The new program looks to boost the country's already well-regarded hop growing industry.
New Zealand is no schlub in the global beer scene. Despite the fact that, much like the rest of its culture, the country’s beer culture is deeply-rooted in British traditions, New Zealand was actually an earlier adopter of the modern craft beer movement. Part of the reason is that the island nation is an incredible place for hop growing. Released in 2000, the Nelson Sauvin hop with its vinous name and flavors was an early standout around the time brewers started embracing listing varieties on their labels. Plenty of others like Motueka and Wai-iti have since garnered recognition as well.
With so much established success, it’s not surprising that New Zealand would want to make a commitment to its hop and beer industries, but a new program announced this week is more concerted than you might expect.
Hāpi Research Ltd—itself a joint venture between the Wellington-based Garage Project, a craft brewer that has become a prominent name on the international craft beer scene, and the Nelson-based hop producer Freestyle Farms—has teamed up with the government’s Ministry for Primary Industries to launch Hāpi-Brewing Success. In total, the seven-year commitment will see around $8.5 million (in U.S. dollars) invested to build New Zealand’s hop breeding, producing, and marketing industry as well as creating unique New Zealand beers and selling these beers around the world. Forty-percent of the money invested will come from the government, but in return, the program predicts that nationwide hop revenues could triple and craft beer revenue could increase five-fold beyond current estimates by 2027.
“Our programme will pursue research to enhance and differentiate super-premium hop and craft beer markets and boost the growth of both industries,” Freestyle Farms director David Dunbar said in a statement. “By collaborating across industries we'll accelerate development of unique Kiwi hops, promote uniquely New Zealand craft beer, and open up new areas to hop growing.”
Beer drinkers—many of whom already show an affinity for New Zealand hops, whether they know it or not—have reason to get excited too. “Through the programme, we want to understand the unique chemical compounds of our hops that produce New Zealand flavours, and how to best accentuate them in finished beer,” explained Garage Project CEO Tom Greally. Translation: Even more interesting new beers could be on the way.
Coveted New Zealand hops also have a reputation for being expensive—and sometimes difficult to find at all. So it’s possible that some existing hop varieties might see more availability as well. Another one of the program goals is to “increase the number of growers, the regions growing hops, and the range of hop varieties to help make the industry more resilient.” That’s an idea worth toasting a single-hopped Nelson Sauvin IPA to.