Let’s go AWOL – the coast’s first dedicated barrel-aged beer taproom set to open in Burleigh Heads
When it comes to craft brews on the coast, we truly are spoilt for choice with plenty of top-tier bars and boozers slinging their own signature swill. Lynchpins to the local sipping scene is Black Hops, who opened the doors to its first brewery back in 2016 and has since gone on to open a massive brewery and taproom in Biggera Waters and up the M1 in East Brisbane. Never content to just kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labour, the beer-loving trio is back at it again with a tastebud tingling new addition to the family – it’s called AWOL and it’s the Gold Coast’s first dedicated barrel-aged beer taproom. Here’s everything you need to know about Burleigh’s brew-tiful newcomer …
One of the best things about craft beer is that there’s always something new and slightly unexpected to tickle your tastebuds. The Black Hops crew is dialling up this thirst for adventure with its exciting new project AWOL, which is dedicated to making barrel-aged beer. So what exactly is barrel-aged beer? Glad you asked! It’s a return of sorts to an ancient brewing technique whereby fermented beers are transferred to oak barrels that have previously housed wine or spirits. The barrel is then left for a period of time – it could be three months, it could be three years – who knows? But that’s part of the fun of it. No two barrels will ever taste the same because the beer absorbs the flavours, living cultures and aromas of the oak, adding a delicious new dimension to your brew.Mark Twain once mused that accident is the name of the greatest of all inventors and that’s kind of true for AWOL’s origins. Born from a keg mishap back in 2018, a ‘contaminated’ keg led to the creation of an unexpectedly delicious sour beer, which went on to become the base for Black Hops’ first barrel sour beer, AWOL. That very same brew has since bred a few incarnations, thoughtfully named AWOL 2 and 3. At the time, they didn’t quite know what they had created but they knew they liked it and it had some serious potential. It wasn’t until Black Hops’ co-founders took a trip to America that they fell in love with the idea of creating a taproom dedicated exclusively to barrel-aged beer. Coincidentally, upon return, the site adjoining the back of Black Hops’ Burleigh HQ (next door to Common Ground) became available and the team jumped at the opportunity.The space, a former meat factory, has been reimagined to deliver a multi-sensory experience and is completely different to the jet-black branding we’ve come to know and love from Black Hops. Just like the swill itself, the design for AWOL melds ancient and modern elements by integrating rustic components inspired by the oak barrels together with a modern design aesthetic – think slick polished concrete, natural timber and crisp VJ panelling. So far, AWOL has amassed over 100 white wine, red wine, gin, bourbon and whiskey barrels, each filled with beers in various stages of fermentation – so suffice to say there’s some exciting things coming! There will be eight different barrel-aged beers ready to sip upon AWOL’s official launch on Saturday April 10 including the easy-drinking Haven Sour – a blonde ale that’s aged in 2000 litre French-oak fermenters and infused with sour cherries and hibiscus flowers, a nod to the venue’s location on Hibiscus Haven. The thing with barrel-aged beer is that it takes a little longer to perfect so as a result, AWOL will operate a little differently to the Black Hops taprooms. For the first month, AWOL will only be accessible via two pre-paid tour sessions for groups of 15 on Saturday afternoons. After that time, it’s hoped AWOL will open from Friday through to Sunday but it all depends on the beer. After all, good things take time.
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