Amongst all the exhilarating uncertainty of what will hit and what will miss during fresh hop season, there’s a few long-standing releases that act as lighthouses in the storm. They’re usually simpler beers that don’t try anything too crazy, and year after year they capture the fresh hop magic without fail. Perhaps foremost among them is Sprig + Fern’s Harvest Pilsner, a simple mid-strength pils that seems to effortlessly display the life and vibrancy of fresh hop character every time it’s brewed.
Though it might seem effortless, there’s actually plenty that goes into this one. Even with their close proximity to the growing regions, there’s still minute logistics involved, as master brewer Tracy Banner describes.
“The Moutere and Motueka hop farms we also selected from this year are only 15 to 30 minutes away. I joke that in previous years we have been able to get the hops back to the brewery in quicker time but the speed limits in recent years have been reduced from 100 to 80 on most roads to the hop farms so it takes me a few minutes longer. The advantage of being so close to the farms is that we are in constant contact with the hop growers and we often can talk late at night and make a call, as we have often done, at 9 or 10 pm, whether we are harvesting the following morning.“
The hops selected this year were Motueka (one of my favourites) and Riwaka, which provide superbly bright aromas of cut grass, tropical fruit and lime that dance over a dry and crunchy malt character. The palate is rapid, while exceptionally taut and focused. Fresh herbaceous green hop character draws swiftly into clean malt and a firm, deeply aromatic bitterness follows.
This is pilsner at its simplest, and (maybe consequently) also at its best. The only fault is that you’ve got just this one fleeting part of the year to enjoy it.