I just spent the last few months tracking down hops for our Caravelle Galactic Pale Ale. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. It kinda reminded me of the good old party days when you were all psyched up to go out and wanted to score something fun and zesty.
You remember right? Trekking all over town chasing your “guy,” then waiting at a friend’s place for him to turn up, then waiting some more, drinking some Bacardi Breezers, waiting, calling, waiting, calling. When he didn’t show, you’d go home sad and queasy from all that shitty Bacardi and sugar sloshing around your belly. Well that’s kinda what buying hops is like.
Unless you’re just after some basic bittering, bulk hops are hard to come by. If you want to secure a steady supply, you have to sign a contract with a hop merchant. This means committing to a minimum order of around 50 kilos (your average 20 litre home brew recipe uses about 100g). You then have to order 6 months in advance for the following hop harvest, and hope you get allotted your requested hops. For our beers we use all the rock star aroma hops like Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Citra, Wai iti and Amarillo to name a few. These are the ones with flavour profiles of passionfruit, peach, gooseberries, and tangerines. They are in high demand, so we have to cross our fingers and hope that a few scraps get thrown our way after the big brewers have feasted. I heard a rumour that those jammy bastards over at Brew Dog contract about half of all New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin crop every year. And unless you blow somebody really important, don’t even think about getting your hands on Riwaka. It’s tough for the little guy out there.
For our first batch of Galactic, I trekked out to Nowra on the south coast of NSW, Australia, to score 5 kilos of Galaxy and Ella which I vacuum sealed and then taped the package to the stomach of my 18 month old daughter. I then vacuum sealed her and taped her to my belly, and wore a big mohair jumper for our 24 hour flight back to Spain. When we arrived back in Barcelona, I managed to waddle past customs with our booty. I was sweaty, although not as sweaty as the kid. But it was worth it. The result is that lovely fragrant aroma you taste whilst drinking our Galactic Pale Ale.