When it comes to the craft beer industry, the phrase "innovation is key" rings true. A testament to this is Garage Project's co-founder and head brewer Pete Gillespie, who continues to create and reinvent the brewing world.
Gillespie shared an intriguing story with REX host Dominic George, one that goes beyond the brewing process. The spotlight was on an audacious venture to cultivate hops in the heart of Southland - a traditional sheep farm.
"I went down there for harvest just to check them out and I was super impressed. But I mean it's a challenge. It actually was snowing one of the days," he said.
This daring attempt belongs to James McNamee, who has diversified a family-owned sheep farm to grow hops in Southland. Gillespie speaks highly of McNamee's endeavour and is all set to release a new beer next week, brewed exclusively with James's hops and aptly named 'Picking Hops In The Snow'.
"James has got some real challenges... But you know we'll definitely be supporting him because he's doing some great stuff."
He also highlighted the unique flavour profiles imparted by the hops grown in different locations, something that has captured the fascination of the brewing industry.
"It's so exciting for me as a brewer because if you take a hop from one place and you grow it somewhere else, you will get a completely different flavour."
The geographical diversity of hop cultivation not only impacts the beer's taste but also influences the development of the brewing industry.
On a similar note, Gillespie shared insights on the shifting beer buying habits and the unexpected popularity of non-alcoholic beer. Garage Project's non-alcoholic beer, Tiny, has seen a significant rise in sales. Gillespie believes this reflects a change in drinking behaviour and consumer's desire for healthier choices.
In an industry as dynamic as craft brewing, Gillespie's enthusiasm for innovation is a breath of fresh air. Whether it's exploring the untapped potential of Southland hop farming or embracing the demand for non-alcoholic beer, he continues to push the boundaries.
As Gillespie himself puts it, "Anything's possible. I mean, how could you ever get bored of it?"
For rural communities in New Zealand, these developments offer an opportunity to diversify and engage in a sector that is increasingly gaining international attention. The Southland hop farming story is not just about brewing beer; it's about embracing change, daring to be different, and creating a product that resonates with the changing tastes and preferences of consumers.
Listen to the full chat between Garage Project co-founder Pete Gillespie and Dominic George above.