Home Articles Business & Invest The accidental brewery that is now a major success story

The accidental brewery that is now a major success story

Jenna Rathbone | May 2017

This trio might have started the business by chance, but it was by no chance that Black Hops Brewing is now one of the most innovative and successful breweries in the city.

Michael McGovern, Dan Norris and Eddie Oldfield admit they started the business almost by accident, however the home-brew system that was operating out of a garage quickly escalated into a thriving business.

McGovern, the head brewer, says the three beer-loving founders don’t do things by halves and it was a collective passion and dedication to their work that has seen Black Hops Brewing grow into a known brand.

“To put it in perspective, when we started we were ‘gypsy brewing’ our beer out of whatever local brewery would allow us in,” he says.

“Fast-forward 18 months and we opened our own 2,000 litre production brewery in Burleigh Heads. Since then we have been brewing between 2000 and 4000 litres per week and are on track to brew about 150,000 litres in our first year.

“With the recent acquisition of the factory next door to us, we are now in the planning stage to expand our production and have the potential to increase our capacity by a factor of over four.”

In addition to its current expansion, Black Hops Brewing is distributing beers throughout Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. The business plans to expand to the rest of the country by the end of 2017.

Black Hops Brewing serves a range of drops which feature creative names including the Beach House (Australian Saison), Lay Day (Tropical Lager), Code Red (Autumn Release Red IPA) and ABC Bomb (Winter Release Black IPA).

Most recently it launched a Pale Ale and in a twist, called it exactly that.

“Most of our other beers appeal to more seasoned craft beer drinkers and we’ve tended to go for big, bitter and bold beer flavours like your IPAs, Saisons and Stouts,” says co-founder Norris.

“For this beer we wanted to be able to offer all types of beer drinkers an easily recognisable beer option. These days everyone out there knows what ‘pale ale’ is – it’s a style loved by people new to craft beer all the way through to die-hard craft fans.”

McGovern adds that brewing a Pale Ale was a challenging experience.

“Absolutely brewing a Pale Ale is challenging in the sense that it needs to stand out but also appeal to as many drinkers as possible,” he says.

“It is also a relatively simple beer so there is not too much complexity to hide your mistakes – all the components need to be in perfect balance.

“Our Pale Ale is a new-world twist on a traditional Aussie Pale Ale – it has low bitterness, some sweet malt character and a huge tropical fruit aroma. It is also un-filtered which gives it a smooth mouth feel.”

Black Hops Brewing also recently announced it created a Wagon Wheels stout designed to win awards at the Great Australian Beer Spectacular in Melbourne.

The beer tastes like the Australian marshmallow and chocolate biscuit of the same name.

McGovern, who has worked in breweries for most of his adult life, says Black Hops Brewing has been an exciting journey and one that now has a strong focus on serving the freshest of beers to customers.

“Working in breweries for most of my adult life, drinking fresh beer to me was a luxury I almost took for granted,” he says.

“It was tasting the difference in beer, fresh from the brewery, compared to the same beer after 6-12 months on the shelf in a bottle shop that made us realise how much people were missing out on.

“Freshness is something people not only expect but demand in most of the things they consume, alcohol however has not been considered as important.

“We knew if we could show people the difference and explain it to them, they would start to look for it in what they bought. This took a lot of coordination from us and the venues we stock our beer at but we have managed to be able to deliver our beer and have it on shelves as quickly as the same day as it is packaged.

“We also spend time educating people on the correct handling of beer to ensure it is kept in as fresh condition as possible. The two biggest factors are: temperature when transporting and storing, and time, so turning stock over quickly and within the best before date.”

When asked what the ultimate vision of Black Hops Brewing was, McGovern was slightly hesitant to give an answer.

“Being a start-up brewery, having an ultimate vision can be not only difficult but dangerous,” he says.

“We work in a very changing and rapidly growing industry and being able to change direction is one of our biggest strengths in order to capitalise on opportunities.

Fundamentally, we would love for our brewery and tasting room in Burleigh Heads to become an iconic Gold Coast venue and have the capacity to continue to distribute our beer around the country, but who knows, a Black Hops brew-pub style restaurant does have a nice ring to it.”

The trio has noted their journey in a book, Operation Brewery, which is available online and in print and is an invaluable source of information for anyone with dreams of starting a brewery, and entrepreneurs in general.

Black Hops Brewing has also entered its beers, packaging, and book – Operation Brewery, into the 2017 Australian International Beer Awards.

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