The multi-award winning Gold Coast craft brewery Black Hops have further expanded their offering by opening AWOL – Queensland’s first dedicated barrel-aged beer taproom.

Housed in an old meat factory situated directly behind their original taproom and brewery in Burleigh Heads, AWOL is now Black Hops’ fourth hospitality venue and the second to open in just the last six months after their Black Hops Brisbane location launched in late October. AWOL is currently open exclusively for pre-paid tours before it opens to the public on May 7.

The new barrel-aged taproom’s origins date back to 2018 when a Black Hops keg became infected by a venue’s beer line. Having returned the keg to the brewery Black Hops discovered it had developed into a “surprisingly good tasting sour beer”. They decided to put the beer into a barrel and used it to launch their first barrel sour – which they christened AWOL.

It was a single keg poured exclusively at the Black Hops taproom in Burleigh but before long a few different versions were developed (AWOL #1, AWOL #2, AWOL #3), this time blended with fruits such as passionfruit and cherries.

“In 2019 while on a trip to New Zealand we fell in love with the idea of a barrel-aged beer taproom,” Black Hops co-founder Eddie Oldfield said. “With the success of our initial AWOL beer, we were keen to explore a new line of barrel-aged beers. And when the site behind the brewery became available, the stars aligned and AWOL was born.”

The conversion and fit-out of AWOL has been ongoing since July 2020 and co-founder Dan Norris said the space has offered them the opportunity to create a unique, multi-sensory experience.

“Just like the beers themselves, we were driven by the idea of melding ancient and modern by integrating the rustic elements inspired by the oak barrels together with a modern design aesthetic. It’s not your typical barrel room that’s for sure.”

So far there are over 100 white wine, red wine, gin, bourbon and whiskey barrels housed at AWOL, each filled with beers in various stages of fermentation. Eight of these beers are ready to savour now – including some in cans – with Belgian style Lambics and Flanders Red Ales just a few of the others that will soon be available. The 9.5% Rebellion Stout, currently aging in Lark Single Malt whiskey barrels, is a brewery favourite.

Black Hops’ brewmaster Michael McGovern said getting the chance to diversify was an opportunity too good to pass up.

“Haven Sour, our Hibiscus Cherry Sour, is one close to all of our hearts, having been named after the street address of the AWOL taproom. It’s a blonde ale that we’ve been aging in red wine French oak foeders (large 2,000 litre wooden fermenters) and is infused with sour cherries and hibiscus flowers.”

AWOL is at 4 Hibiscus Haven, Burleigh Heads 4220 QLD.

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