The Hofmeister team were out in force at last month’s hip and happening Craft Beer Rising event at London’s Trumans Brewery. Here Richard Siddle shares his thoughts on going behind the scenes at a craft beer show of this size for the first time and how it proved to be the perfect showcase for the craft beer sector as a whole, those who love drinking them and new brands like Hofmeister Helles looking to catch their attention.
If you were invited to go a beer festival 10 years ago, then you might have thought twice about wanting to wade your way through tank after tank of largely flat, smelly, overpowering real ales that were likely to get you drunk far quicker than you would like – with a hangover waiting in the wings to match.
Ten years later and not only are craft beer festivals some of the best selling live events, up there with rock shows for popularity, we are all happily queuing up to get into ever more trendy craft beer bars, and pay well over the odds to get our hands on the latest, coolest beers they have on sale.
One thing, though, that has not changed is the number of beards and rucksacks you’ll find at a modern day craft beer festival.
It was the first thing that struck me as I made my way up to the Truman Brewery for last month’s latest instalment of Craft Beer Rising – three days of craft beer nirvana in this vast, cavernous exhibition space in the heart of achingly trendy, Shoreditch in east London.
I was not sure if I had gatecrashed some sort of adventure clothing show, or somehow time warped myself in to the heart of South Korea’s Winter Olympics such was the number of bobble hats, ski gear and mountaineering clobber people were wearing. No wonder they had to carry around an ultra hip rucksack just in case they wanted to take any of it off.
Once inside I quickly realised that shaving off my three days of stubble was probably the most pointless thing I’ll do this year. Going to Shoreditch full stop clean shaven is a mistake, going to Craft Beer Rising doubly so.
This is a show that is as much about what you look like, as it the beers you are going to taste. And I only went to the trade bit of it.
But what a great place to be. Which considering every stand was offering their own version of a carefully, nurtured craft beer is not surprising.
It’s hard to do justice to the buzz of excitement, and the sense of energy that was at the show without sounding like you’re going to break into a mantra about yoga and meditation.
Particularly as we’re not talk about big double decker stands pumping out dry ice and canapes, but all pretty nondescript modular affairs all made from the same wooden shells. The only difference coming in the size of the fonts people were pouring beer out of and the wonderful avalanche of colours, logos, and in your face names that decorated every stand.
It’s all about the people
What made Craft Beer Rising such a great show to be at was the people and their clear passion and excitement for what they were doing.
By its very nature a show of this kind is going to attract start up businesses and people looking to make their own way in what is an increasingly competitive sector. Crucially everyone there was working for themselves, or at least the small brewery business they are part of.
The only suits in the place where the salaried folk that had clearly come from the big drinks players to find out what all the fuss is about. You could watch them circling like sharks eyeing up brands, and stands to see which ones might be ripe for them to get their teeth into.
Now I have to declare an interest here. For I was there not just for the free beer, but to help pour it in my consultancy role for the newly revamped Hofmeister – back from a near 14-year hibernation as a craft Helles lager made on the edges of a Bavarian forest.
On the other side of the fence
As I spend most of my time at such events on the other side of the fence (as a business drinks journalist), it was strangely liberating to be in control of the beer pump, pouring out samples to increasingly interested customers fascinated (honestly) to hear the story about the new Hofmeister and all its craft lager credentials.
There were clearly those of a certain age who remember it fondly from the first time round. Some even claimed their parents bought it for them as the first beer they ever tasted.
That, though, was in the day when it struggled to hit 3.5% abv and the nearest Hofmeister got to Bavaria was in its cheeky “Follow the Bear” advertising campaign.
Now it’s all grown up and quite rightly can take its place alongside all the other carefully created craft beers on show.
It was fun to be able to tell the constant stream of visitors the new Hofmeister story and the fact it is has been brought back to life as an authentic Bavarian Helles lager made in accordance to the 1516 Germany purity law.
A law that means the beer can only be made from three ingredients. Which in Hofmeister’s case means coming from the surrounding area of the fourth generation Bavarian brewer where it is made where it uses: natural mineral water taken from the brewery’s own lake; barley specially grown for the brewery and malted in its own malt house; and hops grown in the award Hallertau region.
Quite a lot of information to get across a wooden stand whilst pouring out a sample it has to be said. But the fact the majority of people stopped to listen, and come back with a follow up question or two of their own, showed it was a story with genuine craft appeal.
Even if they did not hang around long enough to discover the family brewery is called Schweiger brewery and is one of only four out of 600 plus Bavarian breweries to be Slow-Brewed Accredited, meaning Hofmeister Helles is brewed slower and colder than most other lagers.
I even got to a point where I could remember all that without looking at my notes.
But that’s why, folks, the beer tastes so clean, refreshing and easy to drink. All those little bubbles, creating a drink that does not get you burping and gasping for air if you take more than two swigs at a time.
Which is probably why so many of our first time visitors came back once or twice more during the session, just to get another refreshing hit of perfectly chilled Bavarian Helles lager – Hofmeister-style.
It certainly was not for my wit and repartee.