This year is the tenth birthday for Hop Federation and a lot has changed in recent times. Founded in Riwaka by Chief Brewer Simon and his wife Nicki Nicholas in 2013, Hop Federation became part of Māori business Kono in 2020.
Simon has remained with Hop Federation as the head brewer and with his right-hand man, Dean Hunter, they have been working on revamping the current range, making every brew more hop-forward, refreshing and delicious.
With a new brewery needed to expand the production capability to cater for bigger, better brews (and some new ones), it meant saying goodbye to the much loved original Hop Federation premises on the main road in Riwaka and opening a Taproom at the Riwaka Hotel in association with Angie Morris and her husband Hamish Fletcher (not the lawyer one) who turned T.O.A.D. Hall into a very popular destination.
It may seem like a lot of change, but what we are seeing is three very successful businesses coming together to create something special.
Last week I visited Angie and Alex Lauzon who is the manager of the Taprooms at T.O.A.D. Hall and the Riwaka Hotel to talk about what’s happening before I dropped into the Riwaka Hotel & Hop Federation Taproom to check it out for myself.
Top of my list of questions was why would she and Hamish want to take on another significant business when running the very successful Toad Hall more than fills her day? “Sometimes I wonder that myself” she says. “But over the years we have developed a wonderful crew at T.O.A.D. Hall, they are really passionate about the place and what we do, some have been working here for most of the time we have owned it.
In 2021 Carsten Buschkuhle bought the Riwaka Hotel land and buildings and Angie told me they own the hotel business 50/50 with him. She says “we re-opened the closed hotel in November 2021 and have been quietly bringing it back to life. When we applied for our liquor licence we obtained an on and off licence but didn’t have a separate bottle store.
“The old bottle store at the Riwaka Hotel was an institution back in the day when people, like Jimmy Barnes and the Foo Fighters played New Year’s eve concerts there. People would line up for miles just to get into those concerts and the bottle store was very popular with holiday makers heading to Kaiteriteri, Marahau and even Golden Bay.
“We couldn’t find suitable staff to run the off-licence initially so just put that on hold until the opportunity came up to work with Hop Federation. They closed their original brewery and taproom and we talked with them about setting up something special, something more than just a bottle shop or liquor store.”
Alex was managing the T.O.A.D. Hall Taproom where they sell Townshend and Hop Federation beers so it was natural for him to extend that role to include the new Hop Federation Taproom. Angie told me that because their staff are as much a part of the business and vision as they are they can be confident their staff will maintain the standards at T.O.A.D. Hall while they bring an important part of the local Riwaka community back to life.
The two parts of the Riwaka Hotel work hand-in-hand with T.O.A.D. Hall, “while the current food at the hotel has a strong focus on beautiful steaks, serving cuts like 55 day dry-aged angus steak fillets, they use vegetables from T.O.A.D. Hall vegetable garden.
“We like to think fresh, paddock-to-plate and seafood when we design the hotel menus. Things like fresh oysters as well as wholesome healthy foods, just like T.O.A.D. Hall but different. The menus are quite different and we are currently working on our new summer menu that will bring fresh summer flavours to our dishes.”
The hotel also has a large garden bar tucked away behind the main bar and as Alex says “what more could you want – a Hop Federation beer or a tasty cocktail and pizza from our new pizza cart while sitting in the sunny courtyard. It’s like an old fashioned garden bar but ramped up in quality.”
The hotel will have tasting paddles of Hop Federation beers so you can sample different flavours before stopping at the Taproom on your way out to take something you enjoy home.
Alex told me that the Hop Federation Taproom is like a mirror image of the T.O.A.D. Hall Taproom and store, “it’s a bit like a tiny version selling some of the same things. At the Hop Federation Taproom we have a selection of local cheeses, charcutier products, Oaklands milk, Proper Crisps, olives and other snack foods as well as T.O.A.D. Hall’s famous baked cookies and packaged salads.
“While we run as two totally separate businesses we do make sure we overlap where we can, it makes sense for us to sell T.O.A.D. Hall salads and cookies rather than making our own in the hotel or buying them in. It also means there’s less risk of food wastage.”
The overall concept for the Hop Federation Taproom is for it to be the takeaway option while the hotel is a place to sit, enjoy a quiet beer with great food while listening to some great music.
This summer the Riwaka Hotel will have a full music schedule (follow them on Facebook and Instagram to find out more closer to the time) with food carts like their own wood-fired pizza oven and others at various times.
So, as well as buying from a range of Hop Federation beers, Good George Ciders and Tohu wines you can also pick up everything you will need for a tasty lunch to go with the outstanding drinks on your way to sitting on the beach at Kaiteriteri, Marahau or Golden Bay.
Angie, Hamish, Carsten and their incredible staff have breathed new life into the once very popular Riwaka Hotel, it is well on the way to becoming, once again, an important part of the Riwaka community. Adding the Hop Federation Taproom with its food offerings is the final piece of the puzzle and you should add it to your must-visit list this summer.