I’ve been writing for Hop Burns & Black for more than three years now, but I think this is the first time I’ve written for Jen, Glenn and the team from inside Hop Burns & Black. I know, how meta. What’s perhaps most interesting about sitting in the shop on a Friday afternoon and watching people coming in, taking with them big bags stuffed with cans for the weekend, is how much things have changed in the beer world in such a short space of time.
The cans themselves, for starters, have become an enormous deal. Three years ago the shelves would have been almost exclusively lined with bottles. Now, thanks to canning becoming more accessible, around two-thirds of the beer on the shelves is now packaged in aluminium. It’s not just the packaging that’s changed either. The beer has too. Not just in terms of style – although the New England IPA has become something of a ubiquitous feature of the modern independent bottle shop – but the brands prominent on those shelves has also transformed over time.
This is great for us drinkers too. As many brewers choose to either eschew independence in the quest for expansion, or choose to stock national supermarket chains, losing their listings with folks like HB&B in the process, so do new brewers emerge. This in turn creates a new opportunity for these young breweries to carve out a small portion of the beer market for themselves. It’s craft beer’s very own circle of life.
And it’s because of this I’ve found myself in possession of an IPA from Loka Polly – my first. I’m aware the North Wales-based brewery has been making waves among beer’s most ardent fans for a few months now, but with more than 2,000 breweries in the UK it can be challenging to keep up.
The beer in question is a fresh can of Hallertau Blanc IPA. Weighing in at 6.6% ABV, the beer pours as slick and hazy as you’d expect from a modern NEIPA. What’s interesting about this beer for me is how the typical NEIPA cocktail of Citra, Mosaic and friends has been eschewed for the German Hallertau Blanc variety – a modern breed of a the classic Hallertau Mittlefrüh noble variety, which is typically used in lager brewing.
Although the Hallertau Blanc hop maintains a herbaceous snap, it’s supplemented by a distinctively juicy note reminiscent of white peach – perfect for a modern, girthy IPA such as this one. And believe me when I say this beer is girthy. If you’re a fan of beer that’s as chewy as it is delicious, then this one’s for you. Thankfully, that heft is balanced by a dry finish, and that subtle, fresh, green note implemented thanks to the parentage of this beer’s particular hop variety. From this, I can certainly see why Loka Polly has generated so much fuss among beer’s in-crowd this year.