What do hash, Salvatore the seal, and the Yarra Riverkeepers have to do with beer?

Usually not a lot, but after the seal’s Yarra River frolick caught Melbourne’s attention in January, the team at Mountain Goat Brewery decided to brew a beer in tribute. And it’s using hash to do it. But don’t call the cops, it’s legal – the hash is made from hops.

The hop hash comes from Crosby Hop Farms in the US and is made from the scrapings inside hop processing machinery. It’s a highly concentrated version of the usual product used by most breweries. Distributed locally by Hopco, it was in such demand it sold out in 16 hours when it arrived in January.

Ian Morgan, Mountain Goat’s head brewer, describes the product as looking a bit like “sheep poo”, but that didn’t deter him from ordering as much as he could get his hands on.

He uses words including “dank” and “resinous” to describe the beer, which emits a “juicy fruit” smell as it’s fermenting. So it’s probably not surprising that hops and cannabis come from the same plant family. Hop hash doesn’t provide a high, though – instead it gives bitterness, flavour and aroma to beer.

Mountain Goat launched the beer, Hashtag IPA, at a fundraiser at its brewery earlier in February – all proceeds from the first keg were donated to the Yarra Riverkeeper Association.

When the brewery first got in contact with Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly about the beer and event idea, he was thrilled. Breweries and “maltsters” have a long history along the Yarra, and Kelly supports beers he knows are brewed with water from the local catchments.

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association is part of an international alliance of waterkeepers, which began in New York in the 1980s. Locally it has been advocating for and teaching people about the Yarra for 12 years. (Kelly thinks Salvatore’s presence is a positive sign for the river’s rejuvenation, and is excited by other wildlife sightings – such as platypus – in local waterways.)

The brewery that inspired Mountain Goat to make a hop hash beer in the first place – US-based Sweetwater Brewing Company – has also been supportive of the Waterkeepers Alliance, donating money to the association in the past. Sweetwater was the first brewery in America to use hop hash in its beer.

There are no local hop-hash suppliers in Australia, but Morgan wants to see it used more widely.

“If it can provide these sorts of flavours … it’d be great to see hop producers in Australia and New Zealand making use of what was formerly tossed out as garbage,” he says.

If you didn’t make it to the fundraiser you can still help the Yarra Riverkeepers by volunteering at one of their regular clean-ups. After all, water is the main ingredient in beer, so it’s pretty important.

Mountain Goat Hashtag IPA stockists:

NSW

Forest Lodge Hotel, Forest Lodge

QLD

Village Bicycle, Noosa

SA

Warradale Hotel, Warradale
Crafters Hotel, Crafers
Earl of Leicester Hotel, Parkside

VIC

Beermash, Collingwood
The Alehouse Project, Brunswick East
Hop Temple, Ballarat
Beer Deluxe, Hawthorn
Grape & Grain, Moorabbin
Royston Hotel, Richmond
Cherry Tree Hotel, Cremorne

WA

Bob’s Bar - Print Hall, Perth
Dutch Trading Co, Victoria Park

Yarra River Keepers