Last month, cooperative hop growers NZ Hops Ltd in collaboration with Plant & Food Research launched a new, uber-juicy hop called Superdelic™ that they’re touting as a hop with the ultimate ‘wow’ factor.
In an industry that continues to innovate, finding new ways to introduce the best parts of hops into a beer (read: SPECTRUM, Salvo™, FLEX®, HOPSAUCE™, and INCOGNITO), breeding and bringing a new, exciting hop to market takes time, guts, and skill.
We sat down with NZ Hops Ltd and Plant & Food Research to find out how they developed Superdelic™, the top flavor notes they’re pulling out of it, and what gives Superdelic™ that ‘wow’ factor.
(Above photography courtesy of NZ Hops Ltd)
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What is NZ Hops Superdelic™?
A brand new hop cultivar bred by Plant & Food Research and marketed and released by NZ Hops Ltd, Superdelic™ brings a ‘wow’ flavor factor that’s slowly becoming characteristic of Southern Hemisphere hops.
With flavors ranging from tropical fruit and red berries to candy and even bubblegum, Superdelic™ lives up to its name—a cross between super and psychedelic.
“We started noticing [this hop] is almost a chameleon-type product that jumps out as being psychedelic,” says Blair Stewart, general manager at NZ Hops Ltd. “We started playing around with these different fields of aromas, and that’s how we came up with Superdelic™.”
Ten years in the making, Superdelic™ has been a concentrated effort between two key players in the hop market in New Zealand to create a hop unlike any other out there.
How Did NZ Hops and Plant and Food Research Create Superdelic™?
Dr. Ron Beatson (whom you may know from his work on NZ Hops’ last cultivar Nectaron) planted the original cultivar for Superdelic™ back in 2012.
A cross between the German Hersbrucker Pure and an NZ male hop with a number but no name, Superdelic™ also has ancestry that goes back to Smoothcone and Californian Late Cluster, Plant & Food Research Scientist Kerry Templeton told us.
In 2018, Templeton joined the Plant & Food Research team, coming on board right when testing for the then-unnamed Superdelic™ and a few other hop cultivars started ramping up.
That year the team decided to test some of their advanced hop projects in actual beers, dry hopping various beers with the different hop breeds.
As Kerry tells it, some brewers from Stone Brewing in the States were visiting during these trials. “They happened to come the day we were tasting these hops [in beers]; we literally dry hopped the week [before],” says Templeton. “They were like, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’”
One of those hops turned out to be Nectaron. And the other turned into Superdelic™.
“We took a gamble passing those guys this beer, but they were pretty well impressed,” says Templeton. “That was what told me we were heading in the right direction with this hop when people of that caliber say, ‘Wow, that’s a good beer!’”
But it would be another five years before Plant & Food Research felt ready to go to market with Superdelic™.
“Hops take time to get to production scale,” says Templeton, noting that commercial growers started with just 100 plants of Superdelic™. “One hundred plants turn into 200 plants, 5,000 plants, and then from 5,000 plants, you turn them into 50,000 to 500,000 plants pretty quickly. But you need someone who’s got land willing to plant that number of plants and then propagate them.”
But taking the time to develop this new hop has paid off.
With an incredibly unique flavor profile, Superdelic™ has flavors unlike any other hop in the industry.
What Are the ‘Wow’ Flavor Profiles of NZ Hops Superdelic™?
“Superdelic™ reminds me of lollies,” says Templeton.
To which we responded, “You mean like lollipops?”
“No! Lollies are like juicy, fruit-flavored candies,” says Templeton, referring to a common confection in New Zealand. “It was standout from a flavor and aroma point of view; we were really impressed.”
Along with lollies as one of the key descriptors, Superdelic™ also offers up tropical citrus, peach and other stone fruits, passion fruit, and even bubblegum.
“I do get this sweetness I still want to say is bubblegum,” says Chris Shelton, brewmaster at Whole Foods Marketing Brewing Co. in Houston, TX, that got his hands on some Superdelic™ pretty early, releasing a SMaSH beer in March solely featuring the new hop. “The aromatics are like Big League Chew from when I was a kid. It is so weird and unique.”
Overall, Superdelic™ has a ‘wow’ factor in flavor and aroma.
“It’s always hard to define what ‘wow factor’ means, but Superdelic™ definitely jumped out as a super one that had that wow factor,” says Stewart. “This one had different notes of candy, lollies, berries, tropical fruit, and underlying citrus, but quite a unique set of aromas different from other hops.”
When Shelton released his Superdelic™ SMaSH, Shelton likened his surprise with Superdelic™ to his reaction when Nelson Sauvin came out many years ago. “You knew immediately, oh geez, this was Nelson, and it’s super different,” says Shelton. “I think Superdelic™ will slide into this category [where] people will recognize this hop as unique.”
The Two Surprising Benefits of NZ Hops Superdelic™
In addition to its distinctive character, Superdelic™ also offers growers a higher yield.
“[Superdelic™] produces a lot of hops,” says Templeton. “The number of hops or weight (kg) of hop per hectare (or pounds per acre) is up there; it’s one of the bigger yielders we’ve got, so that is always a bonus because the growers will like growing it.”
And happy growers lead to happy hops.
On the brewing side, Shelton points out a perhaps unintended benefit of Superdelic™ and other New Zealand hops he’s used.
“I can put 12 to 15lbs/bbl and, [snaps fingers] two days after, I get the beer carbed and ready to serve,” he says. “For some reason, their hops feel conditioned for two weeks; it’s beautiful right out of the get-go.”
On the other hand, Shelton says he has to let beers with some of his other all-time favorite hops, like Mosaic and Citra, sit for a week or two because they’re so in your face.
But from brew day to serving, Shelton only needed fourteen days to perfect Superdelic™ SMaSH. “Right out of the gate, it was beautiful,” he says.
How One Brewer Made a Beer With With NZ Hops Superdelic™
A new hop, Superdelic™ doesn’t necessarily have a right or a wrong way to brew with it.
For the most part, Stewart says brewers are leaning towards using Superdelic™ in IPAs and pale ales. “You can see why they choose a pale ale with the big notes that bounce out of it,” he says.
But Stewart also wouldn’t be surprised if Superdelic™ starts popping up in some hoppy pilsners because he feels the style lends itself well to this new hop.
“The psychedelic aspect where it can accentuate aromas and different notes of other hops makes it a really intriguing hop to play with for brewers who historically are very creative and want to play around with different hops,” says Stewart.
Brewers like Shelton, who highly regards New Zealand hops, likening them to products at Whole Foods. “You know, when you shop there, you’re going to get good-quality stuff; it’s almost a no-brainer,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about what you’re buying when you get their hops; you know it will be outstanding quality.
Which is probably how Shelton got his hands on Superdelic™ two to three months ago when he asked NZ Hops, “So, you got anything new coming out?”
Turns out, they did.
For Shelton’s first brew day with Superdelic™, he chose an imperial hazy base and the single malt and single hop (SMaSH) approach.
Starting with Muttons Extra Pale Planet as the malt, Shelton added eight pounds per barrel of Superdelic™.
At that dosage, “people always look at me with a side eye, but that’s actually a low dose for me, especially on my hazies,” says Shelton. “I figured with a SMaSH, I could get away with a lower dosage because I wanted to get the character of the hop first.”
Adding seven pounds per barrel of Superdelic™ on the cold side, Shelton doses with another one pound per barrel in the whirlpool. “It’s usually three to four days into the fermentation, when I’m at a certain gravity level, that I’ll do my first hop dosage, typically around two pounds per barrel,” says Shelton. “I let that completely ferment out, then when I get to terminal [gravity], I let it sit one more day, then I start my little cold crash—going down to 58 [degrees]—dropping everything out of the beer that I can before starting my dry hop regiment.”
The result of Shelton’s first beer with Superdelic™?
He sold out of all 150 crowlers and his draft of Superdelic™ SMaSH in just five days.
What Comes Next for Superdelic™?
This hop has only begun to heat up. But so far, its singularities have set it apart.
“It’s a unique hop because you get into the right beer, and you want that hop to stand out from the crowd, and it was one of those hops that came along early on. Yup, this is definitely unique and has the wow factor,” says Stewart.
And while Stewart notes that in this past month since the launch, he’s only seen Superdelic™ in pale ales, he expects the innovation to ramp up quickly.
“The first beers out there today are very much focused on Superdelic™ in pale ales, but we’ll start to see the evolution into the likes of pilsners to see how it pairs with [other] hops,” says Stewart. “Seems to be where a lot of new hops start, isn’t it? Then people start playing around with them.”
For example, yes, Shelton has plans to brew a pale ale with Superdelic™, but he also has a few more hazies on his radar that experiment with Superdelic™ and other hops. “I want to combine hops like Nectaron, and I think Nelson would be a great combo,” he says. “Those three together will make a fantastic hazy.”