Nick Carr on June 24, 2016 1 Comment History of Nelson Sauvin Hops Nelson Sauvin is a relatively new variety to come on the craft beer scene. It is a hop not to be taken lightly. Brash intensity and over-the-top youthful fruity flavors has garnered it a designation of “extreme” in some circles. But, of course, craft brewer’s love extremes, so it’s quickly made its place and name in the world. This variety comes from the Nelson region of New Zealand. The area saw its first European settlers in the mid 1800s and with them came hop varieties from the old country. The climate turned out to be nothing short of ideal and the Nelson region quickly became New Zealand’s hop growing capital. In the 1920’s, a hop variety from California named “Late Cluster,” but nicknamed simply “Cali,” was introduced into the region. Late Cluster proved a good addition and even outperformed its European cousins. But, by the 1940’s the new variety had succumbed to widespread and severe infections of Phytophthora, literally “plant destroyer,” which caused the disease black root rot, forming lesions on the root and causing black/yellow leaves and wilting stems. Click Here to Buy Nelson Sauvin Hops In an attempt to deal with this outbreak, a hop breeding program was started with the specific goal of developing a variety both high-yielding and resistant to black root rot. To this end, Late Cluster was crossed with noble hop varieties that were resistant to Phytophthora. By 1951, there was a growing call from many brewers for the development of seedless hops, so the researchers dutifully complied by adding this as a secondary goal. The early 1960s brought success on the first front. Three new varieties, resistant to Phytophthora, were developed; Calicross, Smoothcone, and First Choice. The second goal proved a little more elusive, but did ultimately result in the first triploid hop plants. In 1986, the first seedless hops became commercially available. What does all this have to do with our main character? Well, Nelson Sauvin hops were one of these triploid varieties and its pedigree includes the Phytophthora-resistant Smoothcone. It was the end result of a 15 year breeding program started in 1985 at New Zealand’s Plant and Food Research Institute (HFRI), which bred a tetraploid female “Smoothcone” with a selected New Zealand male. The breeding program went through several test plots, selections, and comparisons, all culminating in a semi-commercial trial evaluation of 225 Nelson Sauvin (code named 85-03-06 during the research) plants. The goal was 100 kg of cones for pilot testing. At least some of this pilot brewing and sensory evaluation was done by Lion Nathan, which was also the first brewery to use the hope commercially. You’ve probably guessed where part of this hop’s name comes from already, the Nelson region where it originated, but the other part stems from its flavor profile. One of the things that makes this hop so distinct is a white wine fruitiness, often compared to the local Sauvignon Blanc wine, and the origin of “Sauvin” in its name. Other descriptors often used include crushed gooseberries, passion fruit, whispers of melon, and some grapefruit. Interestingly, research has shown that unique flavors, such as those found in this variety, don’t come from the usual set of flavor compounds in hop oil, such as esters, aldehydes, and terpenoids, such as myrcene and humulene. Instead these flavors come from less studied components in the oil. In the case of Nelson Sauvin, research found two new volatile thiols to be responsible for the wine-like flavors imparted by this hop; 3-sulfanyl-4-methypentan-1-o1 (3S4MP) and 3-sulfanyl-4-methylpentyl acetate (3S4MPA) were responsible for the grapefruity rhubarb odor that is quite like Sauvignon Blanc wine. The 3S4MP not only contribute its own flavors, but may act as a flavor enhancer, sharpening the characteristics of other flavor components. The study also found isobutyric esters such as 2-methylbutyl isobutyrate (2MIB), were contributing to a green apple and/or apricot-like flavor. Nelson Sauvin’s influence as a jack-of-all-trades, easily finding a place in the flamboyant and over-the-top world of hoppy ales, but also working judiciously to bring new whispered flavors to lagers, continues to increase across the world. In 2015, Nelson Sauvin was the top hop with 165,750 Kg harvested; it was also the third highest harvest in the organic category with 4,290 kg collected. How to Brew Beer With Nelson Sauvin Hops Like Amarillo, this is another proprietary variety, so rhizomes are not available for you to buy and grow on your own. However, don’t despair there are plenty of other hop varieties out there and available for the hobby gardener. Acid Composition Breakdown Alpha Acid: 12 – 13% Beta Acid: 6 – 8% Co-Humulone: 23 – 25% Oil Composition Breakdown Total Oils: 1.1 mL (per 100 grams) Myrcene Oil: 22 – 23% (of total) Humulene Oil: 36% (of total) Caryophyllene Oil: 10.7% (of total) Franesene Oil: <1.0% (of total) Linalool Oil: 0.4 – 0.9% (of total) Geraniol Oil: 0% (of total) When choosing a hop variety to grow yourself, it is best to talk to other local growers or your local homebrew shop to get some info on which varieties grow well in your area. General Characteristics: Growth Rate — Reddish-purple shoot; vigorous spring growth. Yield — Moderate Cones — Small and compact with an ovate shape. Maturity — Mid to Late Season; has a distinctive dark red vine when fully grown. Susceptible/Resistant to — There are no hop diseases in New Zealand. Ease of Harvest — Moderate to Good Storage — Good Availability — Nelson Sauvin is a propitiatory hop so rhizomes are not available for home growing. Sensory Description: Nelson Sauvin is described as fruity; showing possible notes of lychee, mango, apricot, with a unique white wine character of crushed gooseberry/green grape. May be mildly peppery. A nice complementary hop when used with other fruity varieties, such as Cascade or Citra. Use: Very versatile dual-purpose hop. Can Substitute With/For These Hops: This is a unique variety and, to my knowledge, there isn’t another hop coming close enough to its characteristic profile to be a worthy substitute. If you know of one, please leave me a comment down below. Common Beer Styles Using Nelson Sauvin Hops: If you’re looking to experiment with brewing Nelson Sauvin hops, you may want to try brewing one of the following styles. American IPAs Specialty IPAs Pale Ales Specialty Lagers Commercial Examples: Below is a list of beers that showcase Nelson Sauvin hops. To get a better idea of the overall flavor and aroma characteristics you can expect from this specific hop variety, I would recommend sampling as many of these as you can find. Hop Rocker from Mac’s Brewing Company: owned by Lion Nathan — Uses Nelson Sauvin and Cascade. Nelson from Alpine Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin throughout the brewing process, including dry hopping. Merica from Prairie Artisan Ales — Uses Nelson Sauvin only. Zeelander from Topling Goliath Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin only. Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale from Beaver Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin only. Blazing World from Modern Times Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin, Simcoe, Mosaic. Femme Fatale Blanc from Evil Twin Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin only. Mt. Nelson from Cellarmaker Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin only. The Pupil from Societe Brewing Company — Uses Centennial, Citra, and Nelson Sauvin. Original Lager from Moa Brewing Company — Uses only Nelson Sauvin. Saison Sauvin from 8 Wired Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin and a little Motueka. Griffin’s Bow from Samuel Adams Brewing Company — Uses Nelson Sauvin and Zeus.