Wednesday April 15 2015 01:09 p.m.
Sprig and Fern’s fresh hop Harvest Pilsner has won five medals in five years at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand awards and the Sprig and Fern owner and head brewer, Tracy banner, is quietly confident the 2015 brew will continue that winning streak.
This is the fourth year that Banner and her team have collected fresh hops from Kentishman Hop Farm in Upper Moutere and rushed them to the brewery before their high levels of moisture can cause any spoiling.
“We treat the hop harvest like a wine vintage with the hops picked when they are at their peak for flavour and aroma,” Banner says. “Timing is critical and despite the wet weather giving me a sleepless night before picking this year, the condition of the hops was great and we got them to the brewery by lunchtime.”
This year’s Sprig and Fern Harvest Pilsner uses two varieties of hops, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin. Banner says beer brewed using fresh hops has a distinct flavour and aroma.
“Using the flower or ‘cone’ of the hop plant adds another dimension to the beer,” she says. “When we put them into the brew the smell permeates the whole building - our neighbours must wonder what’s going on.”
Banner says there’s always a bit of the unknown with a fresh hop brew and without the benefit of any analysis she has to get it right first time.
“We have to work quite blind, so it comes down to my sensory ability and my experience,” she says. “I can smell an award winning beer - you still need to taste a beer on your palate, but the smell is a huge part of it because if you can’t smell, you can’t taste.”
The 2015 Harvest Pilsner fresh hop brew will be launched in the Sprig and Fern Taverns on the 24th of April. This year for the first time a limited amount will also be available in 1.3 litre riggers at selected supermarkets and liquor stores.
“Our triple gold medal winning Harvest Pilsner is quite legendary in the Taverns and by releasing it in riggers a lot more people will be able to try it,” Banner says.