That magical time of the year, when beer lovers and connoisseurs and even your odd wine drinker head on down to Hopfest at the Irish Village, to grab some of the vast range of delicious and mouthwatering beers that are on offer. Almost like clockwork people arrived in full force to order weird and wonderful beers such as Jaipur, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse, just to name a few.
Celebrating its 11th Anniversary, Dubai’s Hopfest has grown over the years to become one of the most loved and eagerly anticipated events in the city’s busy event calendar. With over 153 different beers available at this year’s event covering a multitude of beer styles, Hopfest yet again delivered on its unique position of offering a truly extensive and diverse range of beers worthy of a festival!
What liquid tickled everyone’s taste bud this year….
As with all good beer festivals seeking to showcase global brewing and beer brands, the ‘capital’s’ of brewing culture feature quite heavily – with Belgium, German, Czech, British and Irish bars making up the cornerstone of the offering, Dubai’s Hopfest is no different.
The British, ale bar includes Hobgoblin as its lead ale, backed by the infamous Pedigree and Oyster stout.
Firstly, there was Hobgoblin making its third outing as a draught beer, having been trialed for the first time two years ago with great success. This full bodied ruby dark ale, delivers a chocolate/ toffee malt flavour with a rounded fruity bitterness. Arguably the best ale on offer and quickly becoming an event favourite. In addition to that, and for the first time, Hobgoblin Piledriver made an appearance, quickly becoming a stern front runner. This nectar of the gods had a very smooth mouth feel but backed by a heartwarming bitterness. Other new comers to mention included – Brakspear Triple, and a range of Hobgoblin varieties, all of which were given the tip of the old hat by the steadfast ale drinkers.
The German offering was notably impressive with an arsenal of crisp, perfectly brewed, Pilsner styles from Lowenbrau, Spaten, Warsteiner and Becks.
In addition were the wheat based beers synonymous with Munich. The Erdinger family was very much the front-runner this year with a number of variants.
Coming from the tap one of the favourites this year had to be the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel. Which did notably well last year in the bottle so the addition of this was long awaited by many, which brought many beer drinkers to a standstill and appreciate some of its beauty, from the roasted malts giving us an eruption of flavours. Prost!
Whilst Belgium has to offer an abundance of beer as a country we had managed to acquire 36 of these rare and remarkable beers. The backbone of the Belgian range was the always good noble Stella Artois , backed by an outstanding range of Belgian styled beers, such as Oude Geuze, Duvel, the fittingly Delirium Tremens, and many many many more.
The wonderfully different fruit beers this year came from a host of different brewers. Belle-Vue Kriek (cherry based beer) which is brewed via spontaneous fermentation, giving it a sour and tart taste. It is then mellowed by the addition of cherries and aged in oak barrels over a number of months – all in all a feat of brewing heeding back to the middle ages. Notably a Hopfest favourite and has been on draught now for the last 7 years. Bring more fruit sensations was the Floris Range. This was a great success again this year with the induction of Floris Ninkeberry. The other flavours which were great triumph including such flavours as Apple, Passion Fruit, Strawberry, Raspberry and even a Chocolate beer.
However the beer that stole the show this year was Fruli . A wheat based beer influenced with Strawberry, with the masses diving into the lovely sweet liquid causing it to sell out with in the first day.
It wouldn’t have been a beer festival in the year 2015, if there wasn’t an acknowledgment at least of the innovation and contribution craft brewers are beginning to make to this constantly changing world.
Last year where we had a smaller selection of craft beers, we went big and almost doubled the range to include some real beauties. The ever-impressive Brooklyn range, Anchor steam, Liberty Ale, Sam Adams, Boulevard and the ever-infamous Flying Dog – Ranging Bitch beer were all on offer.
Screaming at the top of its lungs this was the Brooklyn lager and India Pale Ale (IPA) , which did not disappoint any lips that it came across. The single wide IPA was changing minds of numerous beer drinkers and becoming a steadfast choice. Sam Adams from Boston was also available again– a Hopfest favourite in years gone by. This full bodied beer, with its robust and rich character, is respected worldwide and has been helping to lead the US beer revolution from the beginning.
However the choice of the day went to the Brooklyn half summer ale based on an old Saison beer style of beer, which has been influenced by new world American and German hops.
Even the Australians are coming in heavy footed into Hopfest with an amazing showing by Fosters and The Australian craft beer scene. Brewers such as ‘Matilda Bay, and their superlative range of beers, most notable of which is Fat Yak. Fat Yak is a distinctive, hop driven, fruity/ herbaceous beer with some passion fruit and melon notes. A hit amongst beer enthusiasts at Hopfest for the 4th year running – it is a truly impressive craft beer.
Attention in the Hopfest cider offering continues to grow every year, with 2015 being no exception. Aside from the much loved, crowd pleasing cider of Magners – their Original Apple variant, which remains one of the biggest sellers at the event, there is now a family of Magners flavours that have made it through the ranks to become big sellers in their own right. Namely the increasingly loved Pear option and the newer Berry mixed fruit cider.
On the sweeter, but by no means less sessionable, Somersby Cider offered a great cider alternative and bought along a family of its own, to include – Somersby Blackcurrant, and the Somersby Ginger & Lemon. To continue the ginger theme, Ginger Joe, Hopfest’s only Ginger Beer option, a product that is dangerously easy to drink with a subtle zingy ginger kick, continued to impress customers looking for a less Hop orientated liquid.
However our new launch this year was Stella Cidre, which took the minds of the loyal cider drinker and threw a spanner in the works. With its subtitle sweet notes and ease ability to be drunk at all times of the day, took this cider to new level and won many hearts at this years Hopfest.
Hopfest is truly a wonderful event to be a part of. It brings all corners of the beer world under one roof. This is truly the biggest and best beer event in Dubai, so mark your calendars now for Hopfest 2016 – it’s a beer event not to be missed.
See you next year for more great bands, fancy dress, hot dogs and burgers, sawdust, and of course a star line up of some of the world’s best beers!
Words by: Brent Henderson