Originally called “WOW,” New Hop Nectaron Still Impressing Brewers

When it comes to New Zealand hops, technically the US is a decade behind the times. Just released last year a new hop called Nectaron has just begun to hit the shores — and the mouths of consumers — despite a rigorous trial run through the Southern Hemisphere.

Firestone Walker shared an online tasting recently of a new release of its Propagator Series using Nectaron as a single hop in the Hazy Pale Ale. The hop is also showcased in the newest Luponic Distortion IPA series, No. 018.

“There’s just something about these New Zealand hops that’s just distinctively New Zealand and it’s often tropical driven,” said Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “A lot of that comes from the Thiols, which are oils part of the flavor-active compounds in the hops.

“But New Zealand hops are kind of famous for their Thiols profile, which is really, really fine grapefruit, and in this case, this really pineapple/tropical note.”

Brynildson also noted a tad of Citra in the background.

“And as a result, it works really well in both kinds of West Coast IPA and Pale Ales,” he said.

Brent McGlashen, who is a grower for NZ Hops Ltd., said when you bring a new variety into the system, it takes a lot of time before it’s produced more. Note, not mass-produced, just more produced. The hop is still a “treasure nugget,” as Brynildson described Nectaron.

“Not only does it have to prove itself, in the lab, it’s got to prove itself in the ground and it’s going to prove itself coming through the kilns,” McGlashen said. “Can we capture those aromas and flavors? Our breeding program here, it’s been very widely regarded because we try to bring hops with a difference.

“The very first name that we gave Nectaron was ‘WOW’ because each time someone gave it a rub, four or five years ago, we were like Wow! It takes years and years of breeding to get where we are.”

A sister to Waimea, Nectaron just arrived in the States last year and is still working its way into many breweries. As mentioned, it is still a small percentage of production of NZ Hops — which exports more than 80% of its total output.

Brynildson said, of course Firestone is not not the first brewery to fall in love with New Zealand hops.

“There’s a number of other great breweries, the likes of Sierra Nevada that’s been doing Southern Hemisphere IPAs for years now,” he said. “Alpine … has had a beer called Nelson made with Nelson hops for many years. I would never take credit for discovering or pioneering beers with these hops. Most of the time I was the guy kind of chasing other brewers around and asked if I could borrow some hops, because it’s a relatively small growing area.”

The Propagator series starts for FW with 10-hectoliter batches on a pilot system.

“Once we’re happy with the beer, we go to production scale brewing,” he said. This Nectaron beer was a small-batch and made only for single-can runs in the brewery’s summer IPA mix pack.

Using London 3 yeast, Firestone Walker only used two pounds of Nectaron hops per barrel as a dry hop.

“There are brewers out there that are doing five, six … eight pounds [of hops] per barrel,” Brynildson said with a laugh. “We’re certainly not trying to club you over the head with the hop, but just give you an idea of how it can play really well with the London 3 yeast.

“And I found a really fine bitterness … the bitterness is very low. I just feel like it really folds in well with the strain and with this kind of a malt bill.”

Brynildson said he thinks that the attractiveness of Nectaron does have something to do with Thiols and the light-oil profile that finds its way all to the finished beer.

“It doesn’t flash off,” he said. “A lot of aroma and flavors come from that dry-hop addition, but it’s still really easy to lose those volatiles over time and make heavy character beers. I think it’s really obvious in the Luponic Distortion.

Along with pineapple and tropical notes, peachy characteristics come through as well and it’s something Brynildson has come to love from some newer hops.

“A lot of the new-generation American cultivars are starting to bring a little bit of peach to the game, but it is something that’s definitely part of this Nectaron profile,” he said.

Photo courtesy Firestone Walker Brewing

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