Hop Nation

It has been said before that winemakers love beer more than wine, whether it be for reasons of speed of production, or simply for a change of pace. Two such winemakers, Sam Hambour and Duncan Gibson, have taken that to its logical conclusion, and have now set up shop brewing beer in the back streets of Footscray.

The two young brewers were making wine in Central Otago in New Zealand when both began dabbling in homebrewing, taking on local homebrewers in competitions and developing a healthy rivalry to see who would come out on top.

But, after bidding farewell to the wineries of Otago to pursue an 18-month stint making wine around the world, Duncan got antsy to return to the Antipodes. He got in touch with Sam, who had since landed on the Mornington Peninsula, to see if there was any interest in giving the craft beer scene in Melbourne a go. The answer was a resounding, "Yes!" and Hop Nation was born.

They landed in Melbourne in mid-2014 and, after a few months of planning, started off their new brewing adventure with a contract brew at Hawkers, making use of the state-of-the-art equipment available to them.

Making the transition to commercial scale brewing was an adjustment for the pair as they applied their winemaker’s minds to larger brews than their previous homebrewing endeavours had allowed for. After a few trial runs and recipe alterations, they released their first commercial brew – The Fiend Australian IPA in June 2015 – at which point we first shared their story.

Since then, their American red ale, The Buzz, and The Damned New Zealand pilsner have joined the core range, with a few specialties, including a Russian imperial stout and a Reisling-pilsner hybrid rounding out the ranks. But, beers aside, the biggest challenge had been in finding a brewery space to call their own.

But, in November 2015, came a phone call that changed the game. A friend of Duncan’s who worked at Sawmill Brewery near Auckland said they were selling their 12 hectolitre brewery and Duncan could have first dibs if he was quick. An offer followed later that afternoon, one that was promptly accepted, and the search for brewing facilities in Melbourne began in earnest.

After comparing multiple locations around Victoria, Footscray came out on top thanks to its burgeoning craft beer market, youthful population, and ever-growing list of restaurants and bars keen to make a mark. They opened the doors to their brewery and cellar door at the end of July 2016.

The building they settled on, with its chapel-esque sloped brick roof and huge arched architraves, forms an incredible backdrop for their wooden-clad brewkit. It seems the graffiti artist they commissioned felt the same, creating huge stained glass windows for the cellar door bar. Walking in, the impact is immediate – you’ve entered a church in which to worship at the altar of water, hops, malt and yeast. And, given their background, barrels.

It's quite the find too, tucked away in an industrial estate; arrive there when the party's in full swing and there's a welcome touch of warehouse party – as well as warehouse brewery – about the place.

Hops earn their place in the brewery’s name, and lend themselves to the brewery’s mantra of "In Hops We Trust", but wood will never be too far behind, as their winery connections allow for easy access to a range of barrels. In fact, both brewers still work among the vines – Sam at Paringa Estate on the Mornington Peninsula and Duncan at Yering Station in the Yarra Valley.

This meeting of hops and vines certainly plays through into their beer, with hop selection often leaning towards varieties from countries in which they enjoy the terroir, and barrels dotted around the brewery ready for their expansion into barrel-ageing as the brewery grows.

Their first barrel beer, The Kalash, came in at 10.2 per cent ABV and was aged in Pinot Noir barrels for six months. It sold out quicker than either of them expected when released in May 2016, giving an indication that barrels might just form a significant part of the Hop Nation story in years to come. But first, as the name suggests: hops.

Kerry McBride

Name
Hop Nation
Address

Unit 6, 107/109 Whitehall Street Footscray
VIC 3011

Website
Hours

Friday: 3pm to 10pm

Saturday: 12pm to 10pm

Sunday: 12pm to 6pm

Hop Nation Regulars

Hop Nation & Footscray Historical Society The Patron

Tapped October 17th, 2018
Back in the 19th century, well before Centrelink and the Australian Labor Party, the social welfare of the working class was rarely at the forefront of the government’s mind. In industrial suburbs like Footscray, it meant the wellbeing of the poor often fell into the hands of their employers. Though a quick glance over a Charles Dickens novel might lead to the assumption employers would do whatever they could to avoid spending their money on workers, it wasn’t always the case. Drawing inspiration… Read more
Style
Mid-Strength
ABV
3.5%

Hop Nation The Heart Pale Ale

Tapped July 1st, 2017
When you put the word "hop" front and centre in your name, you're going to want to know your way around them in the brewery. And Hop Nation has certainly proved they do, particularly since moving into their own home in Footscray. Having released all manner of hop forward beers – IPAs, an American red, a Kiwi pilsner – they added a pale ale to the lineup too, with The Heart so called as founders Sam and Dunc reckon it's at the heart of their brewery. It's a pale as pale, one that throws… Read more
Style
Pale Ale
ABV
4.6%

Hop Nation Jedi Juice New England IPA

Tapped May 26th, 2017
Hop Nation has already proven to be a brewery that knows its way around an IPA. The Chop is one of the best loved of those coming from Melbourne breweries and is but one of many variants they've released in their relatively short lifespan. For the 2017 GABS Festival, they added another: Jedi Juice, the latest beer to be added to the growing collection of hazy New England style IPAs from local brewers. It's not their first crack at the style either, with this one a showcase of many of the most extravagant… Read more
Style
New England IPA
ABV
7.0%
Stockists

Now available year round

Hop Nation The Punch

Tapped December 6th, 2016
As 2016 draws to a close, it's a toss up as to what the defining theme of the year has been. Is it the ubiquity of IPA, the ongoing rise of sour beer styles, the rate at which the number of new brewing companies is outstripping demand, or the race to get a beer (or beers) into cans for summer? We probably need time away from writing about the local beer scene, ideally in a flotation tank, to come to a conclusion, but what we do know is that Hop Nation has added to the world of IPA in fine style with… Read more
Style
Mango Gose
ABV
4.0%

Hop Nation The Chop

Tapped October 3rd, 2016
When you've put the word "Hop" front and centre in your brewery's name, it's pretty clear where your affections lie. That said, given they come from winemaking backgrounds, Sam and Dunc of Hop Nation have played elsewhere in their short life to date, with former wine barrels inhabiting their brewery venue and a beer-wine hybrid and imperial stout among the beers to have appeared already. But with The Chop it's all about the hops. It's tagged an American IPA, but one that they're not associating… Read more
Style
American IPA
ABV
7.0%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

Cellar Door

And select good beer outlets

More stockists...

Hop Nation The Damned

The third of the trio of New World hop showcasing beers with which Hop Nation announced themselves to the world was one that took them back to the country where they'd first met – and started homebrewing: New Zealand. There have been many great beers come out of New Zealand but the one homegrown style that's gained more traction there then any other is the NZ Pilsner and that's what The Damned delivers. Classic pilsner malts form the backdrop for lively lime and citrus hops to take centre stage,… Read more
Style
NZ Pilsner
ABV
4.8%

Hop Nation The Buzz

Sam and Duncan's second adventure in hops saw them plunder the US. They opted for three varieties with plenty of punch too: Simcoe, Amarilla and Mosaic, and didn't hold back on the malt base either, layering on plenty of toasted and biscuity malts to not only give the beer its blood orange hue but enough of a backbone to keep the hops in balance. The beer comes with a nod to Buzz Aldrin in the shape of a hop-filled astronaut's helmet on the label. And it was also the beer from Hop Nation's opening… Read more
Style
American Red Ale
ABV
6.5%
Awards

Gold – AIBA 2018

Hop Nation Hop Fiend

They may hail from New Zealand and have travelled the world before alighting in Victoria, but when it came to designing their first commercial release, Sam and Duncan chose to showcase their adopted home. The first in a trio of core range beers based around hops from the three key New World growing regions of the world took its hops from Tasmania, utilising mainly Galaxy, augmented with a couple of other lesser known local varieties. While tagged an Australian IPA – and coming with a suitably feisty… Read more
Style
Australian IPA
ABV
5.4%
Bitterness
40 IBU

Hop Nation Specials

Hop Nation The Dawn Double NEIPA

Tapped September 5th, 2018
As they prepared to open their Footscray brewery back in July 2016, Hop Nation founders Sam and Dunc wanted to mark the occasion with a beer. They chose to do so with an IPA, the style for which they've become best known despite the breadth of their output. The Dawn was a double IPA bigger than arguably their best IPA, The Chop, and with the sort of deep haze later found within their best-selling one, Jedi Juice. And now it's back: in cans and destined for a far wider release. The weapons of choice… Read more
Style
Double NEIPA
ABV
9.0%
Stockists

Hop Nation brewery

And select good beer in VIC, ACT, NSW, QLD, TAS, SA & WA

Hop Nation The Kalash 2018

Tapped June 8th, 2018
The Kalash is Hop Nation's annual winter centrepiece, a barrel aged Russian imperial stout that's tweaked a little from year to year. This time around, after playing around with wine and Port barrels in the past, the base beer was aged in seasoned bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels and for less time than previous vintages – just four months – before being blended On the nose, there's hints of the oak and some indication of the nigh on 10 percent booze content… Read more
Style
Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout
ABV
9.7%
Stockists

Hop Nation

Melbourne Cellar Door

The Public Brewery

And select good beer venues in all states and ACT

More stockists...

Hop Nation Market NEIPA

Tapped January 26th, 2018
It's fair to say Hop Nation was one of the Aussie breweries that was ahead of the curve when it comes to the New England style IPAs that have been all the rage over the past 12 months. While not tagged as such, their original Chop IPA had NEIPA-esque qualities and they've revisited the much debated style many times since, most notably with Jedi Juice. And now they're back with another, Market NEIPA, created for the Hop Quest event at Beer DeLuxe on Australia Day. As with a few beers we've approached… Read more
Style
Spiced NEIPA
ABV
6.7%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

And select Victorian venues

Hop Nation & Frankie's Acid Head Super Sour

Tapped October 24th, 2017
There can be few, if any, venues in Australia that have taken part in as many collaborations as Sydney's Frankie's Pizza. Given it's a place where many brewery staff tend to end up late at night, it's easy to imagine how conversations could get started. Certainly, ever since they hosted their first multiple collaboration beer launch event at an earlier Sydney Craft Beer Week, there's been little let up. Among those making their debut at the 2017 Sydney Beer Week is Acid Head, the venue's collab with… Read more
Style
Hoppy Sour
ABV
5.5%

Hop Nation The Kalash 2017

Tapped June 9th, 2017
With a name like The Kalash and an image of an armed soldier on the label, you'd expect there to be no messing with this beer. And that's certainly the case. Hop Nation duo Sam and Dunc put the base beer for the second vintage of their Russian imperial stout into bourbon and Port barrels (last year's went into Pinot Noir barrels, just so you know), where it spent months ageing before being blended into the final beer. And it's a big one. Tipping the scales at 10.2 percent ABV, this year's Kalash… Read more
Style
Russian Imperial Stout
ABV
10.2%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

And select venues on tap in Melbourne

Hop Nation The Sturm 2017

Tapped June 2nd, 2017
The Sturm is the beer that, perhaps more than any other, highlights the story of Sam and Dunc at Hop Nation. They're winemakers turned brewers and this is a wine meets beer kind of a beverage, one named after the low alcohol fermented grape juice traditionally consumed in Germany during grape harvest. This is the second year they've made it, again hooking up with Jamsheed Wines to get their hands on some wild fermenting Riesling juice – more than in 2016's debut brew – and combining it with a… Read more
Style
Beer-Wine Hybrid
ABV
5.0%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

And other select Melbourne venues

Hop Nation & Exit & Big Shed Black Rhino Cherry Lips

Tapped April 7th, 2017
In their relatively short existences, Hop Nation and Big Shed have proven themselves to be keen collaborators. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before they hopped into the metaphorical bed together. When they did, they turned it into a threesome too, with Exit Brewing paying a visit to Footscray to lend a hand. While Hop Nation's collabs have tended to be relatively sensible, Big Shed's – particularly with Doctor's Orders – have known no bounds. And it appears this one has headed in the… Read more
Style
Smoked Black Cherry Gose
ABV
5.5%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

And select venues in Sydney and Melbourne

Hop Nation The One Tug Fresh Hop IPA

Tapped March 3rd, 2017
Of all the fresh hop beers that will be hitting taps throughout this hop season, we doubt you'll find one much fresher than this. Hop Nation clearly decided to live up to their name, not only choosing to brew another IPA but to get the hops from the farm and into the beer as fast as humanly possible (well, short of some sort of air travel). They headed to Ellerslie Hop in the Victorian High Country, pulled down enough bines – using "the one tug" for each – to be able to handpick 60kg… Read more
Style
Fresh Hop IPA
ABV
6.8%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

Melbourne BeerFest

Hop Nation & Sawmill The Expat Double IPA

Tapped February 8th, 2017
Those who know Hop Nation know that founders Sam and Duncan are both winemakers who met working in vineyards and travelled the world before deciding to start making beer in Melbourne. It turns out they're not the only people within their group of mates to follow that path; Duncan's mate Logan Richmond ended up working for the Sawmill brewery in New Zealand, and it was Sawmill's old brewery that Hop Nation bought when setting up their home in Footscray. Earlier this year, they reunited at Sawmill… Read more
Style
Double IPA
ABV
8.6%
Stockists

Hop Nation Brewery

Hop Nation & Up In Smoke Red Haze

Tapped November 10th, 2016
The beer scene in Melbourne's west has been coming into its own in some style in the past few years. Two of the more recent additions are Hop Nation, the brewery opened by a pair of winemakers, and Up In Smoke, a venue combining craft beer with smoked meats. And now the two have come together to create Red Haze, a beer that combines their two passions (and names): hops and smoke (and smoked malt for good measure). Sam and Dunc from Hop Nation took some ingredients along to Up In Smoke's kitchen.… Read more
Style
Smoked Red Ale
ABV
7.0%

Hop Nation The Dawn East Coast IPA

Tapped August 18th, 2016
There's been a fair bit of chat about East Coast IPAs in the deeper reaches of the local beer scene recently. These hazy (or often well beyond hazy), highly fruity IPAs have been the cause of some controversy, best articulated locally in the Ale of a Time article we linked to in last Friday's newsletter. But, controversy aside, of most interest to Aussie beer and hop fanciers will be that a few brewers are starting to explore the style here (although not using flour yet, as far as we're aware). Among… Read more
Style
East Coast IPA
ABV
7.0%
Stockists

Hop Nation

Hop Nation The Kalash Russian Imperial Stout

Tapped May 13th, 2016
Brewer's notes: Dunc and Sam pulled from their winemaking contacts to secure premium, seasoned Pinot Noir puncheons to put this brew together. After six months ageing in French barrels, this aggressive Ruski, named after the notorious Kalashnikov rifle and weighing in at a heavy 10.2 percent alcohol, takes no prisoners and asks no surrender. This rich, brewding beast will take you to the dark side. Barrel-aged in 500 litre oak puncheons, the subtle oak influence integrates with chocolate, tar and… Read more
Style
Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
ABV
10.2%

Hop Nation The Sturm

Tapped May 1st, 2016
It takes a fair bit to stand out in a bottleshop fridge these days, but The Sturm is the sort of beer to catch the eye of any beer hunter on the lookout for something different. For a start, the "label", if it can be called such, is stencilled on to the bottle. Then there's the wax-dipped top. And then, if you've been lured in, you'll notice the stencil features hops and grapes. Yes, here Sam and Duncan combine their two careers in one with a beer-wine hybrid. The Sturm is a collaboration… Read more
Style
Beer Wine Hybrid
ABV
5.0%
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