It’s been a big year for A&H abroad. We’ve opened up new markets - France and Ireland - whilst vastly increasing our volumes to existing customers in Italy, Belgium, Spain & Australia. What this really means though, is that we get to go and drink in these countries.
Our first trip of the year saw Paul and I (and the Affinity Brew Co. LCBF sign…) head to Brussels in early September. The purpose of the voyage was to celebrate the announcement of our Crowdfunding campaign. This of course involved a tap-takeover hosted by our dear friends Nanobrasserie de L’Ermitage. Their tap-room is fast becoming something of an institution in Brussels and this event was proof of this. The brewery was fit to burst by the time we arrived at 8pm. What followed was a night of extremely responsible drinking as we wowed the crowds of Belgians with our grand plans for expanding Anspach & Hobday. Of course a visit to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without trips to see some old mates at Cantillon & De la Senne, live fixie-bike polo with Seb from Le Barboteur and one extremely expensive meal at which Paul was forced to face up to his arch nemesis… natural wine. If you ever fancy being bored senseless by a very angry man, take the time to tell Paul that you think natural wine is the truest expression of grapes in alcoholic form.
Next on the travel agenda was a multi-faceted trip to Italy for myself and Jack. First on the itinerary for Jack was a takeover at Brewdog in Florence, organised by Lapo, another good friend of the brewery. This provided another opportunity to spread the word of our forthcoming Crowdfunding campaign [and for Jack to answer all the big questions about Brexit]. From Florence, Jack and I rendezvoused in Bologna for pasta and wine (and a couple of visits to see customers) before heading north to Ferrara. In Ferrara we were booked in for a couple of events - a takeover with Davide at Il Molo and a sour beer tasting at Beershop 2 Gobbi. Armed with a truly pathetic grasp of Italian, it’s fair to say that the attendees at the tasting were bowled over by my hugely in depth and impassioned explanations of the beers. Undoubtedly helped by the kind translators serving as a filter for all of my unnecessary waffle.
To have people coming to both events especially to try our beers was extremely heartening. All the more so when you consider how far we were from home, in a place with an extremely young craft beer scene.
In both Brussels and Italy it’s a great pleasure to meet so many people who share our ethos when it comes to beer. Fads are of little-to-no importance, all that matters is the quality of the beer. If anything, people were actively relieved that we haven't brewed a New England IPA and in some instances there was no small amount of confusion as to why that particular trend has taken such a hold back in the UK.
Onto the final leg of A&H’s 2018 travels… France. In a shocking turn of events, I was unable attend our first French trip of the year. However, Dan and Dylan (and the Affinity Brew Co. LCBF sign…) were on hand to represent us at the Beer Love Fest in Montpellier. From what they reported back, this was one of the best beer festivals they’ve been to. I’ve heard this opinion backed up from several other sources as well. Whilst there, we also had a joint takeover with l’Ermitage at La Barbote Microbrasserie - responsible drinking, intellectual conversation, delicious beer etc.
To round things off, I was sent packing, solo, to the first ever Strasbourg Craft Beer Festival. On the Thursday we had a takeover at the brilliantly bonkers Bar Le Grincheux. They only stock 500 whiskies and 300 rums, pathetic. The next two days were taken up with the festival. After a few minor organisational hiccoughs, it was a brilliant couple of days. The festival was infinitely busier than the organisers had anticipated and proved that there is a real hunger for quality beer everywhere you go. As the only English brewery at the festival, it was a great chance to meet some new people, try some new beers and of course show off the wonders of A&H to the people of France (or Germany if you subscribe to the Jack Hobday school of European Geography).
All in all, as I said, it was a big year for A&H abroad. And next year looks set to be much bigger with Switzerland taking their first shipments of beer and the Netherlands and Hungary waiting for us to have the capacity to begin to supply them. Even before 2018 is over, Paul (and maybe the Affinity Brew Co. LCBF sign…) is off to Antwerp and we may even find time for one more little trip to Brussels. We’re also going to Leeds…
Who knows what’s going to happen next year… Well, actually, I do and it involves a lot more of the same.