Craft brews to debut at Launceston beer festival | Photos, videos

There is something special about first hop harvest of the season.

For beer brewers, it’s the chance to get their hands on the rawest form of hops.

Once a year, they get the chance to make their choice brew with whole hops – only a few days off the vines –instead of pellet-format hops.

About three years ago, Launceston’s Saint John Craft Beer decided to bottle that excitement and energy into a festival.

On April 21 to 23, the venue will host the Fresh Hop Beer Festival. About 30 brewers will descend on the festival this year, with their single-batch brews, made from freshly harvested Tasmanian hops. 

It also showcases fine food, entertainment, and masterclasses.

Saint John co-owner Tim Jarosz said this year the festival had extended its invite to interstate brewers, with the likes of Stone and Wood and Dainton making the trip down.

But all eyes will be on the homegrown heroes. Ocho Beer began in Launceston a little more than 12 months ago, launching its first beer at the festival.

Since then, the brewery has grown beyond expectations,co-owner and brewer Stu Grant said.

They are contract, or gypsy brewers, and operate out of Van Dieman Brewing at Evandale, but have just completed a crowd funding campaign to buy their own fermenter, which will allow them more freedom.

“We can be a bit more experimental, with things like wild yeast (which) Will [Tatchell, of Van Dieman Brewing] probably wouldn’t want in his fermenter, but that’s exactly what we want to do,” Grant said.

To celebrate the first harvest of the season, Grant and the Ocho team have created a sour IPA as their release for the Fresh Hop festival.

“It’ll definitely polarise people,” Grant said, especially of the beer’s sour character.

“I’ve shared a couple of sour beers with friends, and you do get a lot of people who are like, ‘that’s not a beer’.

“(But) I really like them. A few years ago, sour was very negative in relation to beer. But that’s not the case, it’s a very different style of beer, it’s a valid style of beer.”

Grant used 40 kilograms of Cascade hops from Hop Products Australia’s Bushy Park farm to give the beer an aromatic, citrus, grapefruit flavour. They’ve dubbed the brew Lemonade Stand.

Tickets for the festival begin at $15. Visit freshhopfestival.com.au for full details.