With less than two months to go until Hop City takes place in the Northern Monk Brew Co home in Leeds, we catch up with comms manager Eve Lindsay and the team to get the lowdown on the event, the scene, the collabs and their not-for-profit projects….

Hop City is the UK’s first hop-led beer festival. How has the beer scene changed over the past three years?

The UK beer scene has grown substantially in three years. In terms of IPAs, the standard in the UK has never been closer to the US breweries that originally inspired them. The scene in the UK is maturing, and we’re seeing an increasing appreciation for quality, consistency and balance in hop-forward beers. The term ‘IPA’ itself has also diversified incredibly over the last few years, ranging from bitter, resinous ‘West Coast’ style IPAs, to the softer, juicier ‘East Coast’ IPAs that have flooded the UK beer scene more recently. It’s an ever-evolving industry!

What are the key differences between your Hop City and Dark City events?

As the name suggests, Hop City focuses on the best hop-forward beers with IPAs, DIPAs, pale ales etc. taking centre stage. Dark City is the opposite, with the focus for this festival being on stouts, porters and other dark styles of beer. In 2018 we extended the breadth of the festival, which is now named Dark & Wild City. As well as celebrating some of the very best dark beer from across the globe, we brought in some of world’s finest wild and sour beers, with styles including sour IPAs, Berliner Weisses, Goses, Lambics and more.

The two different festivals focus on two different styles of beer.

Are there any new features or collaborations coming up that you can share with us?

We always aim to raise the bar for our festivals, and make sure that each one is bigger and better than the one before. As always, we’ll be brewing a big collaboration festival beer to mark the event, but plans are under wraps for now…

As is a constant with the festivals, there’ll be world class beer from breweries from the UK, the US and Europe, combined with awesome music and street food. We’ve just started announcing the attending breweries on our social media channels too, check there for updates!

You’re on Series 25 of your Patrons Projects, how did the idea come about?

It’s an initiative that has been with us since the beginning. We’ve always supported artists, with a focus on our locality. In our early days we produced videos, made beers and commissioned street art, but no one was really aware of the work we were doing. We needed a vehicle to allow us to push this further and give a platform to some of the people we’d brought on board.

We had a meeting with our label printer to talk about innovation. They’d produced a lot of peel-and-reveal labels for the pharmaceutical trade, but hadn’t seen them used outside of this industry. We were looking for an opportunity to use them on a beer…

We’d also done a lot of work with photographer Tom Joy, and had been discussing how we could build on the medium of beer and photography. We eventually decided to have an exhibition of his work using the beer can as a 330ml canvas. We’d produced several beers in collaboration with local coffee roasters North Star, and following a number of tastings, we settled on brewing a Coffee Porter that used extra additions to enhance the characteristics of single origin coffees.

All of the elements gelled really well as a finished piece, and what people now know as the Patrons Projects was born.

You’ve recently launched ‘For the North Foundation’, can you tell us more about how this philanthropic gesture came about?

In 2013, the Founder of Northern Monk received a £5,000 gift from a grandparent. This is what enabled us to turn Northern Monk from a dream, into reality. We’ve now reached a stage in our growth where we’re able to provide others that share our values with that same opportunity.

The For the North Foundation will see us provide grants of £5,000 to projects that aim to provide a genuine benefit to the communities they serve, or reduce environmental impact in the North.

We are on a mission to make a real difference to our communities. By supporting like-minded people and projects, our business can help others to thrive and we can work together to be a truly positive force in the North.

‘Positive change’ is a big part of Northern Monk’s values. How is this integrated into your events?

We always look to give back wherever we can, and having our own grant fund foundation ensures that we’re constantly working to support our community. The launch of the For the North Foundation was in September 2019, and our first fundraising drive was achieved by brewing the UK’s highest altitude beer at the top of Ben Nevis! Dark & Wild City 2019 took place in November, and we auctioned off a bottle of one of the incredibly rare Ben Nevis beer bottles for charity at the event, and we also donated all profits received from the festival to the For the North Foundation.

All profits received from Hop City 2020 will also be donated to the For the North Foundation, so by purchasing a ticket, you’re contributing to our next grant.

Where do you see your events developing – do you have anything in the pipeline beyond Hop City?

We just made a pretty big festival change in the shape of Dark & Wild City, so aside from that, we’ll be continuing with our biannual beer festival format, and making sure that the events continue to evolve year-on-year, providing a unique experience for beer drinkers.

Hop City is on sale now via TicketWeb.

For more news and interviews, click here.