Let’s begin with a mystery. On a rooftop in the Sydney CBD, eight beers are pouring. When standing at the bar you will will know nothing of what they are other than being provided with an approximation of the colour and ABV. Your job is to put your beer nerdiness to the test and guess the beers. It’s all part of Hotel Sweeney’s tap takeover with a difference and it sounds like it'll be cause for fun and frustration in equal measure.
Elsewhere in the country, and back at ground level, the hops have been harvested and set in motion the hop harvest festivities. Two of the most prominent are High Country Hops which brings the breweries of the Victorian High Country to Beechworth for an oily, resinous group hug this weekend and Launceston's rather epic Fresh Hop Festival in April. (NB: If you're thinking of hitting up the latter, we've got a few double pass, tokens and t-shirt packs as signup bonuses if you join The Crafty Cabal – details here.)
Not so much fresh hop but most certainly fresh and hoppy, Beer DeLuxe in Fed Square is embarking on a Hop Quest by inviting ten local brewers to make a brand new "India" ale of their choosing; whether it's a West Coast IPA, Session IPA, Grapefruit IPA, India Saison or something else altogether, it doesn't matter – as long as it's hopped to the gunwales it's fair game.
One brewery never short of a hoppy beer or ten is Feral and they'll be showcasing several of them when they take over The Local Taphouse in St Kilda with 19 beers (then launch Tusk a few days later too). Likewise, KAIJU! will be dropping hop bombs all over the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival when they team up with a Smoke Master cooking up meaty treats. More hoppy than most is the second birthday beer from Akasha, although you'll have to wait until their celebration on the weekend beginning April 6 to see exactly how many multiples above their normal IPA they hop the thing. A clue: several.
A similarly hop-obsessed Sydney brewery is Modus Operandi and they've just brought back the fan favourite Zoo Feeder IPA as a limited edition canned release. They'll be celebrating the fact with an event exclusively for Crafty Cabal members which includes an access all areas tour and guided tasting with the founder and head brewer, a Crafty Pint-hosted Q&A, beers, food and something to take home. At last count there were two spots left on the bus and four for people who can make their way direct to the brewery – head here for details.
And we've got some spots at the VIP pre-opening party for another hop-loving brewing company's new bar, as Exit Brewing prepares to open Uitgang in Richmond.
If you've read this far thinking: "Don't people realise there's more to beer than hops, hops, hops?", the answer is yes, they do, and there's a myriad of ways to satisfy your alternative mindset.
You might, for example, wish to indulge in Bodriggy's Bruno Bitter which is being launched three times in three ways. Perhaps pairing funky farmhouse ales with stinky cheeses at Slowbeer is more your thing? Maybe the odd gose or Berliner Weisse will do the job at Nomad's incursion to Hart's Pub. A Bandicoot brewed barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout is almost certainly not going to be about the hops. Nor will an event pairing canned beer with comedy.
Would taking the company of strangers for a dinner in the woods take your mind of hops? (Possibly not, considering it's with Hop Nation...). But what about English ales that have never poured in Australia before? Might Murray's hot cross bun and chocolate Easter egg beers provide you with some long weekend distraction? And what can you say to a donut and sour beer pairing day at The Quarryman's Hotel other than, "Mmmmm!"?
How about an entire festival dedicated to coffee and beer? Or a beer festival by the Yarra River? Or one in the Yarra Valley (for which we've got some $70 ticket and token packs for new signups to The Crafty Cabal)? Or just a bunch of laid back Garden Parties with one of the country's most beloved breweries?
See, it's really not all about the hops. Except when it is. Best just to enjoy both.
Looking further ahead, we've lined up $3,500 worth of tickets covering all Australian GABS sessions in Melbourne and Sydney for Crafty Pint supporter. Find out how to get your hands on them here.