Hops. I wonder who it was that first made the connection that resulted in this humble herb’s flower becoming the primary ingredient of beer.

Living on the Sunshine Coast, hops is not something that is grown readily – it is more suited to the colder, less humid climates – so there are not too many Queenslanders that are familiar with what this plant actually looks like.

I have fond memories as a child running amongst hop vines at my best friend, Tracey’s home, growing up in North East Victoria. Her father grew hops back in the day where there was no such thing as craft breweries, just breweries. I remember being fascinated by these gigantic veils of hop vines that were strung from wires that spanned from pole to pole. I wondered what hops was. I knew it had something to do with beer as her father was renowned for making home brews, as in real home brews – none of this kit stuff.

I also remember we weren’t supposed to be in there, so only ever caught fleeting glances of what I had romanticised in my mind as an epic maze, and there was probably a fairy tale castle hidden in there somewhere – I was an imaginative child…

Years have gone by since those days, but the image had always stuck in my mind, and I was still intrigued. So when I recently visited the Mornington Peninsula, and discovered that Red Hill Brewery were harvesting their hops on the very morning I was rolling into town, I was in.

Every year come harvest time, the Red Hill Brewery invite the public to come and help with the harvest, which as it turns out, is actually quite popular.

So here I was… I answered the call to help… well, ok, so I wasn’t helping exactly… I was enroute to my Gin Masterclass just down the road at Bass & Flinders, so I did a quick detour to take some piccies.

Even though I wasn’t picking (I had called ahead to make sure it was ok) I was welcomed by owner, Karen Golding, who along with husband David, established the brewery in 2005. I must admit I was feeling a little guilty at just dropping in and being a voyeur to a community of pickers who had come to enjoy the camaraderie of the season’s harvest. And by the end of my visit, I was actually a little envious, that I wasn’t able to stay a little longer and enjoy the company myself of what was a really fun bunch of people and quite a cathartic activity!