we visit the Lancashire micro where Humulus lupulus is king
Hopstar Brewery is an immensely cheering place to visit for those who revere the art, craft and fine tradition of real, no-nonsense ale. In this brewhouse you’ll find no gimmicks and no compromises with passing fads. And definitely no dumbing down when it comes to taste. What you get instead is a brewer totally dedicated to the task of producing great traditional beers bursting with individual flavours.
Twenty-nine Lunesdale CAMRA people and supporters — including ten members of Lancaster University’s Real Ale & Cider Society — paid a recent visit to the Darwen-based brewery. They received a warm welcome from head brewer Barry, manager Natalie and the team and were able to enjoy some marvellous Hopstar beers while Barry talked with quiet passion about what drives him.
“If you’re brewing, it’s got to come from the heart, you’ve got to be committed. I brew because I love it and want to create distinctive, characterful beers for drinkers who appreciate quality ingredients and a full flavour.”
Barry and Hopstar haven’t gone down the trendy path of trying to win over lager drinkers by producing pallid, sweetish, inoffensive ales. The “hop” in Hopstar gives a clue to the forceful character of these beers. Here Humulus lupulus — the brewers’ hop — rules, and is well to the fore across the portfolio. At the brewery we tried the gloriously more-ish, aromatic bitter Lancashire Gold (4.0%) and the subtle and refreshing Hop Nouveau (3.7) brewed (as you’d expect) with new season hops.
Later, in the friendly Office pub we were able to enjoy the firm’s best seller, the smooth and very tasty Dizzy Danny (3.8), the epitome of session ales, and the darkly succulent Smokey Joe’s (4.0), a multi-award winning porter.
Hopstar’s success reflects what’s happened to real ale in recent years. Starting in 2004 in a garage (“We had to take the car out and clear away the junk”) brewing with a 2.5 barrel kit, the modern plant is now conveniently housed in an industrial unit from which up to 50 outlets are supplied in Greater Manchester and Lancashire. The brewery is also available to festival organisers to brew ales for their beer fests.
Long may Hopstar prosper. The philosophy behind it blends the passion and joyous enthusiasm of the dedicated amateur with the commitment to quality and high standards of the true professional. It’s a heady brew.
Our thanks to Barry and Natalie for an evening to savour.