The Final Fling
Over the past weekend, North Hop descended on the AECC to celebrate its final fling as we know it. I was lucky enough to get invited along & attended the opening session on Friday night.
Having been to North Hop previously, and its sister festival - The Spirit of North Hop last year, I was super excited for this. The list of breweries, food vendors & everything else made for such an awesome lineup.
There were loads of great beers at North Hop this year. There were beers from great local breweries I'd already had plenty of experience with like Brew Toon, Beer Story & Fierce Beer and then there were breweries that were new to me such as Out of Town Brewing & Top Out Brewery. It was great to have such a range of beers to enjoy throughout the night and also being able to chat to the people from the breweries themselves - they were all extremely friendly, sharing stories about the breweries & the beers.
Overall, the beer of the show for me was Fierce Beer - Very Big Moose (Tonka), their 12.5% ABV imperial chocolate stout. This beer was immense...I had one sip of my friends beer & knew straight away I had to get one for myself. Unfortunately this was towards the end of the night, so my photography skills had greatly diminished, and I wasn't able to get a photo of the beer. Keep an eye out for a full review of this one in the near future.
Other highlights for me included M'ango Unchained by Brew Toon, the new Outsiders IPA from Beer Story, Orange Pale Ale & Property IPA from Out of Town - I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from these guys. A quick note on the creme brulee doughnut crush from Out of Town - I didn't get much doughnut taste in the beer, I would definitely be interested in trying this again to see if it is just a gimmick or if you can actually make out the flavours.
My only regret is not taking my glass home! Every time I have been at North Hop I have headed out afterwards so on each occasion I have unfortunately had to leave my glass behind.
There was also some top notch food on show at North Hop with Aberdeen favourites Melt on hand with their epic cheese toasties. I opted for the classic mac & cheese with Kerry going for the haggis one. As always, they were awesome, and the perfect way to kick off the night. My only regret was not buying one of those cream egg brownies (seriously, what was I thinking?!).
Aberdeen restaurant So...were there showcasing their "On Fire" street food menu. For me, the food highlight of the evening was their Firecracker loaded fries - they were EPIC. Perfectly seasoned crispy fries, topped with cheese, chillies & coriander. So... is a restaurant that I have crazily never actually visited. They often hold pop up events with their street food menu, and for whatever reason - I have never actually gone along. However, this will definitely change following my experience with these fries...they were SO damn good!
Aside from the awesome beer & food, there was plenty else to enjoy at North Hop including an array of awesome music throughout the night. Ranging from a piper in full highland dress kicking things off, a host of acoustic acts, before things being rounded off by the electric "Sweet White" who put in an excellent performance full of energy.
Along with the fantastic beer selection there was also the first ever North Hop bar, which showcased a bunch of really cool cocktails served up by a team of local barmen. These cocktails were expertly made & looked great and whilst I never had any myself, Kerry had one and assured me it was great.
Overall, we had a fantastic time at North Hop and I would like to thank the North Hop team again for putting on such a great event & for inviting me along. While it's a sad farewell for now, I'm incredibly excited to see how the next chapter looks - and if this is anything to go by, then I will be first in line 🍻
The Final Fling
With a little just over three weeks to go, Aberdeen's premier craft beer festival North Hop is nearly upon us. Dubbed "The Final Fling", because it is the last North Hop festival in its current form, this year's North Hop Aberdeen will again be held at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on 30 and 31 March (Easter weekend).
North Hop Festival Director, Michelle Russell, said: “This is our 4th Aberdeen festival and it will be our 12th festival since North Hop began in Inverness in 2014. It has been an amazing journey so far and we have worked with some awesome producers and folk from across Scotland and beyond. But the time has come to take a step back and some time out to come up with fresh ideas for the future of the North Hop brand.”
Michelle continued: “We have always been at the forefront of new trends and like to keep things fresh and unique. Aberdeen has always massively supported North Hop and we love running festivals in the city and that is exactly why we have chosen Aberdeen for our final fling to send the current festivals out in style!”
Having been to the festival a couple of times over the last few years, I can say from experience that festival goers are in for a great time.
As always North Hop will be bringing along some of the best breweries & food vendors that the North East has to offer, with several returning from previous festival years along with some first timers.
Alongside the wide range of beer, cider & street food on offer, there will be a cocktail lounge & a specially designed "North Hop Bar" that will feature five spirits from Berry Bros & Rudd (including a newly-launched London Dry Gin), natural mixers from Lamb & Watt, and the finest ice from Edinburgh Ice Co.
In the cocktail lounge, there will also be a special pop-up market place featuring hand-crafted goods from local creative curated by the Aberdeen Etsy team.
On the music front, the line-up very much echoes the "support local" message with all acoustic acts and bands linked to Aberdeenshire. Sweet White headline the Friday evening session, The 101 will top the bill for the Saturday afternoon session and North Hop favourites The Harmonica Movement headline and close the festival on the Saturday evening session.
As this is The Final Fling, famous bagpiper Spud the Piper has been invited to the AECC to accompany Festival MC Nicola McAlley from STV News to open and close the festival sessions.
Over 2500 people are expected to descend on the AECC across the three sessions for ‘The Final Fling’ & with nearly half the tickets already sold, it really is shaping up to be one hell of a bash.
Full dates & ticketing info are as follows:
NORTH HOP ABERDEEN “THE FINAL FLING” AT THE AECC
Friday 30 March 2018 - Evening Session - 7pm till 12am
Saturday 31 March 2018 - Afternoon Session - 12pm till 5pm
Saturday 31 March 2018 - Evening Session - 7pm till 12am
£16.00 plus Booking Fee per session. Each session lasts 5 hours, and the ticket price includes festival access on the specified days/times, a North Hop glass, festival programme and drink tasters on arrival. Available at http://northhop.co.uk/festivals/aberdeen, via Ticketmaster or locally at DogTap (Ellon), Brew Toon (Peterhead), BrewDog Aberdeen (Flagship), BrewDog Castlegate and Melt.
North Hop has teamed with the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express next door to the AECC to offer festival goers discounted rates for the weekend of the festival. Deals are as follows:
Holiday Inn Express - £45 per night* B&B (continental breakfast)
Holiday Inn - £49 per night* B&B (full cooked breakfast)
*Discounted rate available for Thursday 29th, Friday 30th, and Saturday 31st March 2018.
You can keep up to date with all things #northhopabz on the following channels:
Beer With a Story To Tell
Recently whilst browsing Instagram, I stumbled across a post that featured a new Aberdeenshire based brewery - Beer Story Brewing.
I took the time to follow their social media channels & find out a bit more about them & more importantly, their beer. Based in Insch, Aberdeenshire, Beer Story Brewing were formed last year with the goal to make beer that tells a story - using interesting ingredients from all around the globe. Impressed with what I was reading, I decided to contact them to find out where I could purchase their beer to review & spread the word. I was very kindly offered the chance to collect some samples if I made my way out to the brewery, which I promptly did.
When I arrived there, I was immediately taken aback by the size of it. I didn't really know what to expect; but I was thinking it would be something more of a small industrial unit, but it's actually quite a large space. I was greeted by John McKenzie who took the time to show me around, tell me a bit about his background & the company itself. It is a highly impressive setup for a relatively new & small brewery & they seem perfectly positioned to make a name for themselves. I left feeling educated & with samples of their two current beers; Clockwork Zest & On The Road.
On The Road
First up is On The Road, a 5.2% ABV Californian IPA, that is made using American hops & yeast. Here's what Beer Story have to say about it:
"This adventurous IPA explores the kicks and inspiration of floral and citrus hops grown on Uncle Sam's West Coast. Californian ale yeast accentuates these bold hop flavours to deliver big hop aroma and taste."
First up, the bottle is presented extremely well - I was told that the labels were to represent library cards as each beer is telling it's own story, a nice touch if you ask me. Popping the bottle & pouring into a glass, the aromas are mainly citrus; lemon & orange, backed by some light floral notes. On The Road pours a golden amber with a thin white head that disperses quite quickly. Flavours are a malt base with a touch of caramel & some crisp citrus. There is almost no bitterness carbonation was relatively low - I'm not sure of this was just the bottle I had or if it is usually like this. The flavours all work together quite well in my opinion, making the beer very easy to drink & very tasty.
Overall, I found On The Road to be a very solid IPA & an great first beer for Beer Story. It's an extremely easy drinking beer & one that I think most would enjoy - you should check it.
3.75 out of 5 hops from me
Next up is Clockwork Zest, a 5.4% ABV chocolate porter that has been made using African cocoa nibs, coffee beans & oranges. Here's what Beer Story have to say about it:
"Take a dive into the utopian blend of chocolate malt, Madagascan cocoa nibs and very subtle oils of orange and zest. Equatorial African coffee beans round off this red island inspired porter."
Again we have another example of the library card style label that does a great job of telling you that little bit more about the beer. Opening the bottle & pouring into a glass, you are immediately hit with huge coffee aromas & a hint of citrus sweetness from the orange peel. Clockwork Zest pours a very dark, almost black, brown with a thin light brown head. On taste, you are hit with those huge coffee flavours right away before loads of bitterness from the cocoa nibs & some ever so slight sweetness of the orange. It's a great tasting beer & the flavours work well together, however I think that there is just a touch too much bitterness for my liking.
After drinking loads of fantastic porters & stouts over Xmas, Clockwork Zest certainly does not disappoint & it is another encouraging sign of what's to come from Beer Story.
3.5 out of 5 hops from me.
From first impressions I have been greatly impressed by Beer Story & I very much look forward to trying what comes next from them - first up is Outsiders IPA, a 4.17% ABV red IPA. They are also going to be at North Hop Aberdeen later this year, so be sure to keep an eye out for tickets going on sale.
You can keep up to date on all things Beer Story on their Website or by following them on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Beer Story are located at:.
Beer Story Brewing Co
Insch Business Park