Froth magazine was lucky enough to be in the Gold Coast for the long-awaited opening of Black Hops brewery.
Local boys Michael McGovern, Eddie Oldfield and Dan Norris started Black Hops together after Eddie and Dan decided they wanted to make an eggnog stout, but didn’t know how, so recruited brewer Michael McGovern (better known as Govs) formerly of Burleigh Brewing and Fortitude Brewing. The eggnog stout was a hit, and the trio decided to start a brewery together, launching a Pozible campaign to raise the funds to build their own brewery.
The dream has become a reality, with a small building in the beachside suburb of Burleigh just minutes from the beach converted into a brewery with a bar for locals to drop in and knock back a cold one. Unlike most breweries which include the ubiquitous pale ale and IPA in their core range, Black Hops have created an Australian saison called Beach House, a hoppy pale called Bitter Fun, and a Californian lager called Thirty Cal – riffing off the military theme of their name (black ops) and also referring to the beer’s 3% ABV.
Also on tap at the Black Hops bar is a deliciously boozy Belgian Tripel – one of the many beers the boys plan to brew on their 100-litre pilot system. They plan to keep the tap line-up constantly changing with a new beer on each week that you won’t find anywhere else. These include a grapefruit XPA, coffee porter and a seasonal IPA – “I like drinking seasonally,” says Dan, and they plan to make a black IPA for winter, red IPA for autumn, white IPA for spring and regular IPA for summer.
Their pilot system itself is a wonder to behold – there’s no stainless steel or gadgets here, just a hot water system cut in half with a steel basket inside. DIY is the order of the day here, the boys built the bar themselves, the beautiful carved wooden bar was made by Dan’s uncle, and they reclaimed a bargain set of timber doors to make the covering for the cool room and the back of the bar, on which is painted their brewery name and logo.
Black Hops brewed a special beer for the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular in Melbourne this year called Assault Trifle. As Dan says, “We wanted to make a beer that tastes like a trifle, so we asked Govs to do it”. As well as the usual brewing ingredients, they chucked in a sponge cake, toasted coconut, fresh mango and peach, bottles of sherry and Aeroplane Jelly. The finished product tastes gloriously like trifle – not in a sickly sweet way, but in a please give me another glass kind of way – and came ninth in the People’s Choice award at GABS out of a total of 120 specialty festival beers.
As part of the Gold Coast’s exciting new craft beer scene, the Black Hops boys have noticed that while they originally were selling most of their beer in Brisbane, now they are selling 90% of it in Gold Coast. With bars in Surfer’s Paradise such as House of Brews, which boasts 32 taps, and Surfer’s Sandbar, which features top-notch craft beers from Australia and abroad, this previously craft beer wasteland is quickly becoming a destination to enjoy the sun, sand, surf – and sipping.
Words by Emily Day