Gipsy Hill Brewing Co began as a meeting of minds at The Rake, a renowned craft beer bar just behind Borough Market in London. It was there in 2013 that Charlie Shaw and Sam McMeekin met and bonded over their love of beer, and their thirst to start a brewery. The initial business was christened ‘The Coldharbour Brewing Company’ but as the brewery worked out of a leased unit in the Gipsy Hill area of South London, the lads decided to rename to something more ‘local’. A third core member was brought into the business in 2014 in the form of Simon, who became their head of engineering, and delivery of four stainless steel tanks in which to brew their beers launched the brewing business.
By 2015 the business had expanded to a taproom, and was producing a core range of beers that included an American-style IPA named ‘Hepcat’, which is the original version of the non-alcoholic beer we’re reviewing here. Gipsy Hill Brewing went on to open their first pub in 2016 – The Douglas Fir, just a short distance from the Crystal Palace railway station. 2017 saw their brewing capacity more than doubling, up to 10,000 hectolitres, and the business also opened their own canning line, eschewing glass bottles for good.
Now, onto HepcAF, the subject of this review. HepcAF is one of several alcohol-free beers that Gipsy Hill has released in recent months, with this one coming to market in January 2023. It starts off as the base recipe of Hepcat, which is the brewer’s best selling IPA, with tweaks to fermentable sugars and the yeast strains used. HepcAF also uses the same hops as it’s full-fat brethren – Citra, Ekuanot, Mosaic, and Mouteka. That bundle should be giving the brew tropical flavours and aromas aplenty, along with some fragrant citrus. Let’s see if they’ve done their best-seller proud in this nolo version.
Pouring the beer out of the nice 440ml can we get a dark amber coloured liquid with good clarity. It produces some froth during the pour, but this is soon just a collection of foam around the edge of the glass. The nose is very fruity, with tropical mango, juicy stone fruit, and sweet candied orange all bursting through. There’s a lot of sweetness here, and the aroma is very reminiscent of those old ‘fruit salad’ penny chews I used to eat (along with ‘black jacks’) as a child. They probably cost a lot more than a penny nowadays…
We’re greeted with citrus bitterness when we taste, with some orange rind astringency giving an initial kick. This quickly calms down though and mellows into something more earthy and malty. We get more stone fruit coming through, ripe apricot and plum, although the flavour is a lot lighter than the aroma suggested. The body of the beer is good, with relatively high carbonation but gentle bubbles on the tongue. The finish is short, with a background of the ‘fruit salad’ sweet again.
Gipsy Hill HepcAF is another in a long line of nolos that butters us up by offering amazing aromas but when it comes down to the taste it fails to deliver what was expected. This doesn’t mean there’s nothing to praise, and indeed it’s a decent beer – it’s just any flavour it has is relatively short lived with each mouthful.
Buy Gipsy Hill HepcAF
Gipsy Hill’s beers are relatively popular and you should be able to find some in your local bottle-shop. HepcAF is readily available online from either the brewer or one of these stores:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the bottle)|
|Water, Malted Barley, Maltodextrin, Oats, Wheat, Hops, Citric Acid, HopBurst® Nectaron®, Yeast|
|Country of Production||United Kingdom|
|Brewer||Gipsy Hill Brewing – https://gipsyhillbrew.com/|
Gipsy Hill HepcAF Review
Decent enough beer, but doesn’t really deliver on the lovely aromas it tantalises you with.