New Zealand Hops Ltd is celebrating a successful first appearance at the biggest craft beer gathering in North America.

NZ Hops took a stand at the annual Craft Brewers Conference, held this year in Denver, with the focus on their still-new Nectaron release for which there seems to be an insatiable appetite.

NZ Hops’ North American Business Development Manager Meagen Anderson said the response was overwhelmingly positive – particularly for the beer they were showcasing: a Nectaron-hopped Hazy IPA made by Whole Foods Brewing.

Whole Foods, recently taken over Amazon, owns a chain of natural food stores, and earlier this year they started brewing their own-brand beer from a brewery inside their flagship Houston store.

The beer, Wholistic IPA, was brewed by Chris Shelton of Whole Foods and he spent time at the NZ Hops stand encouraging people to try it.

“Chris came to our booth because he was so proud of this hop, and how it expressed itself in this beer,” Anderson said.

The popularity of the beer and other Nectaron merchandise turned the stand into a destination, with Anderson saying it caught the attention of conference organiser, The Brewers Association.

“It was the lowest attendance at the conference for a few years but we were so busy. I was on my 15 hours a day for three days in a row. The Brewers Association said we were so busy we had to upgrade to a bigger booth next year because we were clogging aisles.”

One visitor to the stand was veteran writer Stan Hieronymus (Brew Like A Monk, For the Love of Hops) and the discussion was around synergistic hops and new research into how hops interact each other and with yeast during dry-hopping – a process known as biotransformation – that helps create new flavour profiles.

A lot of new research is discovering what some brewers already know by instinct – that some hops work well together when it comes to creating a flavour profile greater than the sum of their parts. For instance a hop high in sulphur compound 4MMP, such as Nelson Sauvin, will enhance the perception of the apricot ester (2MIB) in Southern Cross. Plus there’s increasing evidence that dry-hopping during active fermentation, rather than afterwards, will also bring out different flavours.

“I spent an hour talking with Stan Hieronymus and he was adamant that we should take premium hops from New Zealand and intersect them with American varieties … there’s a lot of work going on around these synergies and we’re starting to understand more about interactions between hops, and between hops and yeast.”

The beauty of Nectaron is its high level of favourable sulphur compounds (as opposed to unfavourable ones that deliver aromas of cook cabbage). The favourable compounds, known as hop-derived polyfunctional thiols, express sought-after tropical flavours such as passionfruit and pineapple, particularly when used in dry-hopping. The beauty of these sulfur compounds is that while they make up around only 1 per cent of oils in hops, they are quite intense and have a low flavour threshold meaning they can have a significant impact on flavour when used in dry-hopping.

Anderson this increased knowledge around biotransformation plays to a movement in the US around creating naturally-derived flavours from hops rather than, for instance, adding a fruit puree to beer.

“There is Increased interest in figuring out flavour profiles and to work with existing hops, brewers want 100 per cent hop-derived flavours, they don’t want to use anything artificial.

“I encourage brewers to play and have fun and unlock those tropical and pineapple notes.”