2015 New Zealand Hop Harvest

2014-03-10 10.30.47The 2015 New Zealand Hop Harvest was completed in the first week of April having started in the second week of February.

By Doug Donelan

The New Zealand Hop harvest commenced this season with the traditional northern types of Fuggle and Styrian Golding arriving into store in the second week of February. Early New Zealand varieties such as Pacifica and Motueka commenced soon after with all picking operations in full swing by the start of March and concluding with the final bales of the later varieties Rakau and Green bullet weighed across into cold storage by early April. During the growing season the spring was unseasonably cold, especially the overnight temperatures, which held the plants back considerably and slowed development until well into November. The region’s famous summer finally arrived with the New Year and it persisted solidly throughout, right up till and into April. It brought with it long sunny days with plenty of heat units all interspersed with good levels of warm coastal rain.

By the time harvest arrived most of the districts plants had developed into what appeared to be an above average crop but one that finished only slightly ahead of grower production estimates. The weather conditions during harvest were for the most part ideal, although some severe northerly winds and torrential rains did occur mid-point as part of the aftermath of category 5 tropical cyclone Pam which did impact harvesting in some gardens.

First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka

Main Harvest Points:

  • Farm structure for the 2015 harvest remained at 17 grower / shareholders (including a joint venture) all supplying hops through the cooperatively owned company of New Zealand Hops Limited.
  • Cultivation continues to be dominated by designated aroma/flavour varieties at 328 Hectares while Alpha designated production continued to fall to 60 Hectares. An overall total of 389 Hectares was harvested which is an increase of 19 hectares from the 2014 harvest (370 Ha)
  • Total volume harvested was 739,620 kilograms (Table # 1) which is a decrease of 24, 949 kilograms on the 2014 harvest (764,569 kg). Aroma / flavour designated hops accounted for 605,668 kilograms with alpha designated varieties at 133,952 kilograms.
  • The average alpha acid was 9.5 % with the highest commercial variety being Waimea at 15 .5 % and the lowest being Wai-iti at 3.1 %.
  • Selections and grade standard assessments scored well above the average with growers delivering hops of an exceptional standard…5,948 bales were received into the New Zealand Hops Limited new cold storage facility on Blackbyre Road Appleby.
  • A highlight once again of harvest was the industry’s green hop programme operated under an expanded model this year which saw NZ Cascade, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin distributed to 35 brewers throughout the main centres and supporting several green hop beer events and seasonal releases.

Hop Bale 2015Market position:

  • The 2015 crop was approximately 95 % sold prior to harvest with a post harvest view that the total crop will be sold prior to the 2016 harvest.
  • Spot availability continues to be limited under the current market demand for New Zealand Hops and specialty hops in general internationally.
  • As has been stated in previous reports acreage will continue to expand against a landscape of sustainable pricing and forward contracts, however as the total international market continues to grow it is unlikely that the New Zealand Industry will advance past its current world crop contribution of less than 1.0 %
  • Currently a continued programme on farm of switching out of varieties is seeing modest increases in acreages while volumes remain reasonably static. A point will occur when the variety balance will be met and then both acreage and volume will commence to track upward together.
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka

Industry outlook:

  • Research and development will continue to be a major focus of the industry through our research partnership with New Zealand Plant and Food Research. Plant breeding remains at the forefront of the programme and several new selections were identified as “of interest” during this season.
  • A pilot brewing plant was also commissioned during the season and several of the new selections have been earmarked for pilot brewing trials through our own system as well as some larger scale trials through commercial partners.
  • Identification of hops with unique flavour profiles and brewing characteristics for commercialisation run at the heart of the programme however agronomics such as yield and in particular establishing a broader future picking window are key to our future varietal selections.
New Zealand VarietiesQuantityNorthern VarietiesQuantity
Nelson Sauvin165,760Cascade31,500
Motueka103,310Styrian Golding1,670
Green Bullet41,380Willamette540
Pacific Gem38,840Other3,520
Pacific Jade34,250
Pacifica33,000Total Northern Varieties39,050
Dr Rudi30,550
Southern Cross22,400Organic VarietiesQuantity
Sticklebract3,300Nelson Sauvin4,290
Brewing Trials1,700Pacific Gem2,700
Total NZ Varieties679,970
Total Organic20,600
Harvest Total739,620

Please direct further enquires to nzhops@nzhops.co.nz  typing “Media Release” as the subject.

Fresh green hops rushed into action


Hop grower Brent McGlashen of Mac Hops, left and Tuatara head brewer Rik Valentine load some of the 40 sacks, 800kg of freshly harvested green hops from Mac Hops in Motueka, ready to be flown to Paraparaumu and brewed immediately. Photo: Marion van Dijk

Time is of the essence when it comes to green hops, which is why Tuatara Brewery sent its head brewer to Nelson in a plane to collect 800 kilograms of the freshly picked cones.

Head brewer Rik Valentine made the journey from Paraparaumu to pick up the load of Nelson sauvin hops, harvested at 7.30am at Mac Hops in Motueka and loaded into the plane at 9.30am, especially for the brewery’s signature green-hopped Conehead beer. (full story)

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.

NEW ZEALAND HOPS – Harvest 2014

I sent Doug Donelan of New Zealand Hops a quick email as I was interested in finding out the order New Zealand Hops were harvested. This is what he had to share with me:

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“Order depends on area, growers closer to the coast pick Cascade first then Pacifica where as further inland Cascade follows Pacifica. Designation is given as early, mid, late season. The earliest are the English types generally Fuggle, Golding etc…most northern varieties are early, Styrian Goldings were picked this week. Age changes things as well, first year plants generally mature early as well but will settle into the season 2nd year.”

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For New Zealand Varieties it’s a bit like this.

Early: (1st week March)            Pacifica, Motueka, Riwaka

Mid:    (2nd/3rd week March)   Wakatu, Nelson Sauvin, Rakau, Dr Rudi, Southern Cross, Wai-iti, Kohatu, Pacific Gem, Pacific Jade.

Late:   ( End of March)               Sticklebract, Waimea, Green Bullet.

(we are only talking about a 4 week period to harvest 15 NZ varieties, 8 Northern Varieties plus Trials)

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“Not all growers grow all varieties but all need to have a mix to ensure they can optimise the picking windows to stretch across the season. They also can’t be too heavy on one variety over another as the picking windows can’t overlap too closely.”

Cheers Doug. Really appreciate your time (especially at this time of year), and this interesting information.

2012-03-17 14.20.23