Take the train as far south along the coast as you can and you’ll hit Nowra. And there you’ll find HopDog BeerWorks, one of Australia’s youngest – and smallest – microbreweries. Opened in 2011 with a brewhouse measuring just 200 litres, its founder and brewer Tim Thomas wasted little time building a reputation for his beers among craft beer circles, appearing at bars in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne within months.
While the brewery may be new, Tim has been brewing for years, starting out at Sydney’s Lord Nelson and later spending time at Five Islands (now Illawarra Brewing Company) before taking some time out. His beer sabbatical didn’t last long, with the lure of the mash encouraging him to persuade his wife to let him start up HopDog in her hometown. Decision made, they’d found a site in an industrial unit just off the Princes Highway, installed the brewery and were brewing within 12 months.
A self-confessed hop junkie and lager hater, Tim has nonetheless mixed up highly hop forward beers with a wide variety of other styles, including spiced Belgian beers and barrel-aged fruit ales to name but too. Courtesy of a tiny bar at the front of the brewery, punters can take them home in growlers too, with Friday afternoon deals ($12 a fill!) bringing a steady stream of locals to the door.
HopDog BeerWorks Beers
A Kiwi twist on the classic US pale ale style, HopDog’s Pale uses a single NZ hop variety – and plenty of it – to create a highly aromatic beer that, as the name of the brewery suggests, is all about the hops, with a bigger bitterness than you’ll find in most Aussie beers of its kind.
Style: American Pale Ale
Bitterness: 50 IBU
Styles as a “South Coast Red Mild Ale”, this is one of a small but growing number of lower alcohol beers from Aussie micros that don’t skimp on flavour. There’s plenty of rich malt character and a touch of Kiwi hops in a beer that goes some way to rescuing the reputation of light strength beers.
Style: Midstrength Red Ale
Bitterness: 30 IBU
HopDog Horns Up
Like it’s little brother, the Pale, this is a beer that’s all about the hops. OK, so it’s a rye IPA, which lends the malt side of things a little twist, but that’s really not where the focus is. Loads of US and Kiwi hops take control in a beer that’s big on aroma, hop flavour and bitterness. As Tim puts it: “This IPA finishes strong and dry with a lingering bitterness that just goes on, and on, and on like a screaming heavy metal guitar solo, and [has] an aftertaste that reminds you that you’ve just had an awesome hoppy experience, like the ringing in your ears after a decibel shattering concert.”
Style: US IPA
Bitterness: 70 IBU
HopDog Black Sunshine
An oatmeal stout that makes up part of the HopDog year round range, the Black Sunshine is a deeply black beer that’s all about the coffee and chocolate characters from its roasted malts. Sure, there’s some hops in there too, but they’re playing second fiddle to the dark side, with a hint of dark fruits in there too and a smooth, rich body delivered by the use of 15% oatmeal in the mash.
Style: Oatmeal Stout
Bitterness: 30 IBU
Sometimes a beer comes along where you suspect that the brewer compiled a long list of ingredients and items that could be used to make beer, cut the list into little squares, drew a circle on the ground and threw the little squares of paper high into the air. Once they settled, those that landed inside the circle would form the basis of a beer. Then there are beers where you suspect the brewer instead collects up all the pieces of paper that fall outside the circle and uses them as the basis of their beer. Usually said beers come from breweries with the word “dog” in the title, such as the latest Shining-themed release from New South Wales' HopDog. It’s a Rum Barrel Aged Raspberry Wheat Beer tipping the scales at 6.2 per cent ABV. The barrels are 20 year old ones from the same source as those used by a handful of other NSW breweries. The raspberries (a “butt load” of them apparently) spent two months in the beer, which we’re told has “picked up some of the sourness from the micro flora in the barrels and hanging out on the fruit, so it’s a bit tart, it’s got a bit of fruitiness, and some vanilla and a touch of rumminess as well.” So are you in or out?
Style: Barrel Aged Fruit Beer
We all drop the C-Bomb sometimes and we’d imagine that Tim from HopDog dropped it when he learnt that we hadn’t received our last delivery of his beers because they had been “disappeared” by couriers from Fastway. This time around he has a much better reason for dropping the C-Bomb, given it is the name of his latest beer. And it is a beer that lives up to the brewery’s name: a double IPA crammed chock full of American and Kiwi hops, this is one not to be messed with. According to Tim it “weighs in at 9.3 per cent abv and a calculated bitterness of 150 IBUs. It’s not for the faint of heart. Hopped with Chinook, Columbus and the mighty NZ Wiamea/Big Banger, it’s intense and full on. On the first sample bottle tasted at the Dubbel T Brau Haus it was fresh cut grass (with a hint of 2 stroke), stone fruits, citrus and tropical fruits. A huge whack of bitterness, a bit of alcohol warmth, and a loooong bitter finish. It bought out a couple of expletives.” It’s in 640ml bottles too.
Frankie’s Pizza, Hunter St, Sydney
Justin Lill Wines, Berry
Mogo Village Cellars, Mogo
Rosebery Cellarbrations, Rosebery
Olinda Cellars, Olinda
Camperdown Cellars, Camperdown
Style: Double IPA
Bitterness: 150 IBU
HopDog White Christmas
It’s not just Bing Crosby dreaming of a White Christmas this year. Oh no, the crazy kids down at Nowra’s HopDog have decided to bring a touch of the Northern Hemisphere Down Under for the festive season. And with snowflakes on a 30C day beyond all but Bond baddies from the 60s, they’ve decided to do it in the form of beer, specifically an Imperial Belgian Witbier. We were hoping to have a taste before popping this listing up but instead there’s a bastard Fastway courier tucking into the bottles instead. So we’ll make do with the words of the brewer, Tim Thomas: “Two yeast strains, fruity, spicy, yeasty. Hopped with NZ Motueka, so there’s plenty of bitterness and hop character too. Pale gold, 50 per cent of the grist is malted wheat, the rest is Munich and Ale malt.” It’s all gone from the brewery, so hit up your nearest quality craft beer specialist. Or Fastway couriers.
Style: Imperial Belgian Witbier
HopDog All Hallowed Ale
Whether you judge it by his brewery’s name or on five minutes conversation with brewery founder Tim Thomas, it’s pretty darn clear that this is a man who loves hops and loves to cram them into his beers. So it’s rather bizarre that, here at Crafty Towers, our favourites from his range are those where hops aren’t the focus: the Alluvial Peach, Hyper Hyper coffee beer, a barrel-aged spiced Belgian number we sampled at the brewery last year (which may actually have been a prior version of this) and now the All Hallowed Ale produced for Halloween. (Yes, we’re a little late in listing it…) Given the time of year, it uses pumpkins – roasted ones at that – along with some festive spices and sugars to create a big mouthful of a beer. Pouring a rusty brown and with a big, foamy head, there’s all manner of banana, pumpkin and spices fighting for attention without ever getting too out of hand. And despite that suggesting it would be an overwhelmingly sweet affair, it actually finishes pleasantly dry. Who needs tonnes of hops, eh, HopDog?
Style: Spiced Pumpkin Ale
It seems to have been quite the season for red ales. A quick flick through the mental rolodex of new beers to roll out of Australian brewery doors in recent months brings up Two Birds Sunset, Kooinda’s English Red Ale, the People’s Pint Double Hoptendre, Stone & Wood’s Jasper and now this from HopDog. It’s called Redhopulous and the label says “It’s red. It’s hoppy.” so you can probably guess what’s in store. Given it’s come from the brewing hands of Tim Thomas, there’s a fair whack of hoppy hops, including Citra, as well as more than a little German melanoidin and British crystal malts to give it its deeply red hue. The latter pair would also presumably be in some way responsible for its big caramel aromas, with the fruity hops more prominent in the flavour than on the nose. The result is a veritable melange of maltiness and hoppiness in keeping with HopDog’s no-holds-barred style.
Bottlerocket Bar, Nowra, NSW
Justin Lill Wines, Berry
Crown West Cellars, Wollongong
Platinum Liquor, North Strathfield
Lock, Stock & Bottle, Balmain
The Park Hotel, Werribee (opening soon)
Style: Hoppy Red Ale
Bitterness: 40 IBU
HopDog Ham on Rye
As the entries for The People’s Pint have rather surprisingly shown, it seems plenty of Aussies like a bit of smoke in their beer. Certainly, that’s the case with the HopDog family, as head brewer Tim explains: “The idea for the beer came from a visit to the Lowenbrau Keller in The Rocks in 2004 with my wife, Mrs HopDog, where we had Rauchenfels Stenbier and Schlenkerler Marzen. Wow! Smoke! Fell in love with them, and had to bring some of my own style to it.” The result is the Ham on Rye, which has taken eight years to appear but which is available now. A smoked rye golden ale, made with 50% German rauch/smoked malt, a hefty whack of rye, and plenty of NZ Southern Cross hops, it’s got both smoke and bacon going on, plus, says Tim: “a hint of cracked pepper and citrus”, adding that it’s “bacon sandwich in a glass”.
Style: Smoked ale
HopDog Alluvial Peach
A beer described by the brewer as “the elevator music of our beer line up compared to the arena rock spectaculars of the rest”, this is a fruity number with quite a genesis. Made with 50kgs of fresh Araluen peaches per 100 litres of a simple Belgian wheat beer – “minus the orange peel and stuff” – then aged for 30 days in used French oak barrels. Look out for a hint of tartness in a smooth, sweet and peachy affair.
Style: Fruit beer