Riwaka™ is a hop I have been fascinated with ever since I first tried Hill Farmstead's Riwaka Pale Ale. I had been trying, for years, to source this hop, but it has never been available to United States home-brewers before this past winter. Thanks to Yakima Valley Hops, however, that changed. I immediately placed an order for some Riwaka, among other things, and hadn't had the chance to brew with it until just recently.
New Zealand Hops describes Riwaka as "a bold hop that makes a statement." And that simple description does not do enough to describe just how big a statement it makes. Like other New Zealand hops, Riwaka is pungent, tropical, and riddled with ripe fruit aroma. It's dominant aromatic trait is an overwhelming amount of fresh grapefruit - juice, pulp, and rind, along with tropical passion-fruit and kumquat. This hop is most certainly perfectly suited for Pale Ales, IPAs, and New Zealand-style Pilsners, but I decided to see what it can do in a Saison.
The recipe I used is a slightly modified L’Internationale V1, created by the Saison, Bière de Garde, & Farmhouse Ale Appreciation Society. This recipe works wonders for playing with new age hops, as it was designed to combine old world Saison with more exciting, new world hops. Listed below is the changes I made to the recipe, only adjusting hops and hop dosage rates.
After a three month fermentation period, I finally packaged this saison. It was naturally carbonated to 3.5 vols and it took just a couple weeks of keg conditioning to be ready. When this beer was freshly kegged, the Riwaka dominated the profile of this beer - dripping with aromas of kumquat and grapefruit.
However, as with all my mixed-fermentation saisons, it wasn't until two months in the keg that this beer's true colors began to shine. The Riwaka paired beautifully with the way my house saison culture develops. The saisons, after a couple of months start exhibiting stronger brett aromatics - a mix of citrus and earthy funk, combined with LAB that is starting to become hop tolerant create a slightly tart but complex beer. For Riwaka, this is a playground to develop and shine. As the citrus profile developed, the ripe grapefruit and kumquat began to subdue and blend in artfully with the beer.
To say I am impressed with Riwaka is an understatement. It is the perfect expression of a New Zealand hop and I am excited to experiment more with it.