New Zealand opens up a whole new world of hop flavor.
Recently, HAAS® entered into an exciting new supply agreement with Clayton Hops™ to bring four varieties of New Zealand hops to brewers around the world. We recently sat down with HAAS’ own Pete Mahony to learn a bit more about this exciting new addition to our portfolio.
Pete for those who may not know you, what’s your role at HAAS?
Pete Mahony: I’m the Vice President of Supply Chain and Purchasing, and I’ve been at HAAS for about 35 years. I oversee all of our purchasing activities which are predominantly U.S. hops, but also the foreign hops we purchase and bring into Yakima.
Here in the U.S., there’s been a steadily growing interest in hops from the Southern Hemisphere. What’s driving it?
Pete: We’ve had a long relationship with the farms in Australia through Hops Products Australia (HPA) and, when it comes to Southern Hemisphere hops, that was really our focus. New Zealand has grown hops for a long time. I recently read that they’ve grown hops there for 150 years—so it’s not anything new. But they’ve been relatively small both in the size of the growers who are there, and they’ve focused on smaller, niche varieties of hops. A lot of those varieties didn’t gain any significant traction until craft came along.
As we all know, craft is all about looking for the latest flavor, finding something different. That’s really why we’ve had such great success with our breeding program here in Yakima with HBC (the Hops Breeding Company) and in Australia as well. I think the craft bull market really helped put New Zealand on the map.
How did the partnership with Clayton Hops™ come about, and why is it significant?
Pete: For years, the channels for New Zealand hops into the US market were pretty limited. Most of the growers belonged to a co-op and they sold directly to smaller distributors and brewers in the States. About three years ago, there were some changes within the organization and some of the growers were able to sell outside the co-op. So that was a bit of a game-changer for us.
One of these growers, Brian Clayton, who co-owns Clayton Hops™, reached out to me and we struck up a relationship. Unfortunately, COVID came around and I haven’t been able to get down there yet to meet them personally.
Well, if you need someone to check them out, I’m sure there are a lot of people who’d love to visit New Zealand.
Pete: Yeah, so would I! All the hops are grown in the Tasman region, which is the northern part of the south island of New Zealand, around the town Nelson. Clayton Hops™ is, I think, the largest hop grower in New Zealand, and they have four farms down there. I think they’re around 1,200 acres—which is a decent-sized hop farm, on par with what we see here in the Pacific Northwest. They’re planting up more and plan to expand their operations and wanted to align with some of the larger hop merchants like HAAS.
What types of hops are they selling?
Pete: Most are proprietary. We’re buying four different varieties: Nelson Sauvin™, Motueka™, Pacifica™, and Rakau™ hops. At first, it wasn’t a huge purchase; we originally got some of the 2020 crop in and actually shipped pellets over, which was an economical way to do it at the time. But this year, we couldn’t get them pelletized in time but—that actually worked out well.
Why is that?
Pete: Since Clayton Hops™ was not able to pelletize as quickly as we wanted after harvest, we decided to ship bales over to Yakima and process them here. Shipping bulky bales was certainly more costly than pellets, but we could get the bales into Yakima much earlier than pellets made in New Zealand. We thought we could catch the tail end of our pelleting season in late spring—then COVID threw a kink into our plan. Nonetheless, the bales were here in time to be processed at the start of our crop 2021 pelleting season, and the bales held up quite nicely.
That’s something new for us—we don’t normally pelletize Australian or New Zealand hops, so it took some time to figure out how to get the pelletizing equipment to run counter-clockwise like it does in the Southern Hemisphere…(laughing)…but once we got that figured out, we knew that we could then process the hops in a way that assured it would meet our quality standards. We’re pleased to know customers are getting a top-quality pellet, and I don’t think anyone here in the States is doing that, pelletizing New Zealand hops.
I’m sure folks will love to get their hands on some of these incredible New Zealand hops.
Pete: Yeah, we’re really excited to have such a great partnership with Brian and his brothers at Clayton Hops™. It’s a great addition and something really different for brewers. And it is exciting to have a new, fresh crop being harvested and delivered to us during our off-season in the Pacific Northwest. We always look forward to receiving a new crop as each crop always seems to bring new and exciting flavors.
Be sure to check out our complete line-up of New Zealand hops for crop year 2021. Contact your HAAS sales representative, or check out our Distributor Page to learn how to get your hands on some. And let us know what you brew.