I’m Kyle, son of New Zealand Natural Clothing and occasional Soxpert. Earlier this year I added a new label to that list – Harvester of Hops.
In this short series I want to take you on a journey that traverses the globe but has its roots (quite literally) in the Wop Wops Wetland Park. This short “beer blog” series is the story of the Wop Wops New Zealand Pale Ale.
The idea for the Wop Wops New Zealand Pale Ale came when Dad told me about some wild hops growing healthily along the periphery of the Wop Wops Wetland Park. As a home brewer I was naturally inclined to go and check it out. What I expected was a few small vines climbing their way up a fence. What I found was an army taking charge of the southern banks of the wetland and suffocating a native totara tree on the northern side.
To cut a long story short, there were plenty more hops than a modest home brewer would need to play around and experiment with.
For those that aren’t aware, hops are one of the four basic ingredients required to make beer – along with malt, yeast and water. This post though is all about the hops, the inspiration behind this beer. It is the hops that bring the bitterness, as well as the citrus or fruity notes that make those bearded Wellington hipsters go crazy (despite my moving around as much as my beard varies in length, I must out myself as a bearded Wellingtonian). There is a great fool-proof method for getting a sense of how our Wop Wops Hops will taste, harvest them and throw them in a brew!
There was now two objectives, harvest some hops and give the totara a bit of breathing space. As you can see in the video, hops grow on a vine and they love to climb. Since there is no way I was going to be cutting down our beautiful growing totara, I had some climbing to do. Rake in hand, I jumped the creek and begun my ascent.
A bonus of the climb was a fantastic view overlooking the development of the Wetland!
For those who haven’t set foot in Norsewood or caught wind of our conversation project, the Wop Wops Wetland Park is a work in progress helping to stop regress. New Zealand was once covered in wetlands. They are a key ecosystem and provide substance to a wide range of native flora and fauna. They are also a damn beautiful site for us humans to behold, especially when they are full of life. Unfortunately. our nation’s current wetland stock is less than 95% percent of what it once was.
One of the amazing native critters that ecosystem loss has a huge effect on is the New Zealand long-fin eel. They are the face of, and primary motivation, for our wetland conservation project. As you can see from the finished product above, the long-fin eel also acts as the face for the Wop Wops New Zealand Pale Ale label. You can check out the progress we are making on this very website. Also, we would really appreciate it if you could throw a few dollars to our give-a-little page as well.
Now that you know where the name and the label for the beer comes from, back to the hops.
Turns out that a long established hop plant that has intertwined itself with a tree isn’t that easy to untangle. Naturally, I ended up with a few scratches. Not a bad result considering I was 4 or 5 metres off the ground with no safety precautions taken. I think we can safely assume I wasn’t following industry safety standard, but then our cool little hop harvest was far from industrial in scale.
Nevertheless, we did end up with a lot of hops. I collected a couple of bags full and stood looking over all the rest that would sadly go to waste. Luckily it only takes a quick look at the flourishing totara the vine removal left behind to forget about all those hops going to waste. A few of the hops did make their way into the creek, so maybe it wasn’t a complete waste anyway. Cold brew hop tea anyone?
With all hops now seemingly under control, the remainder found their way to the compost file. The plan for the following years is to get some poles up and control where our hops go. After all, we can’t have them taking over all the hard work we are continuously doing in the wetland.
The final step in our hop harvest was to prepare our hops for their long journey to the other side of the world. The goal was to dehydrate them to make sure our hops last long enough to throw into a brew. For this we used a dehydrator. Now, there is a very scientific method involving weighing the hops before and after warming them to ascertain the level of moisture in the hops. The key is to not dry them out completely because you lose some of those tasty flavours that are the whole reason for our harvest.
As you can probably guess, we didn’t employ this precise scientific method. We threw the hops in there at 40 degrees and tested whether they were sufficiently dry by hand. A couple of New World snap-lock lolly bags later and our hops were ready for departure.
One final thing before we go. I am almost certain we harvested the hops too early – it was the final week February. The perfect time to harvest is when there is the highest possible amount of the yellow dust inside the hop as that brings the hoppy flavours to our beers.
Be sure to check back in soon to see where exactly the hops ended up!
An important notice:
This beer is not for sale! There are two reasons this beer is not commercially available. Firstly, it would be illegal. I would like to make clear that this beer was made as a fun beer project due to the discovery of the wetland hops, especially since the label NZPA is also used in reference to the New Zealand Police Association. There is also no intent by any individuals or organisations associated with the Wop Wops Wetland to profit from either the hops or the homebrew.
More importantly though, there was only 20 litres of it so most of it has been drunk already! Only one 500ml bottle survived the journey back to New Zealand. As always, it was consumed responsibly. We ask our readers to consume responsibly as well.