Black Hops Brewery launches new operation

Barrel-aged brews on tap in new Gold Coast venue.

A new craft beer experience unlike anything else in Queensland is set to be a drawcard for Gold Coast locals and tourists.

The Gold Coast's Black  Hops Brewery has converted an old butchery at the back of its Burleigh Heads operation into a taproom which will serve premium craft beers that have been aged in former wine, gin, bourbon and whiskey barrels for a minimum of six months under its AWOL brand.

Black Hops Operations Manager Leah Spong said each batch of beer would have its own characteristics because it would be influenced by the individuality of each oak barrel. 

“The beer takes on the flavours and aromas inside the oak barrels and gives the beer a really complex, deep taste on the palate,” Leah said.

Beer aged in barrels at Black Hops.
Oak barrels in which AWOL beers will be aged.

“We can basically put any style of beer we want in the casks. Depending on the style of beer, this stage will take from six months two years."

Taste testing determines when the beer is ready for the final stage which sees it put into bright tanks where it is chilled, carbonated and packaged into cans or kegs for drinking.

“It’s been really slow progress getting the new taproom ready but because the beer takes so long to make, we haven’t been rushing it,” Leah said.

“But now we’re ready. This is so different to anything that’s ever been done – there is no other taproom in Queensland that is exclusively for barrel-aged beers.”

Black Hops taproom in Burleigh Heads.
Black Hops' taproom at Burleigh Heads.

Leah said the AWOL brand was established basically by accident.

“The idea came about because we had a Black Hops keg go to a venue and they were worried it was not tasting as it should and asked if we could come and try it,” she said.

“It was sour, but it was because their lines were not clean and it got infected.

“It didn’t taste anything like the beer it was meant to taste like, but it tasted amazing.

Black Hops taproom at Biggera Waters.
Black Hops' taproom at Biggera Waters.

“We brought the keg back and were joking around saying the keg went AWOL. We tapped it and people loved it.

“Every year we kept some of the yeast from that keg and every year we kept brewing an AWOL sour beer blended with different fruits, maybe with some peaches or maybe some raspberry or passionfruit.”

Leah said the beers were so popular it was decided to make a new range under the AWOL brand.

The AWOL taproom is Black Hops’ fourth outlet after the original Burleigh Heads brewery and taproom opened in 2016.

It was followed by the opening of a larger brewery and taproom at Biggera Waters in 2019 and another in East Brisbane late last year.

Black Hops taproom in East Brisbane.
The East Brisbane taproom which opened last year.

Over the past five years, Black Hops has created about 200 different styles of beers using ingredients as unlikely as oysters, chocolate and jelly.

Nothing is off-limits, with staff regularly coming up with new combinations of flavours and styles.

“People don’t realise what you can do with beer, the options really are endless,” Leah said.

Black Hops has eight core beers with different brews regularly rotated through the taprooms.

If any beer proves popular then it will become a staple, such as its hazy IPA G.O.A.T. which started as an experiment but has become so popular it joined the core range and was ranked fifth on the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS) Hottest 100 Craft Beers 2020 list.

Two other Black Hops brews – Pale Ale (16th) and Hornet (17th) – made the top 20.

Craft breweries bubbling

The Gold Coast’s craft beer scene has built a loyal local following but is also becoming increasingly popular with tourists who enjoy the pared-back experience of craft brewery taprooms.

Besides Black Hops, other breweries visitors should include on their Gold Coast craft brewery “tour” include Burleigh Brewing, regarded as a pioneer of craft brewing in Queensland, Balter at Currumbin Waters and Lost Palms at Miami.

Balter’s extra pale ale XPA (third) and hazy IPA Hazy (seventh) were also prominent on the GABS 2020 list.

Balter Brewing at Currumbin Waters.
The Balter taproom and brewery at Currumbin Waters.

Contact RACQ Travel on 1300 888 449 to plan your Gold Coast holiday