Detour: London, ENG – Howling Hops

LONDON, UK

Detour: London, ENG – Howling Hops

"DETOURS" is a new travel series by The Hop Review. Being a weary traveler almost always calls for a reward in the form of a pint at the end of the day. Here, we will document those beer breaks–as we travel the U.S. and beyond–with quips, photographs and Q&As. Cheers, to the adventurous beer trekker.

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No. 007

HOWLING HOPS BREWERY & TANK BAR

Queen's Yard, White Post Ln. E95EN, hackney wick, London, UK 

Located in (North)East London's Hackney Wick neighborhood, in the shadows of the former Olympic Stadium, is Howling Hops–a brewery unlike any you've likely visited before. Tucked back in a gritty industrial lot, off of maybe the most graffiti-laden road you've ever traversed, there's a hum of unexpected activity–artist's studios, boutiques, cafes and other various makers going about their craft. Howling Hops (and neighbors, Crate Brewery) are the anchors to this micro-community, with the former marking 2016 as its first full year in the space. Previously, HH's beers had been brewed for four years within the Cock Tavern on Mare Street.

Upon entering the brewery, the space's intention makes itself known immediately: 10 towering tanks, clearly numbered and labeled, sit behind the bar ready to serve beer. There to greet us behind the bar was Operations Manager, Katie Sheasby. Immediately, we find ourselves sampling the lineup. Several pale ales, a red ale, a hefeweizen, an American brown ale, a pils and a coffee stout. There's a common thread here: American-inspired, as many of London's craft beers are. The beers are unabashedly bold, juicy and hop-centric–but distinctly boozey, with ABVs averaging around 7% or 8% each.

When we ask Katie about the inspiration behind the unique serving approach, she goes on to tell us how owner, Pete Holt, decided to pour pints right from the tank. "Pete had never seen it served this way before. And he liked the thought of it being pretty much straight from the tank–without all of the pipes, the mess, the chaos and the need to clean things that normal dispensing requires. There are also environmental benefits, because you don't have to wash as many kegs–instead you just fill up the tank and that's that." And with that, we're satisfied. It all seems to make perfect sense. And if the beer is any barometer–which of course it is–we'd say this all was a good decision. 

What We Drank

IPA West Coast Special No. 2: Howling Hops' take on the American Pale Ale, but still weighing in at 6.9%. This beer packed the citrusy punch you'd expect from an APA, thanks to Mosaic, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus hops. It carried a little boozey heat, but overall it was just...juicy. There was no mistaking its intent. Maybe not what you'd traditionally reach to pair with BBQ, but on this day, it did the trick.

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It was tricky to get the tanks into this old building. We didn’t have a forklift, so some of these tanks were literally shimmied in by hand, on 2x2 wood. It was by millimeters at times that we fit some of these things in. I hope we don’t have to move anytime soon...
— Katie Sheasby, Operations Manager
Most of our beers ferment for 4 weeks, while the Pils we lager for at least 12. And with London rent and land being so expensive, it’s really hard to find tank space that’s affordable, to accommodate lagering. It’s in demand, but hard to keep a lot of it out there. Because we could brew 3 other ales, for every 1 lager. It’s a real problem.
— Katie Sheasby
Pete, the owner, had never seen [beer] served this way before. And he liked the thought of it being pretty much straight from the tank–without all of the pipes, the mess, the chaos and the need to clean things that normal dispensing requires.
— Katie Sheasby
 

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Photography by Jack Muldowney.

Authored by Jack Muldowney & Paul King, collaborator for The Hop Review. Paul is a beer fanatic born and raised in London, England. This is his second contribution for THR–he had also provided insight for the previous piece, "London's Craft Boom Apparent on the Bermondsey Beer Mile."