Get unparalleled insight into a brewer’s perspective of the Southern Hemisphere hop harvest. Evan Price of Green Cheek Beer Co. interviews Peter Gillespie of Garage Project in New Zealand and the two chat about hop varieties and usage, climate and innovation. 

The Conversation

Peter Gillespie: We’ve been around the hop industry quite closely in New Zealand for a while, and there are these two schools of thought. There’s obviously what brewers love, which is selection. “I want to select, I want to come to the table, and I want you to put all of your lots on it, and I want to try all of them. And I want to pick the ones that I like.”

And there’s the opposite mindset, which is, if we are going to have a hop with a unified kind of character, we need to amass all of them. And we homogenize it, and we create a single flavor.

Obviously, I see the validity of that second idea. But the problem is when people start growing hops and not really giving a shit, or growing hops in the wrong place, but not really wanting to, like fess up to that, you just tip the character of a hop completely over the cliff.

What does a selection do? Well, it tells farmers very clearly what people like and what they don’t like. And if no one’s picking your hops, maybe you should have a think about what you’re doing.

Evan Price: I’m with you. I think the I think the hops selection is pushing this hop growing industry forward in such a neat way, and the more that you’re able to continue this dialogue between brewer and grower, I think we’re all winning. And the same goes for customer to brewer as well.

If you can find those customers that you can take feedback from, you appreciate, or you respect [that is incredibly valuable].

A lot of times people show you what they like with their dollars. I can tell you right now, our customer base, if we put Citra on a can it will sell immediately. I know our customers love Citra.

It’s interesting because there are so many other cool [hops] that exist out there and sometimes there is a bit of hesitancy there. They don’t know Riwaka. They ask “What is Nelson?”

In regards to the hop growing aspect of things, it’s important to get a conversation going so that the hop grower is doing the thing that you want them to do.  They need to pay closer attention to that.

Peter Gillespie: As a world of brewers – you’re in a different country, different hemisphere –  when we go to the ingredient cabinet, we’ve got the same ingredients, pretty much.

There is some variation, but it’s interesting. How do you get that point of difference, other than obviously, being very clever, and making delicious recipes, but it also comes to the selection.

Obviously, its is another method whereby we as brewers can see the appeal. We can try and find that variety, that lot, that gives maybe a little bit of an advantage in an industry where there’s a lot of things that seem to be moving towards homogeneity.

Everyone’s [beers] looks relatively similar. There’s no shortage of forums on the internet, telling everyone how to make delicious beers. You know, coming across a really sharp beer is getting harder.

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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.