100yo hops growing wild in Canterbury could be secret ingredient to New Zealand beer industry's expansion

Hops have been discovered growing in Canterbury that could be key in expanding New Zealand's already booming beer industry.

They've been growing on their own for more than 100 years - earning them the reputation of being among the hardiest hops around.

They're the crucial ingredient in every brew - and now they're going into a special beer called the Ruapuna Pale Ale.

Brewed by Kaiser Brew Garden in Christchurch, it's named after the Ruapuna farm the hops were found on where they'd been growing rogue for at least a century.

"I can remember watching them grow as a child so now we're almost cultivating them - well we are cultivating them," says Ruapana Hops' Ian Whillans.

Whillans believes John Ballantyne, founder of Ballantynes Department Store, imported the hops.

"They were growing in a waste area behind some cabins which he bought off a wrecked ship in Timaru in the 1890s," Whillans says.

The discovery could be a game-changer for the industry which up until now has been mostly in the Tasman Region.

"The excitement around Ian's discovery is we've got a hop that's been growing quite happily down in mid-Canterbury which has adapted to those conditions," says Chris Winefield, associate professor of plant genomics and molecular biology at Lincoln University.

The hop is thought to be related to the fuggle hop which dates back to the 1800s. It's now growing at Lincoln University's research garden.

It will undergo molecular analyses and genome sequencing to see how it might benefit New Zealand's beer industry.

"For the industry to grow any more we need to look at other regions," Prof Winefield says.

The taste test will be ready in three weeks.