas where that specific variety is grown. From there you are able to select which lot is your preference. Not every brewer is able to do this, as there is a minimum contracted amount of 5000 lb (2272kg) per variety.

You may have heard about terroir in wine. Hops are exactly the same. The same variety can smell different based on where it is grown, and you can experience differences from season to season. This is pretty exciting and it does have an effect on the beer each season. Hence why it is important to be able to get the best hops you can.

Below are some photos showing hop bales, brewers cuts, hop selection, rubbing and smelling and very resinous sticky hands to finish.



Hot Zombie – Hopped Hot Sauce

Luke making Hot ZombieAfter the super successful co-branded release of Epic Carolina and Culley’s Carolina Reaper hot sauce, we have come up with something new. “Hot Zombie” Hot Sauce.

Yesterday I spent the day at The FoodBowl with Chris Cullen from Culley’s. We made the first small batch of Hot Zombie. It brings two of my fascinations together – Hops and Chillies. We took my favourite flavours from Culley’s and we added hops.

This hot sauce isn’t about being the hottest, because there are plenty out there that do that. This is about delivering a good hot sauce, with awesome Habanero flavour, that has been jacked up with hops. The hops are in the aroma and in the flavour. But it isn’t until you add the hot sauce to food till you really notice how hoppy it actually is.

We are looking at releasing this hot sauce the week of the 23rd June, at the same time as the first batch of fresh 2014 Hop Zombie kegs.

[UPDATE] Free tasting 5pm-7pm Friday 20th June at Brew on Quay

[website and online sales coming soon]



Lack of hops has brewers ailing

How many times is this topic going to be written about. Seems like every year now a different newspaper will run this story using local breweries.

Article published in The Dominion Post this morning 17 May 2014 – Lack of hops has brewers ailing

2009 – No hops shortage as growers tie up (yes me having a moan about not enough hops, but it was 5 years ago)

2010 – can’t find an article yet

2011 – Hop shortage hits brewers

2012 – Hop crop low but stay calm

2013 – Lack of rain puts pressure on hops

It is cool to get some media for craft beer and local breweries, but how about some actual good stories about those breweries. If you are going to write about the hop shortage maybe dig a little deeper as this is old news.

Yes hops are hard to get if you are a new start-up brewery, but a start-up would know that going into this business. Hops are also hard to get if you don’t have contracts in place. Last figure I saw was that 99.8% of US craft breweries had hop contracts. As it is the only way you are guaranteed to get the hops you need.

This has been an issue since 2007. So if breweries haven’t got there act together in the last 7 years, then the don’t deserve to have a moan to the media.

If you are looking to buy US Aroma hops now, you won’t be likely to get a contract for any before 2016, as the next two seasons are 100% contracted. Most smart breweries are now contracting a base amount of hops for 5 years out.

In New Zealand, as in the US, aroma hops are in high demand. It is also a very fast changing market as brewers like to move onto the next exciting hop variety. This may mean they drop past hop varieties that have been popular.

Epic Hop ContractFrom the growers point of view there is a long lead time, 3 years to invest in a new variety. A grower is likely to only consider committing to new plantings if they have a commitment from brewers in the way of contracts. If they can get a 3 year contract they will consider committing to the hops the brewer wants to buy, but 5 years definitely makes it a better business proposition.

The market seems to be working better for the growers these days, with better prices, and real commitments from brewers in the form of contracts.

Brewers should be getting multi-year hop contracts.

Journalists should be writing about the great things that the local breweries are doing, not what they aren’t or can’t do due to a lack of hops.


P.S. I recall the good old days back when I first launched Epic Pale Ale in 2006, the prices were incredibly low for US grown Cascade. I was able to import them from the US and land them in the brewery for around $8/kg, when local NZ Cascade was $35/kg. US growers weren’t making much off those hops.

FRESH HOP – Epic Fresh Hop 14 Ale

Tomorrow is the big launch day for the Auckland Brewers Fresh Hop Beers. #freshhop14

I will be at The Lumsden Freehouse from 5pm Thursday 24th April for the launch of the Epic Fresh Hop 14 Ale. The Lumsden Freehouse will also have on a keg of each of the 12 different Fresh Hop beers. This will be a good place to start your adventure into Fresh Hopped beers.

Each brewery made a different sized batch so they will all last varying amounts of time. Unfortunately Epic only made 8 kegs so I don’t imagine it lasting long. All the beers used Waimea hops, so they should all have a similar hop character. That will be interesting as there are many different styles of beer, but the same hop variety.

Here is a fun video, which has footage from the brew day. Not sure if I could have said the word “hops” any more times.

Below is a list of the bars and the breweries beers they will have on. Best you get out and try them all as quickly as you can as they are best fresh, and won’t last long.


Andrew AndrewEpic Beer
The Block CaféBen Middlemiss Brewing
Brew On QuayEpic Beer
Brothers BreweryBrothers Brewery
Conch Kitchen & BarHallertau Brewery/ Liberty Brewing Company Collab
The CrownThe Little Empire Brewery
Deep Creek Brewing Co.Deep Creek Brewing Co.
Coast- Bites and BrewsDeep Creek Brewing Co.
Didas Wine & Tapas LoungeGalbraith’s Alehouse
Freida Margolis8 Wired Brewing
Galbraith’s AlehouseGalbraith’s Alehouse
The Golden DawnHallertau Brewery/ Liberty Brewing Company Collab
Hallertau BreweryHallertau Brewery/ Liberty Brewing Company Collab
The Lumsden FreehouseEpic Beer
Malt BarHallertau Brewery/ Liberty Brewing Company Collab
No.1 Queen St Café & BarLaughing Bones Brewing
No.1 Queen St Café & BarBen Middlemiss Brewing
Parnell Bar & GrillEpic Beer
The Shakespeare Hotel and BreweryShakespeare Brewery/ Bach Brewing Collab
Sky Sport GrillBen Middlemiss Brewing
Sky Sport GrillLaughing Bones Brewing
Szimpla Gastro BarBen Middlemiss Brewing
Tahi Bar8 Wired Brewing
Three Lamps Bar & EateryShakespeare Brewery/ Bach Brewing Collab
Three Lamps Bar & Eatery8 Wired Brewing
Vultures’ Lane Craft BarBehemoth Brewing Company
Vultures’ Lane Craft BarLaughing Bones Brewing
Wild on WaihekeWaiheke Brewery
You can also fill your own at the following.
Fill Your Own Growler Stations (Variety of Brews from above)
Liquorland Newmarket
Liquorland Howick
Glengarry Victoria Park
Glengarry Jervois Rd
Glengarry Grey Lynn
Glengarry Kingsland

Home Grown Hops


FRESH HOP – Brew Day #freshhopnz14

Friday the Fresh Hops from New Zealand Hops were delivered to Steam Brewing Company, for the 12 Auckland Breweries who are part of the #freshhopnz14 mini festival. I’m told there are now 24 craft beer bars around Auckland participating. Launch day is 24th April.

Since I was in Christchurch for the weekend for the Great Kiwi Beer Festival I was unable to brew my Fresh Hop beer till today.

2014-03-31 12.26.22Due to the size of the brewhouse at Steam Brewing (10,000 litres), we worked out a way to brew a fresh hop beer on a smaller scale. We were brewing a batch of Epic Pale Ale and we diverted 1000 litres to the mixing tank (this tank is used for mixing soft drinks and juices at Steam Brewing).







freshhops14 This is me next to the 40kg of fresh Waimea hops.



Fresh Hops in Mixing Tank #freshhopnz14 It was alot of Fresh Hops, 40kg is a large volume. We then pumped in nearly 1000 litres of Epic Pale Ale wort from the Whirlpool. (sorry no photos as it was just all steam)

We ran the mixing paddles.

We also recirculated the wort and hops.

It was a matter of making sure we got maximum contact.

At the same time I didn’t want the contact to be for too long as I want to retain the volatile aromas from the hops.






Hop Grant

Once it was fully mixed we hooked up the wort grant, and started transferring to the yeast propagation tank. The propagation tank is 600 litres and was around the size I thought would be good for this special fresh hop beer.

The grant was used so we could minimize the amount of hops going into the fermenter. (it has a fine mesh basket, that the liquid wort can go through, but not the hop flowers).

Once we had filled the fermenter, we ran out the remaining liquid and a bunch of hops.

We have to leave the hops overnight so that the maximum amount of liquid from the hops could come out before digging out the spent hop flowers.

Fingers crossed this is going to taste good. It smelled amazing while brewing.

Now I just need a witty name for the beer….



BUSY – Brewing, Tap Takeover, Beer Fest, Brewing

Where to even start. There is so much going on in the next few days. Brewing a Black IPA, a Midweek Tap Takeover, Beer Festival in Christchurch, and a Fresh Hop beer.

Tues 25th – Fresh Hops – today the hops for the Auckland brewers were harvested in Wakefield, just outside Nelson. These fresh Waimea hops are being cooled down over night tonight. Tomorrow (Wed 26th) they will be packed up and put in a refrigerated truck and shipped overnight to Auckland. They are due for delivery at Steam Brewing Company on Friday 28th. #freshhopnz14 (brewing the beer on Monday 31st)

Wed 26th – Black IPA – tomorrow I’m in the brewery, brewing a Black IPA – Apocalypse. It has been 4 years (I think, pretty sure) since I first brewed this. I wasn’t totally happy with it at the time, but since then have drunk many Black IPA’s from around the world (mostly US brewed), and feel I have a better idea now of what I want to achieve. So lets see how this new recipe goes.

RepocalypseLast year I brewed a special one-off batch of a trial recipe for this at the Fork & Brewer which we called Repocalypse. It was only available for a very limited time in Wellington.

Radio NZ Interview – 10:45-12pm
I’m due to do a radio interview about the Great Kiwi Beer Festival, from the brewery which can be a bit noisy.


Wed 26th – Tap Takeover at Vultures Lane
Since we did the official launch on Friday, we thought we would kick it up a level for the first keg of Epic Mosaic we are putting on tap at Vultures. A list of the beers and if you want you can RSVP here too. After a beer or two we will have some chillis available to try, be cool if I can get some more #hotchillidance video.

Thurs 27th – Christchurch
Heading to Christchurch to visit a few craft beer bars that stock Epic beers. Still to decide which one would be good to do a review at lunchtime. Hoping Craig from BeerNZ can give some good advice on this, since it has been a while since I’ve been in CHCH. Pomeroy’s meeting about the Beer and Food matchings for the Epic Beer Dinner in June. Therefore most likely at Poms at the end of the day if you want to catch up for a beer.

Fri 28th – Hagley Park
Setup for the Great Kiwi Beer Festival. Making sure the beer has turned up and is in the chiller. Getting the banners and beer systems setup on our Epic/Stone stand. Maybe a beer later in the day. @StoneGreg may make an appearance at beer o’clock, but not promising anything. (sshhh keep an eye on the tweeters)

Sat 29th – Hagley Park
Fingers cross we are ready, have enough staff, enough beer and enough ice to serve a crowd of 14,000 beer festival patrons. Both myself and Greg Koch from Stone Brewing Co. will be on the stand most of the day. We will be making an appearance in the VIP area at some point in the day too. Beer on our stand is listed in this post. Definitely some great beers available. Stop by and say hi. Also a chance to try the Culley’s Carolina Reaper hot sauce with some Epic Carolina Amber Ale. #hotchillidance

Sun 30th – Home
Travel back to Auckland. Maybe having a beer with a certain person from San Diego.


Fresh HopsMon 31st – Fresh Hop Beer – Excited and nervous about brewing a Fresh Beer for the Beervana Mini Festival – #freshhopnz14 . Nervous because I haven’t brewed a fresh hop beer in this brewery, and still need to work through the details of how this is going to work logistically.

Fresh Hops take up 5 times the volume compared to dry hops. I hope the tank we plan on using can hold all the hops I ordered, and that the hops don’t suck up too much of the beer.

(It’s 10 years since I made my first fresh hopped beer.)


And this will bring me to the end of March. I am excited to let you know what April has in store.

P.S. Here is another video I have which shows the #hotchillidance Turn the sounds down as the language could be a bit rough for young viewers.

24 HOURS IN THE HOP FIELDS (Part 2) – #freshhopnz14

It was more than just the hop. Even though our main focus was the 2014 New Zealand hop harvest, and looking at the Waimea hop crop for our Fresh Hop beers, we managed a few other activities.

Between the visiting New Zealand Hops and the hop gardens in Wakefield, we stopped in at the Moutere Inn for lunch. We did a small IPA tasting, thanks to the hospitality of Dave Watson. I love this place. If I could have I would have stayed all day, and then the night as well (they have rooms). Also a visit to Liquid Alchemy to see what Fritz & Maria are up to with their spirits. Finally a pint and a bite at The Free House. Monday isn’t the best day of the week to go out in Nelson. Everything is closed. It did mean it wasn’t a late night.

A little video from our visit to the Hop Fields of Nelson.


24 HOURS IN THE HOP FIELDS (Part 1) – #freshhopnz14

Monday was a super early start, flying to Nelson. Out to NZ Hops. Lunch a the Moutere Inn. Hop farm visit (huge thanks to Peter for taking time out of his day during harvest to show us around the hop gardens, the kiln, and of course his brewery and the sampling of his beers). Checked out Liquid Alchemy (everyone seemed to really enjoy the Gin, and great to see what Fritz and Maria are up to),  then some beers and dinner at The Free House. With so many photos, I thought it would be easier to upload a small gallery, than write about each moment of the day. (another gallery will be uploaded as part two, which will include the non-hop related photos). (videos to follow also)

This photo, and this link gives you a list of the brewers involved in the Auckland brewers Beervana Fresh Hop mini festival. Beers will be brewed in the next week, and the launch date for the festival is 24th April
#freshhopnz14 Auckland brewers

Thought it would be fun to include this video below. Kelly Ryan and myself actually visited Peter and his hop gardens in 2011 during the NZ Craft Beer TV filming. It was awesome to see how much the gardens have grown with new plantings.

ADDED 12 March 2014