Friday 25 May 2018
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Ad Hop Brewing is well loved among Liverpool’s beer aficionados, and its reputation for diverse and often surprising brews is now – luckily for the rest of us – spreading further afield. Opened in 2015 by former IT consultant Anders Aqulin, Ad Hop has always been driven by an interest in experimentation rather than some grand commercial scheme.
“I’d always been interested in beer, but brewing wasn’t even something that had occurred to me until I went to a demonstration at a beer festival,” explains Anders. “I bought a small 60-litre R&D kit, read a lot of books, and soon found I could make beers that I felt were as good as anything else out there. So I rented a storage room in the back of a restaurant and brewed at night when the place was closed.
“My approach was a little different from most, I think, because I started with a ‘pluralistic’ strategy, to just brew many different beers. The first 130 recipes were all one-offs. That created for us a reputation for always coming up with new beers. It wasn’t a carefully thought out commercial strategy or anything – it was just the way I wanted to brew.”
This, says Anders, played into a trend for ‘guest-only’ beep lineups, in which bars would only take a single keg of any given beer, and then would ask for something different.
“Even if that beer sells out in a flash, and we say ‘that was obviously a great beer - do you want another keg?’ they’d say no! It’s an interesting trend. I’ve seen bars all over the country that actually sell themselves as guest-only pubs. So we just kept doing things that way.”
The first beer Anders ever designed was a 7.4% strong American brown ale called Tongue Twister. Very heavily hopped, it was essentially a hybrid between brown ale and an IPA, in the mode of Stone Arrogant Bastard. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and it is now part of Ad Hop’s emerging core range of beers, developed to satisfy demand for regular kegs from more mainstream craft bars.
Anders has now long since quit his day job and moved the brewery into new, larger premises, but continues to surprise drinkers in Liverpool’s many great craft bars (and beyond) with his often weird but consistently wonderful brews.
“I’ve seen the local scene change a lot over that time,” he says. “We started out with one craft taproom, but now there’s Brewdog, Dead Crafty, and some of the more traditional pubs that have embraced craft. These places, particularly the smaller ones, are very interested in taking on local beer; in general, the trend for localism has really taken off in the last two years, because the money stays in the community.”
As it steadily expands its production and its reach, working for the first time with a distributor to reach further afield in the UK, there’s a sense that Ad Hop is entering a new phase in its story. Even with a steady flow of core beers now being brewed though, it is Anders’ original ‘pluralistic’ approach that remains at Ad Hop’s heart, and is what makes it so consistently interesting.
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