It all started in the spring of 2013 when the two of us were sitting in our favourite local pub. The evening was an ordinary but still very important weekly social event to help balance everyday life. While we were exchanging news and enjoying two excellent beers from Mikkeler, our conversation moved into speculation about future job prospects. We quickly found out that the topic didn’t release stress, quite the opposite. We automatically skipped questions about work and because Instagram was relatively new at the time – we had also talked about it earlier in the evening – one of us suggested using it to document and share the beers we had enjoyed for the pleasure of others as well. After a moment’s speculation we also came up with the name Hop Hunters, @hophunters. This was because we a) loved strongly hopped beers and b) it was available. And so Hop Hunters was born.
As the first picture we uploaded the AleSmith IPA we’d already drunk before. The caption was a little declaration of things to come. After doing the uploading we noticed that by no means were we the only ones (surprise, surprise) to have thought of uploading beers consumed to the service. As a matter of fact, it turned out that inside the service craft beer enthusiasts were very active discussing, supporting one another and checking new and different beers from all over the world. Everything happened in good spirit which was one of the most inspiring things to see in the middle of modern-day networks filled with trolling. We added new pictures every time we came across something our followers might enjoy, too. One of the most fundamental decisions was not to add negative evaluations, concentrating only on high-quality products and supportive texts. We got a lot of contacts from several different countries and with their help were able to taste beers that our own resources wouldn’t by no means have been enough for. The journey continued with experiences brought by new friends and beers.
In the autumn of 2013 we already had a logo, several thousand followers and had had the opportunity to taste such incredible beers which we hardly dared dream of before creating our Instagram account. Nevertheless, something else lay ahead. As with our Instagarm account, our day jobs stepped into the picture as fate would have it. It turned out that one of us had to travel to Europe many times between 2013 and 2014 because of work. This also opened possibilities to support our beer hobby. Before the trips we tried to find information on beer shops, breweries and bars. Surely there was information available through search engines and different services and with their help we found many destinations that brought us many new acquaintances among both beers and beer enthusiasts. However, already after the first trip several questions stood out from services offering beer knowledge, such as:
- Why do so many services offer a lot more possibilities to assess beers than finding them?
- Why are services offering local listings often very abstract, complicated or simply don’t correspond to the user-centered design?
- Why must we look for beer places from so many services and why aren’t these services made socially interesting?
After the next trips the need for a better service to facilitate obtaining and drinking beers was clear. At least we think so. Beer aficionados were entitled to a better and more modern service experience! We decided to begin working on a dedicated service and thus do our bit for the good of the craft beer community. We decided to make use of the talents of both founding parties; one would take care of the planning and development of the service, the other one would concentrate on maintaining and expanding connections and promoting Hop Hunters.
We worked on our idea through the spring of 2014 and started planning and development at the same time. We invested time and money by working almost daily in our free time, at weekends and on holidays trying out different server environments, development platforms and licenses and software needed for development. In addition, we started to build our own database on craft beer breweries and places because we wanted to focus solely on craft beers. The work was exhausting but the crucial support and feedback from friends and a strong vision for improvement helped overcome frustration and fatigue.
What you see now is by no means a final or perfect realisation of a craft beer community web site. But it’s a beginning. Now we need Your help to bring Hop Hunters to life, to participate in making content and giving ideas about further development and the future of the service. We’ve come this far with the help of two dedicated beer enthusiasts. Imagine what we can achieve together.
Cover photo: Tuomas Mikkonen