Hop City 2018

Six weeks ago, I was at Grunting Growler sampling some fantastic Irish beers. I cannot believe that this was nearly two whole months ago. Prior to entering the shop, I had contacted the owner asking him to put aside a can of “Hop City” for my arrival. This beer had caught my eye as it was a unique quadruple collaboration, headlined by one of the UK’s leading craft beer companies – Northern Monk. At the time, this limited-edition beer was also available on draught, but given it was St Patrick’s Day, I felt obliged to fill growlers with less readily-available Irish beers. Before I left the shop, I did have a quick sample of “Hop City” on draught, just enough to confirm that I was absolutely taking this can home with me.

The concept behind the beer is really interesting: it is produced for a beer festival of the same name, taking place in Leeds, England. The Hop City festival itself occurred in the final days of March, 29th-31st, 2018.
(More on this later – heads up this is the 2nd year of Hop City!)

The breweries involved with this collaboration are as follows:

This is a massive collaboration, with heavyweight breweries partnering to pool their expertise. Having enjoyed beers made by the individual breweries, the bar had been set very, very high. This joint adventure is slightly atypical: three brewery teams were involved with this beer, but in addition to this, the festival sponsors (and final member of this quartet) YCH hops, were invited to this pre-festival brewing party! Whilst the breweries brought their knowledge, passion and production skills together, YCH brought along one of the most exciting experimental hops “HBC438”. From the can’s description, the breweries were blown away when exposed to this new hop.

Before drinking, I admired the design of the can. It was very striking. Golden outlined hops, sitting proudly in the centre, with the background of Northern Monk’s brewing premises and other city buildings. The design reflects the name exceedingly well. Additionally, the can has a really cool design feature: the label has a separation right down the central line, exactly through the middle golden hop. This allows you to peel it back, revealing a back panel providing more information on the festival dates, the breweries that will be attending, a map with Hop City’s location and a section called “Notes from the brewer”. I always enjoy ‘studying’ the beer vessel when taking my first few sips and was impressed at the amount of detail it contained. It was also an excuse for my partner and I to spot breweries that we recognised and remember previously adored beers! I’ve only ever seen this kind of labelling on Northern Monk beers and I really like it.

Striking can designs, well-respected craft brewers and the promises of experimental hops are all a fantastic way to begin, but ultimately, it’s the inside content that truly matters!

Mandatory “Hop City 2018” Facts

  • Untappd Rating: 4.15 (at time of writing)
  • ABV: 8.4%
  • IBU: 25
  • Style: DIPA
  • Serving: Can, 440 ml

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On pouring, the beer was of a golden-pale ale variety, lighter than I was expecting. I think given the predominantly black can design, I expected a deeper, almost amber coloured beer. The total volume of the liquid and foam head came 3cm shy of the summit of the pint glass. A cheeky voice inside my head asked, “Can I have the last 50mls please?”, before the foam head bubbled to a fraction of its original size.

Lemon and sherbet were the predominant olfactory tones. It smelt very sweet, more than I would expect for a DIPA. With hops galore promised in this beer, I took the first sip, hoping reality would match up to expectations. Initially, fruity citrus flavours of lemon, lime, peach and a light touch of pineapple washed over my palate. Most importantly, a huge hit of ‘hoppiness’ (which = happiness to me!) crashed in. The sherbet aromas come through in the taste too, which was a novel delight. The beer had little-to-no bitterness, with sweetness and tang being the primary sensations on my taste buds. Unlike other DIPAs, where the warmth can ‘creep up on you’ at the end of the drink, this beer had a steady alcoholic tone floating through; however, despite this beer trying to remind you that it’s a DIPA, you could be easily fooled into thinking that it was closer to 5-6% ABV…

Rating: 4.0/5. “Hop City” was quite an experience. It’s a shame that this beer won’t be a regular in my fridge. In hindsight, I wish I’d filled a 2L growler full of this beautiful golden liquid.

Now this bit is for those of you that have either been very observant or are proper beer geeks! Whilst loving this beer, I checked it into ‘Untappd’. I was confused, as when I found ‘Hop City’, I saw that this was apparently a collaboration with Cloudwater. Then upon further inspection, I noticed that a similar beer had been produced for 2017s Hop City festival. I think that this promo-advertising campaign is a great idea and an amazing reason for a collaboration beer – long may it continue!

Will I be going for Hop City 2019? I certainly will be trying next year’s variety if it happens!

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