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!
However, it did give me a chance to get close and personal with that intriguing little hop bud that had been so elusive all those years before. The fragrance of the freshly picked hops was thick in the air. And yes… it smells like beer, but fresher and greener, tangy, almost citrusy.
Handling the hops, it is quite sticky and resinous, so everyone was equipped with white cloth gloves, with which they picked the hops from the vines. Once picked, they are then dried in readiness for brewing, to become their small batch, Hop Harvest Ale.
At morning teatime everyone enjoyed a beer straight from the keg, and filled the tops of their glasses with fresh hops… an annual ritual I am told. Reluctantly, I had to leave, but I made sure I grabbed a six pack roadie of Red Hill brews to enjoy when I got back home, and enjoy we did.
A big thank-you to Red Hill Brewery for their hospitality and allowing me to wander around at take lots of photographs while they toiled away…
For more information on Red Hill Brewery visit:
For the curious amongst you – especially my Sunny Coast readers, here is what hops looks like…
This story was written by Petra Hughes – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds
Photographs by Petra Hughes – © Copyright 2018 – All rights reserved.
Images may not be reproduced, downloaded or used without written permission from the copyright holder.