HOFMEISTER HELLES LAGER Q&A: RICHARD LONGHURST & SPENCER CHAMBERS

As party season gets underway and we get into the spirit (sorry I couldn’t help myself), we start to think of delicious drinks to imbibe. After reviewing Hofmeister earlier this year, it is one of the beers that has made my “To Drink” list when I’m out and about. (See my original review here.)

I think it’s important to know the provenance of a product, and I love finding out more about the people behind a brand. Which is why I couldn’t wait to catch up with the dynamic duo behind Hofmeister: Richard Longhurst and Spencer Chambers.

Richard started his career in the drinks industry at Majestic Wine in 1994. Since then, he’s always had a passion for beers and wines. Richard and Spencer have known each other for nearly 20 years; here’s what they had to say about Hofmeister version 2.0, beer trends to look out for, and why beer flights will be more prominent in restaurants next year.

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Why revisit Hofmeister?

It is a fabulous brand with huge emotional recall and love for those old enough to remember it and now the beer has the quality and provenance that is demanded today – the best ingredients, the best brewing process from one of the best brewing areas in the world and now is the best lager of 2017-18! Why wouldn’t we want to bring the Bear back?

What is your vision for Hofmeister version 2.0?

We want to deliver the best Helles lager that we can to the drinking public, who are looking for something that is not mass produced or industrialised, that is authentic, genuine and real and is a fantastic quality beer that appeals to a broad section of beer drinkers today.

Tell us about your typical working day at Hofmeister.

There is nothing typical about any working day at Hof! There is a constant need to keep on top of internal and external communication and as we are such a small team, we are involved in every aspect of the business, from delivering kegs to pubs, writing investor reports, working with regional and national distributors and customers through to getting the coffees in, monitoring cash flow, liaising with shareholders and moving our oversized deck chair from one venue to another on the roof of my car!

No two days are the same and everything we do still gives us a buzz and satisfaction – but the most satisfying thing about Hof is when you walk into a pub or bar and there are people drinking our award-winning beer out of our beautifully designed glasses and enjoying our fabulous product; it’s even better when they go and order another Hof!

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How do you want to make people feel when they drink Hofmeister?

Hof is an inclusive brand based on quality and excellence, so I want people to really enjoy the product, be inquisitive about where it comes from, how it’s brewed, what it is and where it comes from. But most importantly, I want them to enjoy the experience, share that enjoyment and buy another one!

What are your plans for the brand, and what can Hofmeister bring to the hospitality industry in 2017 and beyond?

We are really at the start of the journey, but our immediate goal is to build sustainable distribution with the right partners so that the largest number of people can enjoy the brilliance of our award-winning Helles lager.

We are sitting in an interesting place in the beer/hospitality market at present, as there are an amazing number of incredible and exciting craft beers on the market right now and plenty of mass produced, mass marketed mega-brands vying for our attention.

Hof is a little different as it’s a lager but it’s small batch brewed, represents a new or underrepresented style of lager and is not owned by one of the behemoths of the brewing world, so we are trying to bring a touch of genuine heritage and brewing excellence to the industry but with a sense of fun, enjoyment and inclusiveness.

Have you always been passionate about drinks and hospitality?

I’ve spent most of my working life in the drinks industry and loved every minute! I also love a story – why is someone doing what they’re doing and how is that product produced. I love beers, wines, and spirits, and the people who produce them are more often than not massively passionate about what they do and that is something worth celebrating!

At home, what is your beer of choice?

I enjoy all styles of beer – obviously it’s very important to keep a rigorous quality control standard for Hof going so I have sunk one or two over that last year!

I’m currently drinking a Black Sheep Ale (the Hof before it was of excellent quality) but whatever I’m drinking it’s always out of a Hof glass!

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What beer trends have you encountered this year? Any new ingredients that I just need to know about?

I am loving the resurgence of porters and stouts and I really like beers that have messed around with coffee flavourings (although I never thought I would do!) What I’m really looking forward to is our NPD on Festival beer…

What do you think of craft beer and micro-breweries?

In a word – brilliant! Wine is not just red, white or rose and beer isn’t just lager, bitter and stout and craft beers and micro-breweries have really opened people’s’ eyes to the amazing things you can do with water, hops and barley – keep them coming!

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How would you describe the evolution of pub culture over the past few decades, to its present state?

Change or die. Gone are the days of pubs being ordinary; every pub has to have a purpose, be that the food, the drinks, or the experience, and every pub that’s going to survive has to excel at its offer. I think this is a great thing as you wouldn’t want to eat mediocre food or drink mediocre beer, so equally you wouldn’t want to experience a mediocre pub.

Beer is steadily becoming a star in its own right, with the rise of beer-flights and being used as an ingredient in cooking. What do you attribute the transcendence of beer to, from being just a drink, to something much more? (PS check out my original review for details of a beer and curry matching I did in my home.)

I think consumers these days are much more demanding and expecting of excellent quality and real value for money. That doesn’t mean “cheap” but it does mean that when you pay for something you want it to deliver and you don’t want to be disappointed.

The wine and spirits industries have very successfully shown us we can upgrade our wines and spirits, and people have become accustomed to knowing about grape varieties, regional wine styles, and are expecting to be educated via the label on the bottle.

The whisky industry has worked really hard to promote the provenance and distilling skill needed to produce fine malt whisky, and the emergence of “craft” gin, and of course improved mixers, have shown us that a G&T doesn’t just have to be a basic G&T.

It’s now beer’s turn to delight and challenge, to push the boundaries and to improve the beer consumer’s choices and experiences. The craft beer scene has really kicked this off with traditional brewed, top fermented, IPAs, ales and stouts and now we are delivering the best quality Helles we can from the only place on earth where you can brew a genuine Helles lager!

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I would love to see Hofmeister partner with an eatery for a special beer-flight (beer-matched food with various courses). What is your opinion of beer-flights in restaurants?

I love them! Beer and food go hand in hand and as we now have such a vibrant beer scene let’s excite our taste buds by partnering some awesome beer with some stunning food!

If you need more information about this delicious beer, hop on over (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) to their website now.

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