Hop to it!
Bringing the best of French to UK drinkers
Wednesday 12 February 2020
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Hoppin’ Rabbit is a new craft beer distribution company that started trading last January (so it’s just celebrated its first birthday), with a focus on bringing great French beer to drinkers in the UK. Florian, or Flo, and Sandy, the founders, are based in Roanne - west of Lyon, right in the middle of France - and are surrounded by breweries that they feel deserve recognition overseas.
By trade Sandy is a photographer and Flo is a civil engineer, but craft beer opened up a different door for them - the couple moved to Roanne almost two years ago from Birmingham, where Sandy is from. Prior to that they lived in London, where they met through the bar scene - Flo was cellar manager for a craft beer pub, an avenue he pursued after falling in love with the beer scene, but especially with cask ale (which he says is not really a thing in France).
Soon after they relocated to France, Flo and Sandy welcomed a baby girl, and after settling into parenthood was when their plans for Hoppin’ Rabbit started to come together. They wanted to create their own business within the craft beer world, and after a visit to the Lyon beer festival a couple years ago (which they attended a few months after moving to France, so that they could get their hands on some British beer!), they noticed that the beer they were trying was amazing. However, a lot of the breweries they spoke to didn’t have representation in the UK, and so the idea to start a distribution company was born, which allows them to bring some of the amazing French craft beer they were drinking over to the UK.
At Hoppin’ Rabbit, Sandy and Flo want to champion the variety and modernity of French beers, but also the more classic styles. Flo comments that: “French brewers are becoming popular for styles like saisons, Berliner weisse, and sours, but the more traditional styles are also being made so well. The traditional aspect of French brewing brings out something really nice too, like with Bière de Gardes: it’s a bit more special, and yet also unexpected among the current beer scene.” Sandy adds: “they’re keeping up with the trends, but keeping it traditional at the same time.”
Generally, beer in France is quite unlike anything you might get elsewhere - breweries make sure to use local produce in their beers whenever possible, since France has a great climate for growing grains and hops. Every region has something a bit different within its beers, due to using ingredients sourced nearby, so there’s much more variety than you might see in beer from other countries. For instance, Brasserie Popihn recently invested money into planting and growing 200 fruit trees in an orchard - to be able to harvest fruits such as apricots, cherries - to use in their Berliner weisses, porters, and all sorts of other tasty beers.
Hoppin’ Rabbit’s passion for French craft beer doesn’t just end at drinking them - they love how, as well as showcasing local ingredients, beers are often made to complement certain foods (much like wines). Flo describes this aspect: “we want French craft beer to succeed because it’s really worth it - it has something different to beers from other countries, plus a nice touch that we can add to gastronomy - the flavours and the subtleties of the beer are something we want to share.” They are beers you want to drink when you eat good food. Sandy further explains: “because French people tend to love food, a lot of the brewers tend to have beer and food in mind when they’re brewing.” An example of this would be Brasserie Effet Papillon, a brewery that Hoppin’ Rabbit represents: its website has beer pairings with detailed, specific dishes, to best enhance each other’s flavours - including sweet food, savoury food, and cheeses.
Hoppin’ Rabbit is also big on events, hosting at least two every month - and when Sandy and Flo host, they make sure they’ve got solid beer and food pairings, but they also always take their own cheese with them. And they’ve even done beer and chocolate pairing events too. So, if you see a French beer and food event near you, be sure to attend as they’re unmissable!
Effet Papillon is also known for its barrel-aged beers - its team has just invested in almost 100 wine barrels, increasing the brewery’s already sizeable collection of barrels, to age wine in. Very French. Ageing in wine barrels isn’t uncommon for French craft breweries, as Sandy explains: “what makes French beer so fantastic is that they’re using something they’re already well-known for and incorporating it into the beer, so it’s really special because you’re not going to get those wine barrels anywhere else - it’s what those specific regions of France are really known for.”
Wondering how the logistics of importing French beer into the UK works? Hoppin’ Rabbit has a warehouse made up of two cold-store rooms in London. The beer is collected from France by a chilled transport company and driven over in refrigerated trucks, to keep everything fresh and cold at all times, then dropped off at Hoppin’ Rabbit’s warehouse. At the moment, all deliveries within the UK are done in-house by Flo, who is over from France around every two weeks, but they are both hoping to be able to expand soon and have a small team helping with logistics in London. As you may have guessed, this travel inadvertently makes Flo and Sandy’s relationship a bit of a long-distance thing at times - thank the Lord for FaceTime! Sandy explains, humbly: “we manage because we are so dedicated to what we are doing - we believe that French beer is really something to shout about so we are willing to make those sacrifices.”
Hoppin’ Rabbit is currently distributing mostly in London and Birmingham, but throughout 2020 it's aiming to reach a wider audience across the UK - in the year that it’s been part of the craft beer scene, Flo and Sandy have been doing as many events and meeting as many people as possible to make connections, so fingers crossed that 2020 will be the year you’ll see a big selection of French craft beer at a bottle shop or beer bar near you! In the meantime, visit Hoppin’ Rabbit’s stand at Brew//LDN, try something unique, and meet the couple behind the company - Sandy comments that: “it’s going to be fun to showcase all these beers at Brew//LDN, talk about the breweries and the beers, and let people know French beer is here, which is our main goal!”
Find us at Brew//LDN, where we’ll be pouring beers from:
The other breweries we represent are:
List of current stockists of French Beer:
Kill The Cat (Brick Lane, London), Soif (Battersea, London), The Exmouth Arms (Exmouth Market, London), Terroir (East Dulwich, London), Real Ale (Notting Hill, Twickenham, Maida Vale), We Brought Beer (Balham, London), Dreambags Jaguar Shoes (Kingsland Rd, London), Indie Beer (Holloway Road, London), Offie & Toffee (Bethnal Green, London), Cherry Reds (Birmigham), Stirchley Wines (Birmingham), The Juke (Birmingham), The Wolf (Birmingham), The Dark Horse (Moseley)
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