Hodgson discovers a lively boutique brewery in the village of Riwaka, on the Great Taste Trail Coastal Route.
I have been known to enjoy a beer or two in my time and craft beers have become firm favourites, you will always find a few in our fridge and I will almost guarantee a bottle or two from Hop Federation Brewery will be among those waiting for me to enjoy on a hot summer’s day.
Craft beer production in Nelson is booming and the owners of Hop Federation, Simon and Nicki Nicholas, tell me they are working hard to make the most of the opportunities offered by that wave of popularity.
“Our biggest issue has been keeping up with demand, so we are constantly looking at how we can increase production while maintaining quality, it is all about the quality after all” says Simon.
Simon is chief brewer, with a wealth of experience gained as head brewer at Hallertau in Auckland after a long background in the liquor industry, mostly with Glengarry Wines. As you’d expect in a brewer, he has a great sense of smell, finely tuned taste buds and a passion for experimenting, all of which he combines with a commitment to consistency and an appreciation of the traditions of craft brewing.
“We have put a huge effort into making sure we have a great business as well as making tasty beers people want to buy again, not just once.”
Something else the couple have had challenges with is expanding production in limited space while making sure the quality is always to the forefront, “we have had some beers made under contract because we currently can’t produce enough.”
The small brewery on the main road at Riwaka is the spiritual home of Hop Federation beer and the location means they have a very high exposure to passing traffic for sales, but they are limited for space; “we need to expand but we won’t leave this site; we’ll keep producing small batches of seasonal beers here with brewing and bottling at another local site but all controlled and run by us.”
However, the couple say Nelson/Tasman is their biggest and fastest growing region for sales and is the area they want to really concentrate on, “this region has been exploding in popularity for us, and we love working directly with the bars and restaurants and tourism businesses. “
Simon says they love having visitors to the brewery and tasting room and the guys love talking about beer so want people to drop in and see them because they learn from us as well.
But at the end of the day it is all about the beer, flavours people love and quality you and I can rely on when we pop a bottle in the shopping trolley or order it in a local bar or café; I think Hop Federation Brewery are doing everything right.
Thanks to Neil Hodgson for permission to use this article, first published 31/1/18