Anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to Boatrocker since the brewery’s first beer appeared will be well aware that its founder, Matt Houghton, is pretty fond of hops.
The first beer, Alpha Queen, took its name from the alpha acids found in them, their gold medal-winning pilsner was called Hoppbier and the most recent new release following the opening of their own brewery is an IPA called Hop Bomb.
Admittedly, since starting to brew at their Braeside base in Melbourne’s southeast, Boatrocker has also brewed an Imperial Stout, a Belgian quad (coming very soon) and put a Berliner Weisse into Chardonnay barrels, but hops is where the story started. And hops is where it is heading again.
Later this winter, Boatrocker will take over a quarter acre site on a friend’s farm near Woodend and start their own experimental hop research program. Matt has got his hands on 100 rhizomes and plans to breed them with male plants from Centennial stock, with the hope being that over the coming years they’ll develop some interesting aroma and flavour varieties.
“The big issue facing us with the big hop back [we have at the brewery for adding hops late in the brewing process] is getting access to good quality hop flowers,” says Matt. “We want these plants to give us the ability to make some wet hop ales and to try our hand at breeding with the males. It’s not being done for money, but for access to hop flowers.
“The world of hops is moving away from bittering but still veering towards high alpha [the acids that lend beer its bitterness]. It’s the aromatic and flavour qualities that I’m after. If we end up with one per cent alpha but it smells stunning then that’s a winner.
“We’ll get rhizomes in the ground before the end of winter here and build the hop garden over the next month and a half. It will be a couple of years at least before we have anything we can use, and I’m well aware they might taste or smell horrible.”
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