Harvest AleKieran Haslett-Moore
Last year Sprig and Fern’s Harvest Pilsner was the sole example of wet hopped ales.
This year however things are different with Townshend’s, Tuatara, 8 Wired, and The Garage Project all releasing their own take on this year’s harvest. The Garage Project has taken the concept a step further by actually moving their nano brewery into the Oldham family’s hop garden in Motueka.
Brewer Pete Gillespie spent an icy wet night sleeping in a hammock strung between the garden’s support wires and then brewed amongst the hops plucking flowers straight from the bine and adding it directly into the kettle. The result was a 50 litre batch of Oldham’s Farm Harvest Ale. Pete then filled the van with sacks of the precious green buds and rushed them down to Three Boy’s Brewery in Christchurch where a larger production batch of the beer was produced.
Oldham’s Farm Harvest 2012 is a big incredibly resinous hop sated brew. Pouring a dark shade of ruby the aroma is packed with exotic, pungent, spicy, resiny spice and a burnt sugar malt character. In the mouth there is a mouth coating oily hop character, but also plenty of supporting caramel accented malt that becomes more noticeable as the beer warms. Oldham’s Farm Harvest 2012 will be popping up at outlets around town over the next week or two.
Hops are a seasonal crop. Every summer the long bines vigorously climb up support wires forming tight green resinous flowers as they go. Come autumn the spicy fruity bitter flowers are ripe and ready for harvest. At this point the bines are cut down and the flowers are separated from the rest of the plant and usually they are ‘kilned’ or gently dried in barn lofts before either being processed into pellets or packed in bales.
Hops need to be dried very quickly as their high water content means that they spoil and rot quickly. The drying process changes the character of the hops, stabilising them but also muting them somewhat.
Brewers are offered the opportunity once a year to brew beers during the hop harvest and capture the fresh zesty overtly fruity ‘wet’ hop character of the year’s crop. The highest profile of these brews was Mac’s Brewjolais which was brewed for the last time in 2010 as the final brew before Mac’s closed the Wellington brewery.
On a brighter note, next year’s Garage Project Harvest Ale will be brewed at their brewery in Aro Street. The brew plant is all in place and after a few last minute jobs the brewery should be up and running next week.