Three guys walk out of a bar and start up their own craft brewery. This line isn’t out of a fairytale. It’s the story of three Gold Coast beer aficionados Dan Norris, Eddie Oldfield and Michael ‘Govs’ McGovern and their very own brewery, Black Hops. It hasn’t been an easy ride but fast forward two years and here we are, the three friends launching their very own ‘how to’ manual on starting up a craft brewery on a budget.
The book, which launched on 30 August, meticulously documents their rapid rise from craft beer drinkers to brewery owners, sharing topics like how to choose the ideal brewery location, the steps required in gaining industry and government approval, building relationships in the craft brewing industry and tips on sourcing brewing equipment from China.
Besides all the insider info, tips and tricks, you’ll also get a heap of free resources like the pitch deck used to raise money for the brewery and the planning board used to raise $18,000 via the Pozible platform (they’re Australia’s first brewery to launch via crowdfunding).
Even though the book is aimed at, and most useful for, home brewers, aspiring brewery owners and industry people, it contains enough stories and anecdotes to entertain casual beer drinkers and avid readers alike. Early reviewer and crowd funding supporter Ben McAdam said: “I was hooked on the Black Hops story and I don’t even drink beer!”
We had a little chat with Dan Norris from Black Hops Brewery and got some insight on this beer lover’s bible, why it came about and what you can expect…
1. What was the motivation behind writing the book?
Dan: “The whole philosophy of Black Hops is to share everything we learn along the way. From the start, we shared our story on social media and podcasts. We kind of figured things out as we went and thought it might be helpful for people in a similar situation. I think ‘Govs’ read every book out there and we were happy for any information we could find.
2. Who came up with the idea?
Dan: “I’ve written two books before, so I came up with the idea to put all our ideas and tips into writing.”
3. Is it a ‘men only’ book?
Dan: “No, not at all, the book is for everyone, beer lovers of all sorts, even people who don’t want to open a brewery but just like beer. The craft beer scene is not a ‘men only’ industry; there are a lot of female brewers, too. It’s also not all just about beer. A lot of information is about opening a small business, online marketing strategies etc.”
4. Why is it a good Father’s Day present?
Dan: “It’s the best Father’s Day present (next to our Father’s Day Brewery Tour – laughs)! It’s the story of a couple of guys having a go at something they love doing. Two of us are actually fathers, too!”
5. With so much competition in the craft beer scene, why do you give away all your secrets?
Dan: “That’s just what we do and I think it’s a unique way to market ourselves. No one else is doing anything like it at the moment, so in a way it’s like a competitive advantage. And with so much happening in the craft beer scene, I don’t think anyone would copy us.”
6. Without giving away too much, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Dan: “From a business point of view definitely how to tell your story and market your brand. And to learn from your mistakes. We went way over budget. Also, learn about China before you go or do business there, no one speaks English and no one takes credit cards!”
7. Why should people buy the book?
Dan: “There is nothing like it around, at least not in Australia. And everyone who is interested in our brewery will be interested in the story leading up to the opening (which was pretty much simultaneously).”
So, if you’re a home brewer wanting to expand, a craft beer lover or just someone who really loves a genuine story about a couple of dudes doing what they love, then go grab yourself a copy for only $25 (signed!).
Operation Brewery is available as an eBook or in print via the Black Hops website at blackhops or via Amazon on Kindle or Paperback.
You can also pick it up directly from the boys at the Black Hops brewery and taproom, at 15 Gardenia Grove Burleigh Heads.
It’s also a great excuse to sample some of the Black Hops range, there’s eight beers rotating through the taps on Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and on Saturdays from 12pm to 4pm.
By Louisa von Ingelheim
How good is an icy cold beer on a balmy afternoon? Heck, or any afternoon for that matter. Especially right here on the Gold Coast, where not only are we blessed with copious amounts of year-round sunshine, but an increasing array of talented breweries and equally impressive spots to take a load off and enjoy their hard work.
Although the possibilities for lavishing yourself with a great beer are endless, here’s our whittled down top 11 spots (listed north to south) to grab a brew on any (post-lockdown) afternoon you please! Cheers to that.
Fortitude Brewing Company
Fortitude Brewing Company is special because they brew under not one but two names. Fortitude for the dependable beers you enjoy with mates and Noisy Minor for the loud beers we all love now and again. Due to brewing excellent beers, it’s Tamborine Mountain’s best spot for a Sunday sesh. Enjoy hot gourmet pizzas and one of their 14 icy-cold beers while you listen to the live band on the patio.
Beer to sip: Fortitude Pacer — the perfect session pale ale.
Where: 165 Long Rd, North Tamborine
The newest beer stop of the bunch is BOB’s Beer. This highly anticipated first microbrewery in Surfers Paradise opened with an impressive range of beers on tap and an incredible menu filled with bites you might not expect. Positioned on a corner block means there’s also plenty of window seating for watching the world go by outside. Talented (former) Melbourne brewer Ryan Fullerton and his team have created inhouse a lager, IPA, XPA and a Saison among six others, all available on tap (plus six guest taps from around Australia and NZ).
Beer to sip: Turmenator, a brut IPA that’s dry, spicy and tropical with hints of fresh tumeric root and saffron.
Where: 10/2 Elkhorn Avenue, Surfers Paradise
House of Brews
The name says it all. House of Brews has a whopping 32 beers on tap! In fact, they have so many kegs, they’ve even got a ‘keg room display’. If you aren’t a beer lover (sacrilege), there’s every chance if you still head to House of Brews, they’ll make a beer lover out of you. The food menu is inspired by traditional American BBQ so grab yourself some sticky ribs and maybe an Onion Ring Volcano tower. You’ll be one ever so happy afternoon beer drinker.
Beer to sip: Huge selection! Try something — left of centre — from North America if you can.
Where: 17 Orchid Avenue, Surfers Paradise
Bine Bar & Dining
The Gold Coast’s first craft beer bar, Bine, is adored by locals and packed to the brim every single weekend (and often throughout the week). Serving over 100 bottled beers and with eight rotating taps, the folks at Bine know their brews. Not to mention there are food specials daily, including regular 50 cent chicken wings specials every weekday evening! Wash those down with a beer or two, and that’s an excellent way to pass some time by anyone’s standard.
Beer to sip: Something local like Currumbin Valley Brewery.
Where: 1/28 Chairlift Avenue, Nobby Beach
Lost Palms Brewing Co.
The baby of the Gold Coast’s brewery bunch, Lost Palms joined us just four years ago, all bright pink and pretty and with a unique selection of very delicious beers on offer. Currently, you’ll find a Hibiscus and Guava sour and American style mango and passionfruit wheat ale. And if you feel like something a little different and looking after the rig, they’ve even knocked up a peach seltzer brewed from grain and coming in at a marginal 80 calories a serving — that’s just a 25-minute stroll on the treadmill, by the way. They also have a small share-style menu and a basketball hoop so you can both feast and play while you sip.
Beer to sip: Lost Palms Hibiscus & Guava Sour — a sour tropical lolly in a glass.
Where: 11 Oak Avenue, Miami
Bursting onto the Miami arts precinct scene with a rapacious welcome, Precinct Brewing has quickly made itself a solid status as a place to grab a freshly made beer, pull up a stool and forget all of life’s woes. They make matters much more bearable with the tastiest of pizzas, stand-up comedy, and some captivating, limited releases like their recent Lime & Chilli Lager and Manuka Smoked Pilsner — yummy!
Beer to sip: Check out their weekly Friday releases for exclusive flavours!
Where: 17 Christine Avenue, Miami
If robust and deep flavoured ales get your heart rate rising, you have to try out Black Hops newest foray into brewing beer. Located a hop, skip and jump away from Black Hops HQ, this new — hidden in plain sight — stylish bar will take your tastebuds on an odyssey with imaginative barrel-aged beers. Ex gin, wine, and whisky barrels from worldwide have been sourced to help produce the Gold Coast’s most inventive brews with some serious ABVS to match. Not for the faint of heart, but nevertheless some seriously great drinking to be had.
Beer to sip: AWOL Rebellion Stout — imperial stout aged in used Tasmanian whisky barrels: delish.
Where: 4 Hibiscus Haven, Burleigh Heads
Black Hops Brewing
What do you get when you mix three mates, a passion for beer and a little know-how? Damn good beer. That’s the story behind Black Hops who have three brewery/taproom sites across Burleigh Heads, Biggera Waters and Brisbane. The boys have worked super hard to build a solid reputation for themselves not just here on the Gold Coast but nationally with multiple awards and trade recognitions. Their original easy-going taproom tucked away in Burleigh Heads is the perfect watering hole when the mercury starts to rise.
Beer to sip: Black Hops Send It Session Ale — light, fruity, and not too strong.
Where: 15 Gardenia Grove, Burleigh Heads and 14 665 Pine Ridge Road, Biggera Waters
Burleigh Brewing Co.
One of the unprecedented and best brewers on the Coast, husband and wife team Brennan and Peta Fielding opened Burleigh Brewing Co. to rave reviews, and it’s been onwards and upwards ever since. The brewery is spacious with lots of outdoor seating and always filled with revellers having an absolute time. When they’re not throwing big events, be sure to slip in for an exceptional selection of craft beers, all of which we’re big fans of.
Beer to sip: Burleigh Brewing Burleigh Bighead — No carb, no-fuss big flavoured thirst quencher.
Where: 2 Ern Harley Drive, Burleigh Heads
Balter Brewing Company
When a gang of pro surfers came together and created an award-winning brewery, Australia sat up and paid attention. And although the original owners may have parted ways with their baby, the beer is still on point, and it’s still the perfect spot to enjoy a few brews with the crew. There’s a sweet outdoor area where the kiddies can run about and weekly food trucks with live music in the evenings. Too hard not to love this spot: plenty of tasty frothies to sample.
Beer to sip: Balter XPA — Balter’s most awarded beer can be yours fresh from the production line.
Where: 14 Traders Way, Currumbin Waters
Craft House Bar & Restaurant
Craft House has the Tugun beer-drinking scene covered with 20 Australian craft beers on tap at any given time. When one tap runs dry, they swap it out for a completely different kind, meaning you can go there often and experience something new. And if you feel like trying as many as possible, you must do one of their tasting paddles. Not to mention their food menu is pretty all-time with share plates aplenty, meaning you might nip in for a quick one but end up staying a little longer.
Beer to sip: Lots of choices — try something you’ve never had before.
Where: 445 Golden Four Drive, Tugun
Words by Alex Mitcheson.
Black Hops Brewery, in Burleigh Heads, has been in business for almost three years and in that short time, has become one of the Gold Coast’s favourite brews.
Today, the three men behind the brand – Dan, Govs and Eddie – launched their very first Pale Ale, in a can no less.
We had a chat with Dan about the new brew and why Black Hops has gone the way of the can.
Congratulations on the latest addition, tell us about your new Pale Ale?
We have always been pretty creative with our beers and beer names. We launched with an Eggnog Stout and our main beer was a Saison. Pale Ale is a style that both the team and our customers drink more than any other, so we thought it was a good idea to put a big effort into making this beer.
It’s a modern pale ale with a nice balance of pale malted barley and tropical hop aromas. We call it the Black Hops beer for every occasion. We called it Pale Ale, our least creative name yet. We don’t want people to overthink it. It is what it says on the tin.
How long did it take to develop the flavour?
Govs has been working on pale ale recipes for a decade but this is our first official batch. We had a meeting a few months ago about the need to make a big splash with our first beer into cans and decided on brewing a new beer as opposed to canning any of our current nine offerings.
From there we had a lot of meetings about every aspect of the beer. The colour, style, aroma and flavour were part of that as was the launch plan, design, marketing and sales strategy.
There have been some challenging moments but in the end we got a beer we are all stoked with and all 4,300L of it was sold before anyone had tried it.
The Pale Ale will be your first beer sold in a can, why did you decide to do that?
There is a big trend towards cans. The old mentality of cans tasting tinny is gone with modern cans and there are many benefits. They are cheaper, safer, more enjoyable to drink out of, they transport better and take up less space and they look sexy AF!
You’ve got 10 beers in the collection now, which has been the most loved do you think?
We have a “core range” of nine beers but we’ve probably brewed 20 or 30 total, maybe more. Out of the core range beers our seasonal IPAs have a loyal following particularly our American Red Ale “Code Red” and our Black IPA “ABC Bomb”. Our first beer the Eggnog Stout has a cult following and our 8.3% Super Hornet has been a big hit.
Judging by the response to Pale Ale though we think this will quickly become a fan favourite. On launch day we went through our first keg in a record five hours at our Taproom in Burleigh and at least two venues ran through the whole keg that night. Our online pre-sale of 40 cases sold out in two hours and all kegs and cans were sold in the two weeks before launching.
There’s a few microbreweries popping up around the Coast lately, what do you guys have that the other companies don’t?
Great tasting beer 😉
Biggest lesson you’ve learned since opening the brewery?
Probably the biggest one was the need to have a deliberate marketing and sales strategy for selling beer. Beer doesn’t sell itself and having everyone from the Taproom staff to the owners, marketing and sales and brewing guys working together on a deliberate strategy to make and sell beer people want has been a big lesson. Our Pale Ale beer and successful launch is the culmination of that work and it’s made a big impact so far to the business.
Anything else exciting in the works for Black Hops?
The big things for this year are going into cans, expanding the brewery and starting to sell beer interstate. We’ve also got the AIBA Awards and GABS beer festival coming up in May where we are aiming to better our previous best of a Bronze medal at the AIBAs and 9th at Gabs.
We are also putting out lots of content on our site including a podcast called Operation Brewery where we are documenting our journey to the AIBAs.