Next week there will be Hopstock 2014 – a three day celebration of Kiwi hops, specifically fresh or green hops. First however, let us turn to the scholarly and learned Oxford Companion to Beer for a definition and short history of hops. In that weighty and righteous tome Victoria Carollo Blake – a plant scientist from Montana State University [1] – noted:

“Hops are the ingredient in beer that provides its backbone of bitterness, increases its microbiological stability, helps stabilise its foam, and greatly influences its taste and aroma.  Hops are the flowers or ‘cones’ of Humulus Lupulus, a Latin diminutive meaning roughly ‘a low slinking little wolf plant’…” [2]

In terms of hop history, Dr Blake wrote:

“The first recorded use of hops in brewing dates from 822AD when Abbot Adalhard of the Benedictine Monastery of Corbie in the Picardy, [3] in north-eastern France, made a record that his monks added hops to their ales. By the 11th century hopped beer was commonplace in France and, in 1268, King Louis IX issued a decree stipulating that, in his realm, only malt and hops may be used for beer making. [4] Britain, by contrast, seems to have resisted the joys of the hop for a few more centuries… 

For the most part, however, the English considered the hop plant an ‘unwholesome weed that promoted melancholy.’ [5] Kings Henry VI and Henry VIII both banned the use of hops in English ales altogether during their reigns. [6] The latter, in the 1530s, justified hid antihop stance by declaring the hop an aphrodisiac that would drive his subjects to sinful behaviour.” [7]

Fresh hopped beers are brewed using hops which have not been dried or processed after being harvested. The green hops go basically straight from the vine into the brew kettle – ideally within hours but certainly within a couple of days as hops degrade extremely quickly. That is why they are usually kilned, processed and vacuum sealed.

This style of beer tends to be punchy, sticky, resinous and sublimely bitter – all good qualities in my book. They are usually more volatile – changing their aroma and flavour profiles quickly, assuming they last any length of time. I’m predicting most won’t at Hopstock.

The first green hopped beer I ever tried was Mac’s Brewjolais and it blew my mind. It was a huge honour to help [8] brewer Ally Clem make a later vintage of that brew which involved picking up the hops, driving to Nelson, missing the ferry, taking the next ferry, driving to the Mac’s waterfront brewery and dumping the freshly picked hops straight into a boiling kettle. The simple action of tipping green hops out of a bucket and into hot wort unleashed one of the most memorable and enjoyable aromas ever to hit my olfactory senses.  

Hopstock 2014, [9] organised by the good people from Craft Beer Capital, runs from 23 – 26 April 2014 at sixteen venues all around Wellington. It is a celebration of New Zealand hops and fresh hopped brews. Each venue will have a specific green hopped beer made by nineteen breweries (including three collaborative brews). 

Malthouse will be serving Peak Brewery Fresh Hopped Rudolph’s’ Pique, a 5.5% organic Canadian-style Red Ale with a hint of Belgium using green wild hops grown at the brewery. Here is the rest of the line up at our Craft Beer Capital colleagues:

8Wired Fresh Hopwired IPA (7.3%) at Hop Garden
Bach Brewing & Shakespeare Brewhouse Collaboration Autumnal Harvest Ale (5.4%) at Bebemos
Baylands Brewery Waifly ‘Fresh’ IPA (7.77%) at Goldings Free House [10]
Black Dog Brewery Kakariki Kiwi APA (6%) at Black Dog
Cassels & Sons Fresh Hop Pale Ale (4.8%) at Bin 44
Dales Brewing Co Fresh Hop Pale Ale (5.5%) at Hashigo Zake
Fork & Brewer Hopstepper Pale Ale (6.3%) at Fork & Brewer
Golden Bear Hopstacle Course Golden Ale (5%+) at Kelburn Village Pub
Mike’s Organic Brewery Hopwit IPA (6.6%) at Southern Cross
Panhead Custom Ales The Fresh Vandal Double NZ IPA (8%) at Rogue and Vagabond
Renaissance Brewing Fresh Hop ‘Grandmaster’ MPA (7.5%) at Tap Haus
Sprig & Fern Harvest Pilsner (5%) at Sprig & Fern
Townshend’s & Liberty Brewing Collaboration Oldham’s Tap Riwaka Pils (5.5%)
and Last of the Summer Ale ESB (5.1%) which will be handpulled at Little Beer Quarter
Tuatara Conehead IPA (5.8%) at D4
The Twisted Hop & Behemoth Brewing Collaboration Wet Dream Double IPA (8%) at Bruhaus

Next time, we drink to changing this country’s archaic licensing laws. This is a totally principled policy and not just because everything is going to be shut on my birthday tomorrow.

[1] I’m presuming Montana State is, in fact, a real university and not the American equivalent of Massey “University” here.

[2] A much cooler botanical name than, say, the Ballerina Rose or the Avocado.

[3] “Corbie in the Picardy” would be an excellent name for an accordion troupe playing ballads dedicated to Patrick Stewart. That is right folks, this blog’s first ever Star Trek: The Next Generation reference. It will hopefully be the last.

[4] Thus making him my second favourite monarch of all time after Jerry “The King” Lawler.

[5] Like hops would be the only reason the peasants were feeling a bit down while living in rainy, smelly, poor and disease ravaged England…

[6] As reported in this week’s Manawatu Standard, I have some Republican tendencies and it is fair to say that unwise and unjust actions like this historical hop ban helped create that attitude.

[7] It is hard to take a morality lesson from a man who was married six times, created his own church so he could continue to get his end away, had numerous wives killed so he could shag someone else and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

[8] My role was to navigate and ensure we did not miss the Inter Island Ferry. Read on to find out how that turned out…

[9] At Hopstock, be sure to wear some Humulus Lupulus in your hair. This clever reference now works because the earlier exert from the Oxford Companion to Beer confirmed that Humulus Lupulus is the Latin name for hops.

[10] Check out their fine collection of rubber duckys…


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