A hop led beer festival was always going to be something that would peak our interest at BeerMoreSocial, but we never imagined we would get to try what we did!
Volunteering became part of our Hop City weekend plans when we realised Friday was a bank holiday and after hearing about their great intentions of having an even split of males and females working the bars. Rob at Hopzine was so great in putting together a great group of volunteers and it was dead good to meet so many fab beery people!
I know that a couple of us were a bit nervous at the thought of volunteering, after 5 minutes and a couple of practice beers that all went away and it ended up being a fantastic experience.
I never thought I’d have a sleepless night the night before volunteering at a beer festival, but there we have it. My obsession for hop forward beers could be getting a little out of hand, some would say, but sod it. When you’ve got some of the world’s best hoppy beers all under one roof, over a whole weekend – some of which we’ll never get to try again, I think that’s pretty exciting.
I packed all the essentials including the Anti histamines (yes, hops are a histamine and I have bad hay fever – although I like to think that small doses often is helping to cure me) and off we went! I’ll skip the train journey and booking into the hotel, as exciting as that is.
We made our way to Northern Monk refectory, excited to help out for the evening. I decided to go on Verdant’s station as I love what I’ve had from them in the last year or so, and I got to stand next to Sean on the Deya bar. Both Brewery’s ended up bring their own staff so they could talk to their eager customers, which is absolutely fantastic, but left us without beer to pour! As I was about to ask where I should head to next I heard Tara’s from Northern Monk’s frantic American accent over a radio that the Alchemist bar was bouncing and that they needed help keeping up with demand – safe to say that it truly was and I could barely get to the bar! Pleasantries exchanged, I started restocking fridges full of Heady Topper, Focal Banger, Luscious (A British imperial stout) and Farmer’s Daughter (a Belgian style Saison) – I got into quite the rhythm but my knuckles are still recovering from taking the cans out of those plastic can holder things and my fingers slowly gained blisters from opening so many! We had to wise up and started using a screwdriver to open the cans- like a really crap Wolverine, but after very recently seeing Logan, I was on fine form. It was so busy that I hardly had chance to speak to the other people on the bar but I did meet the incredibly friendly and super lovely Chelsea who is a brewer at the Alchemist – she even signed my t shirt at some point, beer history there surely?! We shared many beers that evening from the Alchemist and Northern Monk, which I still realise I’m incredibly lucky to have done. I dreamt of cans that evening but was super pumped for my proper drinking session on Saturday!
Saturday started with a Wetherspoons breakfast – somewhat of a tradition, and really sets you up for the day, especially when the beers are hardly usual Beer Festival session strength in general.
To be honest, the day blurred into one lovely mess of hoppy amazing beers and good people! My favourite beers of the festival were Other Half’s DDH Mosaic Dream, and Green Down to the Socks, from the British crew, Putty by Verdant was just incredible!
Shout out to all of the good people I met and shared a beer with who I’d not met before (sorry if I miss you off!) – Catherine from the Midlands Beer Blog, Cameron aka CraftBeerGeekUK, Søren & the guys at Dry and Bitter, Lucas at Stigbergets Bryggeri and many more I’m sure! I can’t believe it was the first version of this festival, and safe to say we’ll all be there next year. If you missed it – you missed out, but don’t do the same next year – it’s that’s good!
I have such post Hop City blues right now! Working the Friday night and attending the Saturday day was a wonderful way to see all sides of the festival, and great to be a part of the first year.
I had 3 top beers of the festival and I couldn’t choose between them! Obviously, as a massive stout fan number 1 for me was Lucious, by the Alchemist but I cant decide if it scored highest due to the fact it was an Impy Stout after several hoppy numbers that had started to make my tongue numb or it really was a 5*. Looks Like someone also enjoyed one in the shower in the downstairs loo!
Close second would probably be Disobedience by Dry and Bitter was so well balanced and so drinkable I had 2, then the Very Hoppy Caterpillar by Deya which blew me away from the aroma alone! The food was also fab with the Holy Crab Crab balls being a particular highlight (2 portions…)!
I also had the pleasure of meeting some really good eggs over the Easter Hop City weekend and hanging out with some cracking beer pals! I was understandably quite hop forward myself towards the end, so many thanks to those who got talked to and listened- and the guy in the billfuckingmurray tshirt who I insisted on getting a photo with…
Volunteering was a fantastic experience for a number of reasons, mainly getting to meet so many likeminded hop-philes who were as enthusiastic about drinking the beer as we were about pouring it. I don’t think I have laughed as much while “working” in my life. It also gave us a good game plan for for the next day, what time to arrive (20 minutes before doors open was a good shout, quite a significant queue but it moved quickly once 11am arrived) where to station ourselves for the good bars (the solution to this is ANYWHERE as everything was amazing, not a bad beer in the house) and also put a face to a lot of the breweries present.
I think my highlight of the weekend was seeing the truly humble and modest reaction from the guys from Dry & Bitter when they found out that their delicious IPA Fat & Fruity had come first in a blind tasting of all the beers of the festival (“There has to be a mistake, this can’t be true!”) and then the subsequent rush at the bar once the announcement was made. My lowest point was realising that Parmstar had run out of veggie parmos before I had chance to try one – the quest continues!
For their inaugural festival, Northern Monk and everyone else involved in bringing this event to fruition have done an outstanding job. The venue, breweries, beer selection and atmosphere were as good as any of the more established independent beer festivals, and I for one can not wait until next year (please say there’ll be another!)
Beer of the festival – very tough but probably have to say Other Half – DDH Double Mosaic Dream. Will definitely try and pay them a visit at some point!
Thanks to all the organisers, staff and brewers for an excellent time, we had a blast! Same time next year!