Modern Times head brewer Matt Walsh collaborated with New Zealand brewery Garage Project on Guy Fawkes Day 2015 to brew Whizz Bang Hop Rocket IPA, featuring Riwaka hops and gunpowder tea.
New Zealand brewery Garage Project began distributing to San Diego for the first time last month, offering local beer fans a new glimpse of the emerging Kiwi craft brewing scene. This may be welcome news to fans of the distinctive flavors found in New Zealand-grown hops, which have grown in popularity on this side of the Pacific despite limited access.
"Given the short supply of the New Zealand hops, it's potentially harder for the American brewers to really work on combinations of pure Kiwi hops in their beers," says Garage Project cofounder Jos Ruffell. By contrast, Garage Project's newly available Pernicious Weed pale ale exclusively uses Kiwi hop varieties Rakau and Nelson Sauvin.
Ruffell adds that while U.S. brewers principally use New Zealand hops in hoppy ales, "You see a strong focus on New Zealand hopped pilsners down here. It would be nice for people to experience the flavors that you can get from New Zealand hops in beers other than big juicy IPAs." Case in point would be Garage Project's Hops on Pointe, a lager brewed with Nelson.
If the Garage Project name sparks any local recognition it may be due to the recently release Tsuyu Saison collaboration between Garage Project, Stone Brewing, and Japanese brewery Coedo. That beer — made with New Zealand Motueka hops — is currently making the rounds in San Diego, whereas another Garage Project collaboration didn't officially make it over here.
Whizz Bang Hop Rocket IPA was made when Modern Times head brewer Matt Walsh visited New Zealand last year. Walsh is no stranger to Kiwi hops. "I was one of the first people, at least in San Diego, to use them," he says. That was back in 2004, while he was brewing at Karl Strauss. Twelve years later, the veteran brewer uses Nelson in Modern Times' year-round release Blazing World, and Motueka in the seasonal Booming Rollers.
Whizz Bang used Kiwi-bred Riwaka. "It was a nice novelty to be able to use [Riwaka] again," he says, "because it had been a few years since we've been able to get it in the U.S." That particular hop is in limited supply even for New Zealand brewers, but the next year could see a strain in the market for many of the aforementioned varietals as well. "This year was a really bad year for harvest because there was a late rain," Walsh says, "There was some flooding, so yields are down."
Modern Times has long term contracts for its New Zealand hops, so Walsh doesn't anticipate any big problem. But American brewers in general may find Nelson in short supply, which could make the rising availability of New Zealand brewed beer worth the high price of the imports.
Meanwhile, Walsh made a return visit this spring to collaborate with two other New Zealand breweries. He made a grisette with 8 Wired Brewing and a red rye beer with Beer Baroness. Walsh expects these two will make it across the Pacific, and should show up on tap at select local bars within the next couple months.