Almost every brewer has brewed with Citra, Galaxy, Saaz, and Challenger. They are some of the most popular beer hops, and you can easily find them in stores. However, some rare hops can stand toe-to-toe with the more popular ones; it’s just that circumstances have made them harder to find.
1. Southern Passion
The political turmoil in South Africa has made Southern Passion almost impossible to acquire. Most of the original farmers have left, and those who stayed are afraid that the government might just take their farms. Gone are the days when you can easily find Southern Passion for sale in specialty stores. You can even find bulk hops for sale. Today, South African hops arrive in a trickle, and you’ll be lucky to find enough for your brewing needs. Southern Passion is a multi-purpose hop that has the fruitiness of Galaxy and the spicy kick of Hallertau. You can use it on its own or pair it with a more citric hop like Citra or Amarillo.
New Zealand doesn’t have the production capability of its cousin Australia, so you won’t be seeing Motueka being sold in bulks. Motueka was produced by combining European Saaz with local hop varieties. Its flavors deviate sharply from the original Saaz. Motueka has strong citrus and fruit tones and very little of the spice and earthiness of Saaz. It does retain the aromatic features of Saaz as well as the clean bitterness it produces. You might need to use an additional hop for bittering, as Motueka is more of an aromatic. As a flavoring hop, it delivers rich tones of lemon, grapefruit, and berries with hints of spice and pine.
3. Nelson Sauvin
The second hop from New Zealand, Nelson Sauvin is rare for the same reasons. Brews made from this hop are quite popular because of their flavors that are reminiscent of white wine. Indeed, the hop got its name from Sauvignon blanc, the winemaking grape. Nelson Sauvin is very aromatic to the point of being a little too overwhelming for ordinary beer drinkers, but wine lovers would love it. It has rich grape flavors mixed with a little bit of mango and lychee.
4. Tardif de Bourgogne
The French are more known for wine than beer, which is why hardly anyone has ever encountered Tardif de Bourgogne outside of Europe. It produces sharp flavors of fruit, spice, and pine, similar to the American Idaho or maybe Simcoe. Its fruity tones include lemons, strawberries, and melons. Aromas are a little heavy on pine and spice, with a light tone of mint.
From distant Slovenia, Celeia is one of the rarer Slavic hops that have reached US soil. Celeia isn’t particularly suited for bittering because of its low alpha acids. As a flavoring hop, it produces rich flavors of earth and spice with a bit of grapefruit underneath.
Note those names, and don’t hesitate to buy ‘em when they’re available. Brewing with the rarer hops increases your brewing expertise and gives you the bragging rights of being a brewing connoisseur.