Hops cones on a plant.

Nelson Sauvin Hops

There are few hop varieties as wild and unique as Nelson Sauvin Hops. First off, let’s make sure everyone knows that this hop plant isn’t named after some guy named Nelson Sauvin. It’s named in part after the legendary grape used to produce Sauvignon Blanc wine and also for the area where it was discovered. It’s too wild for most major commercial breweries, but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining a cult following.

If you want to brew with a hop that likes to take a walk on the wild side, then keep reading all about Nelson Sauvin hops.

Bine of hops cones on plant.

History and Origin of Nelson Sauvin Hops

Nelson Sauvin was discovered in the Nelson region of New Zealand and released in 2000. The Plant and Foods Research Institute of New Zealand gets credit for its discovery and release. Nelson Sauvin is named because of where it was discovered and its flavor and aroma traits. It’s said to closely resemble the Sauvignon Blanc wine grape, which is where the Sauvin comes into its name. While it’s grown in New Zealand, Nelson Sauvin is used in homebrews and craft breweries all over the world.

General Characteristics

Nelson Sauvin grows wild and free and has characteristics to match. Part of the reason that it flourishes so well is that there aren’t any hop diseases in New Zealand it’s susceptible to. It’s also easy to harvest and stores extremely well. Nelson Sauvin is a dual-purpose hop which means that it’s used for both bittering purposes and aromatic ones in a brew. You can add Nelson Sauvin no matter what stage of the brewing process you’re in.

Flavor & Aroma Profile

The flavor and aroma of Nelson Sauvin are truly unique and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another hop like it. Expect the main profile to be white wine flavors with gooseberry, citrus, and mango thrown in. You should also be on the lookout for hints of key lime, pine needles, earthy dill, and tropical fruit. However, you should also expect a smooth bitterness from Nelson Sauvin due to its relatively high alpha acid content.

Hops cones on a barrel.

Brewing Values of Nelson Sauvin Hops

Here are the brewing values for Nelson Sauvin hops. Keep in mind that every year produces different quantities and qualities Nelson Sauvin, so these numbers are based on what is usually produced.

  • Alpha Acid – 12-13%

Alpha acids are the primary source of bitterness for beer, and the longer you boil Nelson Sauvin hops, the more bitter it will be.

  • Beta Acid – 6-8%

Beta acid might have acid in the name, but it doesn’t contribute to a beer’s bitterness, unlike Alpha. Betas’ purpose is to contribute flavor and aroma profile to a beer.

  • Co-humulone as % of Alpha – 23-25%

The lower the cohumulone % is, the less bitter your beer will be. Higher levels will result in a more bitter taste.

  • Total Oils 1-2 mL

Oils will also add flavor and aroma to the final product. Here are the different oils used with Nelson Sauvin hops.

  • Myrcene – 22-23%
  • Humulene – 33-38%
  • Caryophyllene – 10-15%
  • Farnesene – 0-1%
  • All Other Oils – 25-45%

Beer Styles That Use Nelson Sauvin Hops

Because of how unique the flavor and aroma of Nelson Sauvin are, there are a limited number of beer styles that utilize it. IPAs are definitely the top style, but here are a few others that utilize Nelson Sauvin.

  • American IPAs
  • Specialty IPAs
  • Pale Ales
  • Specialty Lagers
Glasses of IPA beer.  Nelson Sauvin hops are used to make pale ales, IPAs, lagers, and other beer.

Beers That You Can Buy That Use Nelson Sauvin Hops

There are a number of beers that you can sample if you’re curious how Nelson Sauvin tastes.

  • Zeelander from Topling Goliath Brewing Company
  • Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale from Hill Farmstead Brewery
  • Femme Fatale Blanc from Evil Twin Brewing Company
  • Mt. Nelson from Cellarmaker Brewing Company
  • Original Lager from Moa Brewing Company

Common Substitutions For Nelson Sauvin Hops

Here are some acceptable substitutions if you’re using Nelson Sauvin in homebrew. However, be forewarned that Nelson Sauvin is very unique, and it will be tough to find something exactly like it.

  • Pacific Jade
  • Pacifica
Spatula or paddle stirring craft beer brew.

How to Grow Your Own Nelson Sauvin Hops

Have we got you curious and thirsty enough to try to grow your own Nelson Sauvin hops yet? If so, here is some crucial information that you’ll need.

Water

Like all hops, Nelson Sauvin needs plenty of water, especially in the first two years of growth. Water Nelson Sauvin regularly so that the soil remains moist but not flooded. You should be able to stick your finger two inches into the ground at all times and feel moisture.

Light

Nelson Sauvin requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Full sun is ideal unless you live in warmer climates with high temperatures. Where the temperature is consistently in the 80s and 90s, your plant will need a mixture of sun and shade.

Soil

Sandy, well-drained loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 is best for growing Nelson Sauvin hops. You’ll want to plant your rhizome at least four inches deep in the ground and allow enough space for your plant’s roots to spread. Planting each Nelson Sauvin hop plant 3 to 5 feet apart should be sufficient.

Zones

Hops plants are hardy and can thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8. It’s best to plant Nelson Sauvin hops between the months of February and April because they can withstand cold temperatures for the most part. However, you want to avoid planting them until after the last frost of the year.

Hops cones on a plant.

Pruning

Keep your hop plants trimmed to maintain good growth and reduce pests and diseases. Trimming is also key to keeping hop plants growing vertically instead of horizontally. If needed, use a pole or post to help train your plants to grow in a vertical direction. At times, you may need to also introduce a fungicide or herbicide into the hop growth process to keep mildew and pests at bay.

Outdoor

Nelson Sauvin will grow to a height of 20-25 feet tall, so you’ll want to plant them outdoors. You should also provide a trellace or support system to aid them as they grow tall.

Where To Purchase Nelson Sauvin Hops

If you’re wanting to try your own homebrew, you can purchase your Nelson Sauvin hop pellets at Amazon!

Final Thoughts About Nelson Sauvin Hops

Closeup of hops cones on plant.

There are few if any hop varieties as unfettered as Nelson Sauvin hops. Their unique flavor, aroma, and qualities are matched by no other, which has led to it becoming a powerhouse in New Zealand and around the world. Get in touch with your adventurous side and give Nelson Sauvin a try!

Have you dared to use Nelson Sauvin hops in any of your home brews? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences with this wild child of the hops world in the comments section below! To learn about other hops varieties you can use for home brewing, click here for our hop profile blog posts.

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