September 1, 2014 by 250 Beers
Recently bursting into Australia’s craft beer industry like a well oiled, covert military manoeuvre comes Black Hops Brewing from the Gold Coast.
Driven by three friends each with an enormous passion for craft beer, Black Hops Brewing is already receiving enquiries from Brisbane and Gold Coast venues wishing to tap their beer despite having only brewed one single pilot batch.
How can this be given the initial limited supply? The answer is fairly simple and, in my opinion, threefold…
Firstly, Black Hops is a great name. A simple play on words is always going to strike a chord with the craft beer geekdom. Tie this in with some uncomplicated, effective branding and hey presto! The guys have nailed it.
Secondly, they’re being very transparent about what they’re doing. Lovers of fine beer will lap this up. They’ve taken a leaf out of the Matt Kirkegaard text book for being honest about proceedings. Followers of Matt will be well aware of his ongoing campaign pushing for big beer brands to be openly honest and avoid being deceitful about where and how their beers are produced. Not only do Black Hops provide full disclosure for all to see but they intend to publish their every movement – including processes and ingredients – via a blog…and everybody loves a blog, right? It may well be unintentional but this is a stroke of marketing genius. Fans of the boys can follow their every move – which I know has been done before – but it’s extremely refreshing to witness.
This absolute transparency is the complete opposite to what a real ‘black op’ involves. Generally, a secret, Government-lead operation would involve a significant degree of deception. They would conceal who is behind the task. Not here!
Finally, this is Aussie craft beer at its very best – three blokes just having a go.
Following their hearts. Following a dream. Having fun.
It’s this final third that I admire most about Black Hops. It’s the ‘have a go’ attitude that is likely creating the appeal to the bars already showing an interest.
Black Hops Brewing consists of Dan Norris, Michael ‘Govs’ McGovern and Eddie Oldfield. Govs is the brewer behind the scenes utilising his experience and knowledge garnered from his days of employment with Burleigh Brewing and, most recently (and still currently), working alongside Ian Watson at Fortitude Brewing. The trio is complete with the marketing prowess of Dan who runs a WordPress support business and the unofficial sales rep, Eddie – who will hate me for writing that!
Black Hops is small-scale. They’re currently brewing on a three vessel HERMS system and enjoying finding their feet. The first few batches will no doubt test the system and trial their recipes with the bottled end results being handed out for feedback amongst friends and dignitaries. As a friend of Eddie, I was fortunate enough to score one from the very first batch. It’s called Eggnog Stout.
To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. You see, I popped the cap with a sense of trepidation. I really wanted it to be good. I really wanted to be happy for Eddie but I feared that I’d be greeted by nothing more than a decent home brew. I needn’t have worried. It was very good. Delicious and tasty – it was more than I’d hoped for.
Thankfully, the brew was more stout than eggnog. However, the key eggnog credentials were evident. Warming brandy aromas emitted from the bottle backed up by pronounced spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Also prominent was a strong hint of roasted coffee beans.
We’ve been exposed to a chilly winter in comparison to recent years here in Brisbane. Being a Pom, I cherish all things ‘winter’. After all, eighty odd percent of the year is ‘winter’ in the motherland. Fond memories of freezing cold fingertips, icy toes and frosty bollocks (not literally) often top my list of recollections. This eggnog stout ignites such memories.
Flashbacks of random suckling upon brandy for warmth rush to the forefront of my mind. There’s no doubt about it the brandy is there but not in an overpowering way. Too much liquor and this beer would be ruined. My only criticism is that the stout is quite thin – there’s not a lot of body to it. However, a milky creaminess, smooth vanilla and a lingering bitterness carry this beer over the line. I’ve never had a beer quite like it.
Black Hops’ next beer is already underway – a big, dark Belgian ale. The guys have set the bar very high with Eggnog Stout so I imagine there’s a rather loud buzz of expectation circling the Gold Coast right about now.
Maybe it’s a cluster of Blackhawk helicopters? More than likely it’s those venues champing at the bit.
Stand easy, soldiers.