Black Hops 2020 Wrap Up

Dan Norris About Black Hops, Year in review Leave a Comment

2020 was a year that was both incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding in the world of Black Hops. It was a tough year for a lot of people, so it’s with a lot of gratitude that we provide this summary of the year that was.

Of course this would all not be possible without the amazing support of all of our customers and friends, so a massive thanks to you all for supporting us through the year that was 2020!

January: BH Scores 4 Beers in GABS Hottest 100 Countdown

Saturday, 25 January saw our Gold Coast Taprooms cranking as we celebrated the annual GABS Festival Hottest 100 Craft Beer Countdown.

This year we got the 5th most votes out of every brewery in the country and four of our beers made the top 100, with Pale Ale topping our results, finishing in 14th position for the second year in a row.

Caribbean Haze, Our 2019 GABS beer and May limited release made the list for the first time, with Super Hornet and Hornet both cracking the top 40. Many thanks to those of you that threw us a vote and who continue to support us in everything we do.

Here were the placings:

  • Pale Ale: 14
  • Hornet: 22
  • Super Hornet: 33
  • Caribbean Haze: 86

This year’s voting is currently open and we would love to crack the top 10 this year. We’ve entered seven beers, with G.O.A.T. Hazy IPA, (which is now our best selling beer!) making it’s Hottest 100 debut this year – we’d be chuffed to see it do well first up. Click this link to vote!!

February: BHII Celebrated Its 1st Birthday

In February 2019 we completed the biggest project of our lives. After hitting capacity at HQ, we decided to build one of Queensland’s largest independent breweries up the north end of the Gold Coast. We had $0 in the bank, but we signed a million dollar plus 15 year lease, and got to work.

The creative geniuses in marketing came up with the name “Black Hops II” and with the support of our amazing Alpha Team of investors, tradies, suppliers, finance broker, staff, family, friends and customers, we got it done in 8 months.

And on Saturday, 29 February our BHII Taproom and Brewery at Biggera Waters came alive with food, music and of course beer, to celebrate its one year anniversary.

March: BH Scores At Royal Qld Beer Awards

It was a great day for Black Hops at the March Royal Queensland Beer Awards. We were happy with a Gold or Silver for every beer we entered, with a total of 3 Golds and 6 Silvers. This keeps up our run of scoring multiple gold medals at every awards we’ve entered since our first full year in 2017.

Send It was awarded its first gold medal and Pale Ale and Code Red achieved Gold Medals for the second year in a row. We also had our first medal for a staff beer, Niall’s Irish Red Ale, getting Silver.

Here’s how all of our beers fared:

Gold medals:
Send It
Pale Ale
Code Red

Silver medals:
Lay Day
Mid Range
Hornet
Super Hornet
Pink Mist
Irish Red

March: Launch Of Supply Drop In Response To COVID

Here at Black Hops the shell shock of grappling with what COVID-19 meant for our on-premises customers and our industry as a whole, left us daunted and reeling. Then preservation mode kicked in and we started strategising as to how exactly, we could keep our breweries operational, our business healthy and our staff in jobs.

So on 25 March we launched a same day beer home delivery service called Black Hops Supply Drop covering Brisbane and the Gold Coast. You can read more about it on the blog.

We still delivered beer to the people, just in new and creative ways, under a range of new health and hygiene restrictions. Once venues went back to normal we shut the app down, but it was great to get our beer out directly to people and have all of our full time staff in jobs all the way through the Covid shut downs.

April: Black Hops Reserves Brew At Home Competition Launched

In April, with COVID-19 keeping everyone bunkered down at home, we launched a Brew At Home competition, letting eager home brewers (aka The Black Hops Reserves) come up with the best versions of six of our core range beers; Hornet, Super Hornet, Lay Day, Send It, Mid Range and Pale Ale.

We released a recipe every four to six weeks, and entrants could make the all grain recipe themselves or purchase Fresh Wort Kits from us, allowing them to brew each core range beer at their home barracks.

We kicked things off with Hornet, with entrants sending us a bottle to be judged by our Tasting Panel. Beers were awarded either Gold, Silver, Bronze or no medal (honorary mention), based on the Black Hops true to brand guidelines. At the end of the judging process all medal winners, as well as an overall Champion Medal Winner for the monthly beer style, were announced.

We had such a good time judging each round of the competition – well done to all of our medallists and entrants! Congratulations to all of the winners and we look forward to the upcoming Grand Champion Brew-Off, where contestants will be assigned a top-secret brewing mission. Upon completion of the final judging process, the title of Black Hops Reserves Grand Champion will be awarded.

May: G.O.A.T. Hazy IPA Went Core

Lovers of G.O.A.T. Hazy IPA had a lot to get excited about in 2020. In April we brought it back for a limited run in its own fully printed can. And plenty of people were asking for it to be available all the time. So we listened and G.O.A.T. became part of the Black Hops Core Range of beers in May.

The G.O.A.T. juice bomb features the signature opaque appearance of the Hazy IPA style, paired with an explosion of tropical fruit flavours thanks to the generous late addition of Mosaic, Amarillo and El Dorado hops.

It’s since become our biggest selling beer, as well as our flagship beer for the upcoming GABS Hottest 100 Beers of the Year. We’d love to see it do well, so to vote G.O.A.T. (or for one of our other four beers in the running) click here.

June: Pale Ale & Hornet Became Available in all Dan Murphy’s Outlets

Black Hops National Sales Manager Darren ‘Kearnsy’ Kearns out the front
of Dan Murphy’s in Murwillumbah

2020 saw us maximise our reach through bottle shops, culminating in Black Hops Pale Ale, G.O.A.T. and Hornet becoming available in Dan Murphy’s stores Australia wide. We also increased our coverage in BWS, Vintage Cellars, First Choice and Liquorland outlets and continued supplying our core range and all of our monthly limited releases into independent bottleshops.

Over the course of the year our packaged beer sales grew by 300% and our distribution finally covered enough of the country to be considered ‘National’.

July: Black Hops HQ 4th Birthday Celebration

In June we hit the four year anniversary of the opening of our original Black Hops Brewery (HQ), in Burleigh Heads.

We delayed the official celebrations until Saturday, 18 July to allow us to have a few more people in the Taproom, as COVID restrictions eased a bit in July.

We also released these 4 new birthday beers, 2 black and 2 hoppy, in a mixed 4 pack of 440ml cans (our first larger format cans).

  • Black Forest 7% Birthday Cake Stout
  • Vermonster 8% Nitro Sundae New England IPA
  • Zappy Birthday 6.2% Counter-Culture IPA
  • Murder Hornet 9.2% Black Imperial Hornet IPA

The demand for them was off the scale, with a long queue of people snaking down the road (in a responsibly socially distanced format) in the lead up to the 12pm taproom opening!

July: Announcement of our Upcoming AWO Barrel-Aged Beer & Taproom

In July we announced the pending launch of a new project here at Black Hops, building our very own barrel-aged beer barrel room and taproom (just behind our current Burleigh Taproom), which we’ve christened AWOL. Like Black Hops itself, AWOL started a little bit by accident, back in 2018. To read more on the AWOL story, check out this blog post.

The room, which started out as a meat factory 30 years ago, has been fitted out and loaded up with barrels and we have already started brewing beers specifically for AWOL. We have white wine, red wine, gin, bourbon and whiskey barrels – our Lark Whiskey barrels are full of our imperial stout and our white wine barrels are filled with a Golden Ale for a lambic. We also have a Flanders Red that’s gone into red wine barrels and we have a few random one off beers in some of our older barrels.

We plan on opening our AWOL taproom early in the New Year. Follow @awolbeer to see the progress so far and join us for the rest of the ride.

September: Moondancer Top 10 In GABS Can Design Awards

The inaugural GABS Can Design Awards were held in September, in recognition of the fine art of designing a killer craft beer can.

With over 120 breweries entering, we were stoked to finish seventh for our winter limited release, Moondancer Hazy IPA.

For this can the designer, Troy, created a new character (now affectionately dubbed ‘Hop Man’) dancing around a campfire under a full moon. Apparently, the design was so popular it’s inspired more than a few Hop Man tattoos and fireside beers!

Here’s a few of the comments that came our way from the judging panel:

“I would put this can on my mantelpiece after I’d emptied it. It celebrates how it’s meant to be enjoyed and puts you in this little creepy cute dramatic world. Love the Hop Man by the fire, it’s a really strong brand character.”

“This design really connects the story of the beer with the experience of enjoying the liquid inside the can. Great character design that any beer lover will relate to. An overall clean and sleek look that stands out, great use of a reduced colour palette.”

And that wasn’t the last that we saw of Hopman, returning at the end of the year for two more new beers to round out the legacy: Hopman Returns (a 6.2% Hazy IPA) and Hopman Out (a 5.2% Sunset Ale).

November: Black Hops Acquires Semi-Pro Brewing Co. & Launches In Brisbane

In late October Black Hops acquired East Brisbane’s Semi Pro Brewing.

Semi-Pro Brewing Co. launched in 2015 as a gypsy beer outfit and opened its East Brisbane premises in March 2018. We’ve always had a close relationship with the Semi-Pro crew, with owner, founder and brewer, Mick Guy, remaining as our Brisbane Site Head Brewer and co-owners Siena Perry and Shaun Stubley continuing to be involved.

The new Brisbane Black Hops Taproom, on Manilla Street in East Brisbane, was officially launched on Friday, 6 November, fortuitously the same week we originally launched the Black Hops brand in South Brisbane back in 2014. To celebrate we brewed seven limited release beers to toast the occasion.

November: Black Hops Voted No 1 Craft Brewery in 2020 Beer Cartel Survey

The Australian Craft Beer Survey by Beer Cartel is the largest study of Australian craft beer drinking trends. In the 2020 survey, which took place between July and September, just under 17,000 Australian craft beer drinkers took part.

After the votes were tallied, we were delighted to be awarded the honour of ‘Number 1 Craft Brewery In Australia’ for 2020! Having come 5th in this category in 2019 and 10th in 2018, it was a thrill to continue our upwards trajectory and take out the top spot this time around.

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we also took out the top gong for ‘Queensland’s Favourite Craft Brewery Venue’, with our taprooms receiving 22% of the total votes in this category. It’s a massive honour to be recognised like this by craft beer lovers, both for our beers and for the shared camaraderie of the Black Hops taproom experience.

December: Tropic Like It’s Hops Sour Goes Core

Just in time for a sweltering summer we were stoked to welcome back Tropic Like It’s Hot, joining the Black Hops core range as our permanent sour beer in December.

Tropic Like It’s Hot is a 4.2% Pineapple, Lemongrass & Ginger Sour. The ultimate thirst quencher showcasing fresh pineapple, ginger and lemongrass, our core range sour ale is the shizzle for those sun-drenched days down at the beach. When the sun tries to get at you, Tropic Like It’s Hot!

December: Cheers To Our 2020 Beers!

As a farewell to the year, here’s a list of all the beers we brewed in 2020. This year we brewed our 200th unique beer since opening our first brewery in 2016. All up in 2020 we brewed 87 beers (just one more than we brewed in 2019!), of which 55 were unique. We look forward to bringing in 2021 on a positive note in the GABS Hottest 100 Countdown (Vote G.O.A.T.!) and can’t wait to share our next adventures in beer with you all.

Also, check out our other recent post, where we run through each of our 12 monthly limited release beers for 2020.

A Final Wrap Up ..

It’s fair to say that we’ve never seen a year like 2020. We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by the support we received throughout the year from you, our loyal Black Hops drinkers – you are the reason that we get to do what we love and brew the best beers that we can. A big thank you from all of us here at Black Hops!!

We are stoked to wrap up the year well over twice the size we were last year, still majority founder owned and still 100% independent.

Cheers