Craft beer and skateboarding: a match made in heaven?
We recently spent a few days in London with Ben and Ludi Hopkinson, the brothers behind the Hop King craft beer brand, discussing hops, brewing beer and skateboarding, in that order.
Officially launched in July of 2017, the Hop King Pale Ale recipe was created by Ben, the elder of the two Hopkinson brothers, who had already embarked on a career in the then nascent micro-brewing world after leaving University.
Experiments with home-brewing and time working alongside a start up brewery owned by a friend informed the final recipe, which aimed to create a craft beer suited to the tastes of both the traditional lager drinker, and to those fond of the hoppier, more distinctive flavour of craft beers.
As Ben explains, early experiments with brewing and insights gained from his time at the Penge-based Late Knights Brewery led to an interest in creating a a product that straddled both the craft beer and mainstream lager markets.
"I had done the occasional brew during my time at Late Knights Brewery so I understood the process, but in terms of learning my craft: that was really a process of trial and error, brewing at home. I figured it out through reading books, speaking to people in the industry, and brewing over and over again. If you get it wrong then you end up pouring away 25L of beer that you’ve just cocked up, which is pretty painful. It forces you to learn quickly."
The two brothers joined forces after Ludi, the younger of the two, left University and took on the marketing role at Hop King. With a shared love of skateboarding stretching back to their teens, the duo decided that it made perfect sense to create a marriage between these two passions of beer and skateboarding to give the brand its own USP, (that's 'unique selling point' to the acronym uninitiated amongst you).
John Connolly - backside tail in the pouring rain during his maiden voyage to London
As Ludi puts it:
"Energy drinks have long been aligned with skateboarding so we thought 'why not with beer?' There are definite crossovers through the music, art and social aspects of both beer and skateboarding and we felt that the lack of pretension and snobbiness that skate culture represents perfectly matched our approach to brewing."
The pair then embarked on the process of putting a skate team together comprised of skaters from across the country who they felt best represented the brand.
With three salaried pros in the form of Scottish ripper John Connolly and two London-based heads, Brazilian chef Marcos Baines and the currently injured Carla Calero signed up in December, the plan finally came to fruition.
After spending the day chatting to the Hopkinsons in Ben's bar 'Beer Rebellion' in Peckham, the initial plan was to meet up with the team and session Royal Oak which acts as the spiritual home of the brand to a certain degree, and the home spot to two of their paid riders.
It came as no surprise however when January intervened and torrential rain forced a relocation to the only remotely dry (and I use 'dry' loosely) skate spot in the capital, namely, the venerable Southbank.
All praise must go out to the dynamic duo of Marcos Baines and John Connolly here for going in and flinging themselves down the SB 7 whilst the rain hammered down.
Alongside the skate team, Hop King are also producing a range of hard and soft goods which you can see more of over at the Hop King website.
Marcos Baines - pressure flip - Southbank. Photo: CJ
It's definitely refreshing to see such an organic marriage of two cultures, especially one where the skaters are paid and treated with the respect often lacking from brand-alignment strategies that co-opt skateboarding with little regard for the skaters involved.
John Connolly - frontside no comply - Southbank. Photo: CJ
Follow the brand on Instagram at @hop_king for regular updates on events and clips from their team and keep your eyes peeled for some Hop King skate events planned for Spring 2018.
John Connolly - backside 360 ollie - Southbank. Photo: CJ
Beer Rebellion, 129 Queen's Road, Peckham
All photos: CJ