New Zealand Fresh Hops Not So Fresh

Austin Ray

THE GIST
Derailed by a packaging snafu, New Zealand Hops, a Nelson-based grower cooperative, has issued a recall of its fresh hop shipments sent out this week. Beer Town New Zealand reports that the hops began to rot en route to brewers when the cardboard cartons they were being held in proved inhospitable. Typically, the company packages hops in plastic crates, but called an audible when they weren’t available.

Fresh hop program head George Tunstall told BTNZ: “They are cold-shipped, but once you pack warm goods into a carton it’s hard for the cold air to get across them with enough breathing space. It seemed to be exacerbated by being packed together on the pallet and the accumulated heat towards the [center] of the pallet caused some problems.”

As a result, brewers expecting fresh hops were instead met with discolored and odorous rotting flowers.

WHY IT MATTERS
It’s not entirely clear how many pounds the company has recalled, but BTNZ writes that it plans to distribute about six tons of fresh hops this season (the term “fresh hops” typically refers to hops that have not been dried or processed and are meant to be brewed with immediately). Tunstall, meanwhile, says he personally collected approximately 660 pounds.

“The hops were perfect and it’s just a shame that the heat yield caused some damage,” he told the site. “It wasn’t all of the hops but we didn’t like the fact some were tarnished so, rather than disappoint anybody in Auckland with the longer delivery time, we recalled them.”

The affected shipments, which BTNZ reports “were warmer than 40C [104 degrees Fahrenheit] when received,” were comprised of Motueka and Taiheke hops.

This is obviously a bummer of a story for New Zealand’s brewers and beer lovers. But it’s relevant to the global beer industry, too, as New Zealand hop varieties have become something of a go-to for brewers looking to inject their beers with unique flavors that can’t be found anywhere else. Indeed, in 2015, the New Zealand news site Stuff reported that about 85% of all New Zealand hops are exported to international markets.

It’s unclear what type of affect—if any—a recall of this nature has had, or could have, on international business. But something like this could conceivably derail a project like Sierra Nevada’s Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale, for which the company travels to New Zealand to harvest fresh hops to be brought back and brewed with Stateside.

Either way, the company says it has taken increased orders for its next delivery, which it promises will be given time to cool before being packed.

“Most customers were really good about it,” Tunstall added. “We’ve learnt our lesson there and we won’t be repeating it.”

—Dave Eisenberg

READ MORE
Fresh hops recalled and replaced [Beer Town New Zealand]