Hilltops Hops: Brisbane’s Own Hop Farm

by Dion Clark

Steve from Hilltops very generously hand delivered three pots of Chinook hop plants to my door recently. As a token of my gratitude, and in normal home brewer fashion I gave him a couple of bottles of my current beers; a Citra-Simcoe Kveik Golden Ale, and a Bretted Table Saison. He quite liked them as it turns out, and I was invited to come out and grab some hops! This is the story of me grabbing those hops, and the brew day that followed…

These are the hop bines at Hilltops Hops, some have been already picked and some will be picked in the coming days.The horticulturally savvy among you may have realised that May is not the usual time for a hop harvest. This is actually the second harvest for the year, and in fact this is the first time in Australia that a second harvest has been done. It’s all about tricking the hops using lights to stimulate flowering, haha!

Steve very generously pulled down a few bines, choosing a mixture of Chinook, Columbus, and Willamette. We then picked off the cones on the picking tables, and with the lupulin exploding from these buds, we literally had sticky yellow fingers afterward.

Hilltops Hops is located in the nearly inner city suburb of Hemmant, so I soon had my hops peddled home and ready for a harvest ale. That bag pictured below contains 600g of fresh hop cones, quite voluminous for their weight!

Once home I got the old Crown urn on as soon as possible, and was mashing in within the hour. I went for a simple grist of Crisp Maris Otter Malt, with 10% Melanoidin Malt, targeting a fairly restrained 1.043 OG. Just 5 grams of Magnum (8 IBU) was added for bittering, with all of the fresh hops going in as a whirlpool addition (another 17 IBUs approximately). I took this approach because it’s how Sim at Newstead did his Fresh Eleanor Harvest Ale a couple of years ago, and his was super tasty! Note that fresh hops weight 6 to 8 times more than the do when dried, so this is the equivalent of less than 100g of pellets.

The wort took on a golden hue from all of that lupulin goodness dissolving in it, the aroma was fantastically rich and piney, with just a hint of pleasant grassy aroma. The beer is now fermenting with reliable old US-05 at a fairly low 17ºC. Hopefully you’ll get to try it once it’s done!

A big thanks to Steve at Hilltops Hops for the opportunity to do that. Some kind of BABBs collaborative harvest or brew day is definitely on the cards for the next harvest. In the mean time keep an eye out for the BNE IPA – Bright New England IPA, a one-off fundraising brew by the best brewers of Brisbane. It will be packed with Hilltops Hops!

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