The Kiwis Are Coming! The Kiwis Are Coming!

Shawn Kerr/ Head Brewer

Let me begin by saying, getting contracts on hops as a startup brewery is about as enjoyable as poking yourself in the eye, which actually may be even more enjoyable.  Beyond being frustrating, time consuming, and downright maddening, the vendors change their minds on availability of hops as often as a freshman girl deciding which teen idol she’s going to marry.  Now all this is terribly frustrating for the guy who is attempting to prototype and formulate recipes, especially IPAs, to be ready when we go live this summer.  One week we have the highly coveted Amarillo and Citra hops coming in aplenty, and the next week, “what’s an Amarillo hop?” 

 It was at this point that Bill, our Director of Operations at 12 Gates, and I began researching some of these wild, lesser-known hops coming out of New Zealand.  Turns out those Kiwis are doing some pretty wild stuff across the Pacific with some really interesting hop growing conditions and terrain.  After much debate and research we managed to settle on three distinct hops varietals, called Waimea, Wakatu, and Rakau, that we were able to get in fairly sizable quantities.

 Here is what I can tell you from my first batch of IPA using the NZ Waimea hops; they are different and I have no idea how to pronounce any of the names.  I am a serious treasure trove of knowledge here, huh? 

 I paired the first pilot batch of Waimea using them in late additions, including whirlpool and substantial dry-hopping additions, in conjunction with equal parts of Citra hops.  The Waimea hops are described as providing citrus, tropical, and tangelo notes. A tangelo!  I didn’t even know what a tangelo was, but I was able to locate one in Rochester at Wegmans –it’s like a cross between a grapefruit and a very tropical tasting orange.  It was delicious.

 Here are some initial tasting notes, as I am presently sipping on one of the first pulls from this prototype.  There are distinct notes of tropical fruit, such as grapefruit, orange, and lemon (likely the Citra hops there), but I also get very discrete flavors of resinous pine and a mild woodiness lingering in the finish.  The blend of Citra with the Waimea may not be the touch I was looking for, and I believe these hops may fair better in conjunction with something a little more subtle and rounded than the Citra.  On the next round I’ll be looking to pair this with the other New Zealand hop we ordered, the Wakatu, which is considered a good substitute for Summit or Amarillo hops – think citrus bomb people.  I hope to deliver.

Look for these odd Kiwi varietals in several 12 Gates beers coming your way this summer!