It was one blustery August afternoon when we made our way to South East London to check out one of Hiver Taproom’s tastings. Hiver Honey Beer is available throughout the UK and is certainly one of the more intriguing and reverently British brewing endeavours. The taproom has a fantastic ambiance about it; underneath the arches, with trains rattling above, you know that you’re well and truly in London. And it’s a pretty fun, cosy place, with warm lighting, a great seating area and an active beehive on the wall.
Set in amongst the Bermondsey Beer Mile, Hiver Beer was set up by Hannah Rhodes in 2013. We managed to catch up with her before the tasting kicked off to find out a bit more about Hiver’s beginnings.
“I’d worked in beer and brewing for a number of years. I’m not a trained brewer, but once you get started in the world of beer, it’s quite hard to leave it. I think having got into it about 12 years ago it was really different to where we are now, so it was a great time to get into the industry as there’s been so many changes over the years.”
It was early on that Hannah then decided to marry her two interests together, “My passion for beer and the idea that there’s a beer out there for anyone, along with my interest in sustainability led me along the road to starting Hiver. So, specifically, I went along to a lot of sustainable events and farmers markets, trying to be plastic-free. It was one event run by Sustain, where I went along to a place called Cornercopia at Brixton Market. They had put together a menu of dishes made with produce just from the Brixton postcode, which still blows my mind! I noticed that urban honey featured quite a lot in both mains and deserts, and they had a little shop with all of these amazing jars of honey from urban beekeepers. It was a similar feeling to when you get into beer with all these different beer styles.”
“So I started looking into urban beekeeping. I went on a couple of courses looking into how bees pollinate the food that we eat, and at this point my friend bought me a bottle of imported honey beer that was really sickly sweet. I thought that it was a bit of a joke, to be honest, for something that represents my two main passions. So I thought, ‘Is this a bit of a gimmick or is there a style in this? And can I do a better job?’ After researching the style, I discovered that there’s a beautiful history behind it, and the thought of working with raw British honey from a brewing perspective would bring a whole different flavour and aroma of its own.”
The Hiver Honey Blonde itself is brewed at Hepworth Brewery, leaving the taproom to be a relaxing environment for people to sit and enjoy, as Hannah explains, “I started playing around at a friends microbrewery, I was getting batches of about 17 casks worth together and selling them at a local pub, and people seemed to really like it. I thought that there must be some legs in this, so I started having some more serious conversations with larger breweries. I then approached Hepworth Brewery, as they had cold conditioning, and it all came together.”
Hiver has a great ethos of using British ingredients and as local as possible. They also support London’s urban beekeepers, with 10% of their profits going to pollination charities. It turns out that they have many of the same values as Nando’s, the restaurant chain who are renowned for its 0% wastage and have now pledged to put a hive on every restaurant that is not situated within a shopping centre.
“It turned out that we both had a beekeeper in common, and they have a fantastic sustainability ethos. The team [at Nando’s] are working on some amazing sustainability activities. They have a hive on the roof on one of their restaurants in Putney, and we have done a collab with them using the honey from their hive in Putney. It’s based on our Blonde recipe and really shows how different varieties of honey can impact the flavour. It’s been great to see the Nando’s Honey Beer in their outlets.”
After chatting to Hannah and learning a bit more about Hiver’s story, we were keen to headed upstairs for the tasting itself. The tables were laid neatly, with a platter in the middle of each table with cheese, cold meats, breads and vegetable crisps. Everyone receives an information sheet, complete with pairings in case you want to try a few matches!
The event itself was curated by Bar and Events Manager, Sophie Napleton, who kicked off proceedings by cracking open their flagship and most successful brew; The Honey Blonde. While also handing round some key ingredients, including the homegrown honey used in the brewing process.
All of Hiver‘s beers are unpasteurized with no synthetics used in the brewing process. We then moved onto the next brew, The Honey IPA, brewed with Tree Ivy honey.
Sophie then gave a great talk spanning the history of IPAs, witches in the 1400’s and even where the term “honeymoon” comes from… We won’t divulge, you can go on the tasting session to find out yourself! 😉
Then it was onto the final brew, which is Hiver‘s Brown Ale, a slightly darker beer that is brewed with blossom honey, and is their take on a traditional Bitter.
Around the room there was a good variety of people; some hardcore beer fans, others just visiting out of interest. So whether you’re an amateur brewer, beekeeper or just a bit curious we’d definitely recommend checking it out, and you can grab yourself a space here!