Southern Hemisphere Hops: Superlatives Edition
Hops from the Southern Hemisphere have such unique flavors and aromas, they have quickly become some of the most sought-after hops in the world.
The rise in popularity of these hops have been in large part due to the insane increase of IPA drinkers over the last decade or more. West Coast, New England and every IPA style in between are bursting with fruity flavors and aromas, which hops from south of the equator bring in huge amounts.
Many popular beers heavily feature hops from this part of the world, including IPAs from Other Half, TreeHouse, Trillium, Toppling Goliath and more. I once sat at Burgeon in San Diego and had a guy tell me that he makes it a point to seek out every single beer release that uses Nelson Sauvin hops. I can’t say I’d argue with that opinion – they are all delicious.
I decided to make up superlatives for some of the most widely used hops from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I found there are way more hops from these three areas than I originally expected, but they all feature big and unique flavors.
Vic Secret (Australia)
Vic Secret is an Australian hop known for its bright tropical character of pineapple, pine, and passion fruit. Vic Secret was created in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2010 – after years of strong growth – that Vic Secret was included in brewery trials. What they found was that its lighter flavor paired perfectly with almost every other IPA hop. It is currently shooting up the list of most popular IPA hops and has been described to add similar yet lighter flavors as Galaxy hops. This makes it mellow enough to work in just about any beer.
Most Likely to Succeed
Motueka (New Zealand)
Motueka is New Zealand’s second most popular hop variety and was originally named the very uninspiring Saaz B. Despite that marketing mistake, Motueka is becoming a household name for many breweries in the US. The tropical and citrus notes added by the Motueka hop work great in a variety of beers, but is mainly used in IPAs and lagers. While this hop is not a new variety – it was released in 1998 – its use has steadily grown in the US. As a result, it is now the third most used hop from the South Hemisphere.
Most Athletic & Biggest Heartbreaker
Just a decade ago, a pound of hops would sell for $3. Fast forward to today, and Galaxy is one of the most expensive IPA hops on the market at around $20 or $30 per pound, matched only by Nelson Sauvin. This heartbreaking price is a tough pill to swallow for breweries that want Galaxy on its team. Galaxy adds an insane burst of flavor and aroma that is second to none. It blasts full citrus and tropical fruit goodness into any beer using it.
Most Likely to Always Have the Same Friends
Wai-iti (New Zealand)
Wai-iti has seen increased usage since its release in 2011. Despite being around for almost a full decade, it most frequently pairs with all Southern Hemisphere hops. The high citrus and stone fruit notes that come from Wai-iti pair expertly with Motueka, Rakau, Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy. No one in their right mind will complain about these hop pairings, but it does speak to something about this hop that just does better with hops from the same region.
While this particular superlative is based on its recent name change, this hop is the perfect all around hop. To accentuate its high alpha acid percentage, it also has high marks with just about every flavor point on our radar chart. It also tops out with an enormous 3.4 mL/100g of hop oil, comparable only to Galaxy. This is not too surprising once you learn that it is the little sister of Galaxy, making it a good substitute.
Trillium’s Pittsburgh Street uses Enigma hops in the dry hop and it tastes really similar to New England IPAs brewed with a combination of Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra. That alone should push this hop to the top of any brewer’s must-have list. This strange hop is has a unique flavor that you simply can’t forget.
Nelson Sauvin (New Zealand)
Nelson Sauvin is by far the most popular and widely used variety of all New Zealand hops. Nelson Sauvin is named for the town of Nelson, which is the epicenter of New Zealand’s hop growing region and the sauvignon blanc grape, the primary white wine flavor the hop is known for. If you ever have a beer with Nelson hops in them, you will know it. It is one of the most distinct flavors added by hops, and is really only comparable to the German Hallertau Blanc.
The Next Big Thing
Nectaron (New Zealand)
With the 20-year plant variety rights (PVR) on the popular Nelson Sauvin expiring later this year, having a new and exclusive hop variety come on tap is gold for New Zealand hop farmers. Nectaron, which was just released in mid 2020, displays high levels of tropical fruit characteristics of pineapple and passion fruit as well as peach and grapefruit. The Nectaron name plays to “Nectar of the Gods”, which is what NZ hopes this hop lives up to. They need a replacement to Nelson Sauvin, and Nectaron might be the ticket.
African Queen (South Africa)
South African hops expansion hit a bit of a snag in 2017 when AB InBev hoarded all South African hops for themselves after a down year in production. All US breweries were forced to adjust or cancel their plans with the hops and shift away to others that didn’t have the same shortages at the height of the craft beer boom. This caused many hops from South Africa to be under-utilized since then and probably more than one brewery to be a bit gun shy at planning the future use of them. This is unfortunate as many hops from SA – most notably African Queen are truly great hops.
Other hops from this part of the world, that don’t really have either enough use, unique qualities or staying power to warrant any extra attention.
I’ve had beers that featured a handful of these, including Stick City’s Riwaka, Stick City’s Flat Rock Austral Summer that used Nelson, Mouteka, Pacifica and Pacific Jade hops, and Eleventh Hour’s Danger: Moving Parts that feature Moutere and Motueka. All have been extremely solid, and I will be looking to find beers that use the others in the future.
Green Bullet, Feux-Coeur Francais, Pacific Gem, Pacifica, Pacific Sunrise, Southern Cross, Rakau, Taiheke, Stricklebract, Kohatu, Dr. Rudi, Moutere, Riwaka, Waimea, Wakatu, Pacific Jade
Summer, Helga, Pride of Ringwood, Super Pride, Sylva, Topaz
Southern Star, Southern Dawn, Southern Brewer, Southern Promise, Southern Passion, XJA2/436