Howling Hops began life in the basement of the Cock Tavern on Mare Street, London in 2011. The ‘brew cave’ as they affectionately called it, was 2.2m wide and the roof reputedly so low, you had to be under 5’9” to be able to fit in there.
Thankfully, founder Pete Holt isn’t claustrophobic. He is, however, as passionate about beer as anyone you’re likely to meet. As well as being the proprietor of The Cock, he also owns the wonderful Southampton Arms in Kentish Town - famous for its 'Ale, Cider, Meat'.
“We’ve been passionate about good beer for many years. Initially drinking it, then selling it at the Southampton Arms and eventually onto brewing it. At the Southampton Arms we realised how much demand there was for interesting beer. There was some good stuff out there back in 2008 but the majority was pretty boring. We knew if we could brew some great beer, selling it would be no problem. All we needed was some space and a brew kit”, explains Pete.
It wasn’t long before the basement pub on Mare Street was struggling to keep up with demand and so they relocated to a new site a couple of miles away in Hackney Wick taking former Cock Tavern manager and Aussie, Tim O’Rourke, with them as their head brewer at the UK’s first dedicated “tank bar”.
“What’s a tank bar?”, we hear you say. Well, rather than serving beer from cask, keg, bottle or can, the tank bar serves its beer directly from the tanks in the brewery. In the case of Howling Hops this consists of ten massive shiny tanks serving ten different beers behind the long bar. It resembles something like a German-style beer hall crossed with a rather cool looking cafeteria. Albeit a cafeteria where “a big f*ck-off tray of meat” is on the menu (to share) and where you can take a growler of your favoured beer home with you.
Experimentation is definitely the order of the day at Howling Hops. For the first two years in the cellar brewery, they never brewed the same beer twice and that ethos has lived on, with over 150 different beers emerging from Howling Hops since 2012.
Kölsch is a kind of German lager and pale ale hybrid. Abiding by the classic style, it’s brewed using a top-fermenting yeast, like ale, but is then cold-fermented like a lager. It’s super pale, bready sweet with a dry, lightly smoked bitter finish.
Howling Hops can’t call it Kölsch because the term can only be used by breweries within the city of Cologne/Köln, where the style originates from, hence the extra ‘o’ in Das Köolsch. Das ist cool, ja?