2019 has been an epic year for Black Hops and first up, we would like to thank all of our customers and friends for supporting us through what has been the most challenging and rewarding year for us to date.
While it’s only been 3.5 years since we opened the doors to our own brewery in Burleigh, we passed our 5th year this year as Black Hops, having existed for 2 years prior contract brewing at a small scale at other breweries. There were many milestones this year, in this post we’ll run through the major ones.
January: Pale Ale #14 in GABS Hottest 100
After making the list for the first time at #55 and #20 in 2018, expectations were high for this years GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beer countdown. This time 3 beers made the final list: Pale Ale, Hornet and Super Hornet. We had an awesome day counting down the beers at HQ as AliCat wrote up every beer on the wall.
The results were: Super Hornet came in at a respectable #88, Hornet polled a respectable #43 (an improvement on #55 from the previous year) and the flagship Pale Ale came in at #14.
At this point the beer had not yet made it interstate, other than a small amount to Sydney, so to get close to the top 10 on a national scale was a big result which we were all really stoked with.
This year’s voting is currently open and we would love to crack the top 10 this year. Click this link to vote!!
January: Black Hops II Equity Crowdfunding – a Record Breaking Result
To help fund the new brewery on the northern end of the Gold Coast, we closed a record breaking equity crowdfunding campaign, including these highlights:
- Australia’s first brewery to complete a successful equity crowdfunding campaign.
- The fastest campaign ever in Australia to reach their minimum target (8 hours, 15 minutes).
- The first and only campaign at the time to hit their maximum target ($400k in 6 days).
- The first company in Australia to follow up a rewards based campaign on Pozible with a successful equity campaign on their sister platform Birchal.
But more importantly than the records, we gave our longstanding customers and believers, the opportunity to own part of Black Hops.
We now have an investment team (Alpha Team) of 550+ friends invested in the success of Black Hops and we’ve been able to give them some pretty unique things this year. Some were included in the rewards in the campaign like reserving beers, taproom discounts, custom-numbered keyrings and shirts. But we also surprised Alpha Team members with some exclusive additional perks such as our limited release tasting sessions and our first annual Alpha Brew Day, where we held a private event and brewed a dedicated beer only available to A Team members.
March: Black Hops II Opens For Business!
The building blocks for a massive 2019 were put in place at the end of last year, when we signed a lease to build one of Queensland’s largest independent breweries. Without the backing of any institutional investors, we set about getting the $3m plus in funds together to make it happen. We had no plan B so there were some pretty daunting times, but thanks to some support from the bank, some family and friends, investors and 500+ equity crowdfunding investors, we were able to open the doors to our production brewery and second taproom – the only one of it’s kind on the north end of the Gold Coast and one of the biggest in Queensland.
On Saturday, 2 March, the vision of opening a second brewery became reality as the doors to Black Hops II were thrown open to the public. Very much the big brother brewery to the original Burleigh HQ, BHII features a custom-designed 150 sqm taproom, providing locals with a vibrant new locale right on their doorstep, catering for beer tasting and takeaways and brewery tours.
HQ had turned into a hub for like minded people to hang out, drink fresh beer and feel connected to their local scene. With Black Hops II we hoped to create a similar vibe for Northern Gold Coast residents.
And we feel we’ve done exactly that. We have an awesome crew of regulars who visit Black Hops II, and we’ve had a lot of love from customers. We’ve had over 220 people recommend it averaging 5 out of 5 across 56 reviews on Facebook and 38 on Google (also 5 out of 5 average).
The entire brewery and taproom project from start to finish took 8 months, significantly less than the time it took to launch the first brewery and features a huge production capacity upgrade, courtesy of a 6,500L brewery with 6, 18,000L tanks with room for many more. Other features of BHII include a shiny 800L pilot system and an 8 head canning line with upgraded automation capabilities.
In addition to launching, we also moved a number of tanks from HQ to BHII in the last few months to move more production up there. It’s been a big year for removing roofs and moving tanks around!
March: Champion Brewery at the Royal Queensland Beer Awards
In March the Queensland Beer Awards were resurrected and the founders and brewers headed to the award ceremony in Brisbane for the first time. We were pumped to come back with a total of 4 trophies including Champion Pale Ale (Hornet), Champion IPA (Code Red), Champion Qld Brewery and the prestigious ‘RQFWS Champion Brewery’ award, which sits nicely alongside our AIBA Champion Small Brewery award from the previous May!
April: Black Hops expands interstate
The launch of BHII provided the ability for Black Hops to expand into the NSW, Victorian and South Australian beer markets. So in early April 2019 the founders headed interstate on a whirlwind trip, hitting Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle in four days.
Later in the year we would also launch into Tasmania and WA, making Black Hops available Australia wide. We still sell 80% of our beer in our backyard, but it was long overdue to get beer out a bit wider to people who’ve heard about what we’re doing up on the Gold Coast!
The love from interstate has been epic, with a special shout out to Tassie and WA who have been extra supportive in the last few months.
May: AIBAs Black Hops Awarded Champion Beer Trophy For Mid Range
On 16 May we joined our craft beer industry friends at the annual Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA’s). The AIBA’s have been going for over 25 years and is the largest annual draft and packaged beer competition in the world.
We were very happy with our award results on the night. Winning a Champion Beer Trophy for Mid Range was a prestigious honour. Brewing beer to style is a show of quality and consistency and we love the opportunity to submit our beers to the beer judges each year. AIBA Trophy’s are very hard to come by and this Mid Range win made it 2 years in a row for us for winning Trophy’s and 3 years in a row for Gold Medals.
As well as our Trophy for Mid Range, we also came away with three gold medals (for Mid Range, Pale Ale and Code Red) and four silver medals (for G.O.A.T, Super Hornet, Pink Mist and Beach House).
July-October: New Packaging, 16 packs and Fully Printed Cans
Throughout 2019 we rolled out our complete core range, including new 16 pack cartons and fully printed cans. This was a big change and a big step up from where we were.
When we first put our beers into a packaged format, it was our Beach House in bottles back in 2015 for our original crowdfunding campaign backers.
We then moved to cans and when our core range expanded into 6 lines, we found ourselves needing a packaging solution for 6 different beers, plus limited releases in both 12 packs and 24 packs. The 24 packs were handy for packing and delivering efficiently, but the 24 pack price point is a lot for the average craft beer drinker. 12 packs were more manageable price wise, but they couldn’t be efficiently packed and were comparatively expensive.
The vast majority of our customers have traditionally bought Black Hops beers in 4 packs. We wanted a format that would enable them to buy more than 4, but not stretch the budget too far. So the 16 packs lined up perfectly from both a price point and efficiency perspective.
We also put our limited releases into their own branded boxes for the first time including the highlight of the mixed Half and Full Nelson 16 pack.
In October we started rolling out our new look fully printed beer cans. The new designs meant we could do away with labels for the core range and could give the brand a refresh. The new cans have been received really well, and it makes the packaging process a lot more efficient for us.
July: Hitting the century of unique beers
To celebrate the occasion of our 100th unique beer, we brewed a special beer with the apt name of #100 – a continuously hopped American IPA crafted in the tradition of Dogfish Head’s famous 90 minute IPA. We went for 100 minutes of continual hopping in the boil by the whole Black Hops crew, delivering a classic IPA with all American hop complexity.
It was our biggest limited release in terms of volume and first brewed at BHII. It was really well received as one of our highest rated limited releases of the year and it was a lot of fun for the crew to be involved in making it.
September: Pink Mist & G.O.A.T Go Gold At Indie Beer Awards
On 4 September a Black Hops contingent headed down to Melbourne for the seventh annual BrewCon and Trade Expo. Both Dan and Govs spoke at the event which was the first that all founders have attended. The event culminated at The Independent Beer Awards (aka ‘The Indies’) where we entered beer for the first time.
With the judging panel assessing over a thousand beers, we knew that getting a gong on the night wasn’t going to be easy. So we were very proud to come away with a range of medals across all of our entries, including two Gold Medals, for Pink Mist (Raspberry Saison) and G.O.A.T. (Hazy IPA) backing up their previous Gold Medals from the AIBAs in 2018.
September: AliCat scores Best Beertender Award at the Beeries
It was cheers all-round when AliCat took out the prestigious honour of Best Beertender at this years Beerie Awards, which took place on 19 September at the Royal International Convention Centre in Brisbane. The Beeries is an annual awards night celebrating those in the beer and cider industry who have stood out with their contributions and commitment.
This is the first Beerie for anyone at Black Hops, so needless to say we were all over the moon with Ali’s success! And a big shout out as well to fellow Black Hops legend Niall in being nominated in the Best Brewery Rep category.
October: Black Hops Top 5 in 2019 Annual Craft Beer Survey
In last year’s annual Beer Cartel Industry Survey for the category of ‘Australia’s best craft beer brewery’ we came in at 10th, so this year we were hoping for an improvement after growing a lot in the 12 month period.
While we hoped to improve, we were super stoked to come in at 5th! This is an amazing list to be part of and we feel like we are punching well above our weight to be in that elite company.
We were also rapt to come in at 3rd on the list of Queensland’s favourite brewery venues. These lists create a lot of good marketing press for us, and for companies without big marketing budgets they can be really meaningful to fund their growth.
Brewing 12 Limited Releases and 86 unique beers overall
At the start of this year, we said we would aim to do 12 properly distributed limited releases in kegs and cans for the year. We were able to do that by bringing back some old favourites and creating some new releases as well. You can read all about the Big 12 limited release beers for 2019 here.
In addition to the main limited releases, we were able to brew 67 completely new beers across both of our breweries. With rebrews of our core range it brings our total unique beers brewed for the year to 86.
Here are the top rated limited releases and taproom releases for the year. Ratings are out of 5.
- Top 3 highest rated limited release beers: Full Nelson 4.18, California Love 4.07, #100 4.05.
- Top 3 highest rated taproom release beers: Mega Hornet 4.57, Thunder Cloud 4.24, Black Hawk Down Under 4.24.
Here’s the full list of unique beers we brewed in 2019.
Towards the end of last year we launched our Community initiative, where each month we aim to do something small for a community organisation. We are proud that even with the pressures of a fast growing business and stretched team, we have still been able to make progress on this.
We have supported community initiatives every month, often a few throughout the month. We have given away many beers for Karma kegs for charity events and ourselves made 32 donations to Not For Profits totalling $14,318. We have supported 37 different organisations since starting the program in October last year.
You can see a full archive of things we have supported and more info on the program up at our Community page.
We realise these are small numbers, but we also feel that even though we don’t have big budgets for anything, we can still do something and start small and grow our efforts over time.
Growing every part of the business
We’ve grown a lot in 2019. Our team grew from 21 to 30 (epic) people. We doubled our volume and customer base by rolling out our 6-beer core range and a limited release every month as promised. We’ve expanded into every state other than NT and we now operate a fully functional brewery and pilot brewery at 2 locations.
We’ve also avoided a lot of the temptation to cut costs and compete aggressively. We want to grow in a sustainable way and be part of a healthy local brewing industry, and we feel we have done that in 2019. We’ve had some growing pains for sure, but we feel we are in the best position we have ever been in, and we can’t wait to continue sustainable and meaningful growth in 2020.
More Beery Content & Social Media
Since the beginning we’ve been keen on producing as much useful content as we can and 2019 was no exception. Here are some highlights from our content and social media in 2019:
- 128,000+ website visits, averaging over 10,000 per month
- 24 new blog articles covering a range of topics from how we package beer, how to brew sour beers, how we brew log gluten beers, how to make a beer sensory program and much more.
- Season 3 of the Operation Brewery podcast launched with 8 episodes including interviews with the founders of other breweries including like Balter and Stone & Wood.
- Growth in all of our social media channels including Instagram growing from 13,000 to 21,000 and our Facebook Ambassador group growing from 1,000 to over 1,700 members.
KatWinChar Sets Sail
We’ve saved one of the most exciting things to happen this year until the very end. In the spirit of unique collaborations, our logo flew high on the sails of a yacht taking part in this years Sydney To Hobart!
This very unique collaboration came about through our generous landlord and boating legend Bill Barry Cotter. He restored this old boat, which was originally built in a brewery over 100 years ago, and he thought since we built a brewery in his original boat building sheds where he founded Riviera in the 80’s, it made sense to fly our flag on the Spinnaker. We didn’t argue!
All 3 founders headed down to Sydney on Boxing Day to see her off. KatWinChar Pale Ale beers were waiting for the crew in Hobart on their arrival.
KatWinChar was one of the smallest in the fleet and the oldest boat on record to ever compete in the race.
Find out the amazing story behind this amazing opportunity here.
Bring on 2020
While 2019 has been a big year, we can’t wait for an even bigger 2020. We have some really exciting things planned, and we can’t wait to get stuck in.
Our intention is to keep making great beer for great people, focus as always on our local area, and work towards becoming one of Australia’s favourite independent beer brands.
If you’ve enjoyed a Black Hops beer this year or supported us in any way, cheers to you from the ever-expanding Black Hops crew. See you in 2020!