Get To Know Your Hops: Nelson Sauvin

Grab your passport — our latest hops lesson plan takes us to New Zealand, a land turned upside down. In that island nation adrift in the southwest Pacific Ocean, fall is spring, pests are few and far between, and, most crucially, there are no known hop diseases. This fortuitous quirk in the ecosystem — made possible by the country's remote location and the relatively late arrival of meddlesome mankind — has allowed New Zealand to grow some of the world's most unique hops.

While I could sing the many praises of hop varieties such as Motueka, Riwaka and the sparkling Pacific Jade, today's featured hop is the curiously delicious Nelson Sauvin. The name tells the plant's tale: Nelson refers to a region in central New Zealand, while Sauvin is shorthand for the grape variety Sauvignon Blanc. Much like that wine, the Nelson Sauvin hop presents a fruity, tropical profile, with detours to lychee and mango. Sip an IPA dosed with the Kiwi hop, and, like a lightbulb flickering in the dark, you'll faintly make the connection: "Man, this tastes just a bit like white wine—but better."

Any questions? Good—class dismissed. Now that you understand Nelson Sauvin, try these five IPAs crafted with the hop. Consider it extra credit.

1. Kelso of Brooklyn IPA

Yeah, this New York City–brewed ale may have a mild-mannered moniker. But the draft-only IPA makes up for its simple name with a fruity, white wine character that sets it apart from the bitter pack. It goes down easy, too easy for its 7% ABV.

2. Widmer Brothers Brewing Nelson Imperial IPA

Though some supercharged double IPAs sit on your tongue like a sack of bricks, this full-bodied Oregon ale is surprisingly nimble. There's plenty of hoppy power, sure, but the sweet malt character sits in harmony with the flavors of pine and tropical fruit.

3. Karl Strauss Brewing Company Big Barrel Double IPA

My favorite release from the long-running San Diego brewery is undoubtedly the Big Barrel. The malty, medium-bodied double IPA checks in with a hefty bitterness, but a boatload of Nelson Sauvin hops temper the tongue-scraping assault, evoking tropical fruit and notes of white wine.

4. Alpine Beer Company Nelson

Hops fanatics worship California's Alpine, a golden IPA made with rye and loads of Nelson Sauvin hops. The Kiwi hops provide aromas of peaches and pine, a bouquet that complements Nelson's fruity flavors, wine-like astringency and spicy rye punch.

5. Mikkeller Single Hop Nelson Sauvin IPA

For this stop on his "single hop" IPA tour, the nomadic Danish brewer explores the pleasures of New Zealand's Nelson Sauvin. As expected, the cloudy copper brew smells of passionfruit, grapes and, crashing the party, caramel. The medium-bodied ale goes down good and grassy, with a lovely bitter tang.

Get to know your hops!