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Our hop grower and beer brewer on the new era of Hop Federation Craft Beers.

  • First Beer
    • Dylan: My first beer, I wouldn’t remember the name, when I was younger my father would let me have a quiet sip of beer when we went to watch the rugby games on TV at the local watering grounds (Tapawera Hotel). I would assume it would have been something on tap, Speights or DB most probably.
    • Simon: Lion Red, or Flame, can’t remember, so long ago!!
  • Favourite Hop
    • Dylan: As a grower, my favourite is Riwaka. It’s the most challenging to grow, and when you get it right, you know you have done a great job.
    • Simon: Riwaka
  • Favourite Place:
    • Dylan: There is just so many! But I think I live in my favourite place, the Tasman Region is full of everything.
    • Simon: Any mountain bike park
  • Best moment to have a beer:
    • Dylan: Is there ever a bad moment, definitely after a long day in the summer heat its amazing to have an ice cold beer.
    • Simon: Anytime after breakfast I guess
  • Favourite sport:
    • Dylan: I can’t choose just one…Rugby, Basketball, Motorsport
    • Simon: Mountain Biking
  • Where do you see yourself in 20 years:
    • Dylan: I’m still in my 20s so I really have no idea. I would love to still be working outside, looking after a crop.
    • Simon: well and truly retired!!

Simon Tell us how you got into beer brewing?

Simon: I was home brewing for about a year before I thought ‘yea let’s do this full-time’. I quit my job and became a brewer at Hallertau in Auckland. I started from the bottom there and learnt everything. Nicki (my wife) and I found this brewery on Trademe about 7 years ago and decided to sell-up everything and leave Auckland. We’d never been out this way before. Now here we are…

Dylan, tell us your journey to becoming a Hop Grower?

Dylan: By luck, I guess (or bad luck, I’m not sure). I started at Kono in November 2011 as a Hop Trainer and worked my way up to Hop Manage’. It’s my 9th season now.

Dylan,  I can understand Hop Manager, but what is a Hop Trainer?

Dylan: It’s literally when you put the angry little hops, that are trying to scratch the hell out of you, on the string, clockwise. They follow the sun and will fall off if it’s any other way.

Simon why did you choose to sell to Kono?

Simon: There were a couple of important deciding factors. The first, was being local. We didn’t want to sell to just any huge corporation. Kono is local to the top of the South Island, and their thinking aligns with ours in terms of looking after what you produce.

The fact that Kono are Hop Growers really resonated with us also. We always thought it’d be great to literally grow the hops and then use them in our brewing.

Dylan, tell me about the Kono Hop Growing operation?

Dylan: We’re a team of four, including me. We grow 8 different varieties of hops; Nelson Sauvin, Riwaka, Moutere, Green Bullet, Pacific Gem, Waimea and Taiheke (Cascade). Of the 34 hectares we grow on, our biggest variety we grow is the Nelson Sauvin. The smallest amount we grow is the Riwaka – it’s hard to grow but it’s worth it.

And how does your year look?

Dylan: At the end of July we put up the new strings up for the season. Planting is in September with hop training beginning around Labour weekend in mid-October. After that it’s about looking after the hops, ensuring they get enough nutrients. Harvest is at the end of February.

Simon, What hops to you use?

Simon: We use a lot of the Riwaka in our Pilsner. Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, Rakau, Taiheke. And a little bit of Southern Cross and Pacific Jade.  We also use American varieties like Citra, Simcoe, Cascade, Amarillo and Mosaic.

Simon how does the location of where a Hop is grown affect the flavour of the beer?

Simon: The location provides completely different flavour profiles. It’s like wine, for instance drinking a New Zealand Syrah as opposed to an Australian Shiraz. They’re just about the same vine, but the different terroir contributes hugely to different flavours. That’s the way I look at it with hops. The concept of terroir is something us as brewers are talking about more and more. Like wines, you can guarantee there’s going to be a huge difference from block to block, and age of plants. But at the moment, we don’t know specifically what farm our hops come from.

Simon and Dylan: So what opportunities do you see now Hop Federation is part of Kono?

Simon: Ultimately, we now have the opportunity to grow and produce hops specifically for Hop Federation beer. With both Hop Grower and Beer Brewer working under the same roof we have so many innovation opportunities. For instance, the picking days for hops can really change the flavours. I don’t know fully what Dillon knows, so working together on that and seeing when the optimum time is for picking could be huge. I’ve heard that with the Rakau Hop, which we use for our IPA, the different flavours you get if it was literally picked a week earlier is huge.

 Dylan: The product we’re making is for the brewer and if you make it better for the brewer, that brewer is going to make better beer for the customer. There are a lot of things in the hop industry that aren’t brewer focused yet. Which is massive and it’s a little bit disappointing that they don’t have a say over things like optimal harvest dates. We can now grow hops that are more focused for the end user.

 Dylan, Is anything like this happening in New Zealand?

Dylan: Yes, there are some co-labs happening. But as far as we’re aware, there are no other businesses in New Zealand that is both Hop Grower and Beer Brewer. That’s huge.

 Simon, what you are most excited about?

Simon: It’s pretty sweet to be hop growers and brewers all in one whānau.

I’m also getting excited to play with new hop varieties. Together producing our own hops, brewing with them and seeing what specific hops can do when they’re grown and picked at certain times. I’ll now have more time to experiment a lot more with brewing styles and techniques.

I’d also love to learn more about the hops we grow and use. That’s what I really like doing.

Dylan: We always need hop trainers….