Rock Star Hops from a Pacific Paradise

It seems inconceivable that Nectaron®, the latest hop sensation from New Zealand, spent years as a wallflower, hidden from the spotlight because it wasn’t high enough in alpha acids. Those days are gone.

NZ Hops (Sponsored) Jun 1, 2023 - 7 min read

Rock Star Hops from a Pacific Paradise Primary Image

NZ Hops Nectaron®

“The golden fleece, the unobtainable one … a hop with good oils, good all-round chemistry and which suited growers and brewers alike—and that would be Nectaron.”
—Dr. Ron Beatson, the top New Zealand hop geneticist who bred Nectaron®

NZ Hops released Nectaron® in 2020, an incredible 16 years after it was first bred by New Zealand’s leading hop geneticist, Dr. Ron Beatson. New Zealand Plant & Food Research developed this fruit-bomb hop at the same time as its sister, Waimea, a huge alpha hop (16–19% alpha acids) released in 2012. Nectaron®—or Hort 4337, as it was known—was ready at the same time. But the industry was not yet ready for Nectaron®.

“Wind the clock back a few years,” Beatson says, “and Waimea got the jump on Nectaron® into commercial production because it was higher in alpha acid, which is what the industry wanted back then.”

“But we knew that Nectaron® was pretty special from other aspects—it was very good agronomically and all these other attributes. It was a hop ahead of its time.”

Embedded content:

Nectaron® takes part of its name as a tribute to Beatson.

A gigantic cone, physically—it can fill the entire palm of your hand—it is also a giant when it comes to flavour and aroma.

Nectaron®’s performance, especially as a dry hop, reflects the chemical composition: high in total oils (1.5–2ml per 100g), low in cohumulone (26–28%), high humulene-to-caryophyllene ratio (3.6), and—ironically—still relatively high alpha acids (11–13%) for an aroma hop.

Beatson says there was once a saying within NZ Hops Ltd that they were looking for “the golden fleece, the unobtainable one … a hop with good oils, good all-round chemistry and which suited growers and brewers alike—and that would be Nectaron®.”

Sam Richardson, founder-brewer at Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, New York, concurs. He says he believes Nectaron® is New Zealand’s answer to Citra.

Richardson uses Nectaron® as a single hop in a hazy double IPA called All Nectaron Everything. He says that while it can be incredibly expressive on its own, it also works brilliantly with other varieties.

“Our goal as a brewery that does a lot of IPAs is to find a hop that can do what Citra does,” Richardson says. “Citra makes incredible beers that are all-Citra and plays well with others. And I would say within the new breed of New Zealand hops, Nectaron® is the closest to that.”

Richardson visited New Zealand in March for the annual hop selection. There, he found what a lot of New Zealand brewers already know: that what you get from Nectaron® in the field is reflected in the beer.

“We were one of first breweries to do selection with this hop,” Richardson says. “And from when I did the rub and brought back my memories of previous beers I had made with Nectaron®, it is very true.

“The flavors are just as they are described: sweet pineapple, peach … and one thing I get is little more onion-garlic than a lot of New Zealand hops—and, again, it’s a little more like Citra in that regard.

“It definitely has a lot of bang for the buck in terms of flavor. It shines a little better in double IPAs than singles, and it is amazing with Citra. They are very complementary but different at the same time.

“It also goes well with Motueka, and I feel it will go well with Mosaic. I feel really positively about it, and we plan to expand our uses of it.”

NZ Hops Nelson Sauvin

“From bittering, to mouthfeel, to flavour, to aroma, it’s just a beautiful hop” —Justin Burdt, Ghost Town Brewing

Before Nectaron® belatedly burst on the scene, the New Zealand hop everyone wanted to get their hands on was Nelson Sauvin. However, as Justin Burdt, head brewer at Oakland’s Ghost Town, says: It was not always easy to get good-quality Nelson Sauvin.

“The first time I smelled Nelson Sauvin in 2014, my mind was blown by the big, fresh white grape-juice aroma and underlying notes of sulfur,” Burdt says. “It is such a beautiful, unique hop, and nothing comes close to it.”

When he joined Ghost Town in 2016, he started using Nelson Sauvin in a single-hop IPA. But there was a period when he found it hard to get his hands on a reliable quantity and quality.

So, he is delighted that NZ Hops now has a relationship with Yakima Chief Hops. Now, he can secure his supply through that channel as well as getting the batches he wants via hop selection.

“There is just no substitute for Nelson,” Burdt says. “If I were to try to replicate Nelson … you cannot replicate that fresh grape-juice flavour with any other hop.”

Embedded content:

In his Hymn To Nelson IPA, he uses Nelson Sauvin from “start to end,” including a first-wort hop addition and plenty in the whirlpool before a big dry hop.

“Apart from the aroma, it has these incredible flavor compounds in there,” Burdt says. “We are able to dry out the beers [to] super-dry, and if we use a lot of Nelson in the whirlpool it creates this beautiful perceived body from all the flavor. It gives you this big flavor explosion in your mouth that you do not often get with other hops, despite [how] they might smell.

“From bittering, to mouthfeel, to flavor, to aroma, it’s just a beautiful hop.”

NZ Hops, words by Michael Donaldson