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Cheers! POPP is rockin’ with some seriously good craft beers!

POPP is synonymous with craft beer. We speak to the owners, Miguel and Robert, about their new Gzira shop and craft beer's joys!


The start of craft beer was small and isolated, but craft brewers have, in recent years, transformed the global beer market. This emergence has seen craft beers available in bars and various shops around the globe. In Malta, POPP has become the name synonymous with craft beer.


POPP is known for importing some incredibly good craft beer from some of the best breweries, including some excellent local ones. So, how did POPP start? Miguel told us how POPP came about from an idea that he and Robert discussed once in November 2019.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

“He was my client back then, and we had helped him develop his brand ‘The Craft Beer Company’ at my design studio Panda. We discussed combining our skills and creating a webshop selling craft beer and nice drinks with a cool brand and attitude”.


The COVID-19 pandemic left a deeply negative impact on the retail sector. Whilst many outlets have shifted their focus to an online presence, POPP went in the opposite direction. Already having an online store, POPP recently added a shop in Gzira to their original digital-only sales basis. Quite a milestone in such times!


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

“Seeing our brand going from just an online presence to one that exists in physical space is pretty cool, I must admit,” Miguel told us. “It’s pretty ace” Robert added, “The brick-and-mortar store gave much more life and personality to our brand. It’s awesome sharing all the cool stories behind the brands we stock with our customers”.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

POPP in Gzira is based on a hybrid concept focused on retail but also serving as a craft beer bar with beer on tap. It is a place where you can shop some great craft beers and enjoy a cold one with friends.


What is craft beer, and how does it differ from commercial beer? For Robert, it is summed up in two words; Small and Independent. According to the American Brewers Association (ABA), a craft brewery is defined as ‘small’ (annual production of fewer than 6 million barrels), ‘independent’ (less than 25% owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer). The ‘traditional’ element depends on ingredients and fermentation (50% or more if the beer brewed derives its flavour from ‘traditional’ or ‘innovative’ brewing).


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

The increased popularity of craft beer has helped to seriously dent decades of dominance of a few global multinationals, which have been mass-producing beer for decades. What distinguishes these breweries from larger breweries is that they produce ‘different’ types of beer on a ‘small’ scale.


According to Robert, the defining factors that make a quality craft beer are the quality and freshness of the raw materials and the brewers' hands. “Generally, commercial beers are uniform and mass-produced without the complexities and depth of flavour an artisan product can offer”.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

Most craft breweries start off small and serve a small group of local customers. To grow, they need to access customers through retailers and bars. In many countries, craft breweries were started by individuals inspired by different beer varieties in other countries, whereas others had often experimented first with home brewing.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

These creative young brewers came up with radical flavours which have made craft beer popular. Does it live up to the hype, though? According to Miguel there is much more to it than just the hype “It’s the science of brewing and fermentation. I compare master brewers to master chefs; they dedicate their lives to creating new brews, pushing the limits of flavourful explorations. And craft beer has really and truly been around for thousands of years already, so it did overcome the hype.”


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

Whilst sometimes associated with hipsters, craft beer is for a much larger audience. To Robert, it is for anyone with an open mind! “Anyone who enjoys a quality drink can get lost in the myriad of styles and flavours craft beer has to offer”. Is craft beer popular in the Maltese Islands, though?


To Robert, POPP has come a long way these last couple of years but still has the potential to grow much more popular. “Initially, craft beer was mainly consumed by tourists and expats. Now, many locals are getting into the scene. We are seeing it more clearly now with the interaction we get from our customers on our socials and in-store”.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

With the variety of beers and their colourful appearances, going around the shop looking at all the craft beer types certainly feels different to just looking at them online. Visiting POPP in Gzira also gives you a chance to interact with the owners, discuss different beer types and flavours and get some insights into what to look for. Stout, porter, IPA, pale ale.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

There are so many types of beer. How does one figure out what to choose if one is in doubt about what to choose? “It all depends on what you like and what you have tasted in the past”, according to Robert. “Skipping lagers and wheat beers, usually an easy style for a craft beer novice, is a Pale Ale. It’s all about balance. Not too hoppy, not too malty and not too alcoholic”. In the end, to him, the characteristics of a great beer are depth of flavour and complexity; “Like a game of Jenga, lots of layers”.


Beer drinking is traditionally associated with males, though. Can craft beer change that? Miguel tells us how POPP gets loads of female beer drinkers as there are so many different types of beer and different taste profiles “surely everyone (whether they think they like beer or not) will find a beer that they love at POPP!”


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

The in-depth knowledge of what was on offer struck us when we visited the shop. With so many new beers arriving at the shop each time, we asked Miguel to describe the excitement of trying a new beer each time! “My favourite moment is when you’re about to pop a can or bottle of good beer open, that millisecond before you get to smell and see the pour and then take the first gulp. I’m going to go do just that!”


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

So let’s talk beers then! So many countries pride themselves on their beer being the best. Which one is their favourite, and does Belgium still top the list? “Belgium has the tradition of brewing some of the best classic beers,” Robert told us. “Tradition does come with a heavy baggage, and although there are some great modern microbreweries, this has somehow impeded the experimental brews other countries like the US, UK, and Nordics are famous for. I personally have a soft spot for Nordic and UK breweries”.


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

As for Miguel, his favourite brands are Scandinavian “Omnipollo (Swedish) and To Øl (Danish) as I find they like to push the limits of experimentation most, and that’s what I appreciate most in this scene”. As for what they think is the future of craft beer, Robert believes we are still in the early days. Still, the future is bright, “especially when looking at how the scene evolved in other countries and how other similar categories progressed in Malta”.


As an entrepreneur, what advice would they give anyone looking to start their own business? “I’d say not to be afraid to act on your business idea,” Miguel told us. “If you believe in your concept, study the market, do your work, brand it well and take the plunge.”


POPP _ craft _ beer _ Malta

He believes that if you are going to do something, do it right “mhux ejja ha mmoru 🙂 Your clients will appreciate the extra effort you put in”. For Robert, it is all about planning well, not overthinking and just doing it “There will be ups and downs but never compromise on what you set out to achieve”.


What can anyone who hasn’t been to the POPP shop yet expect to find at Popp? “I know it’s a cliche, but there’s something for everyone. Well, everyone that loves a nice quality tipple, that is”. Miguel adds, "Apart from 200+ craft and Belgian beers to choose from, there’s a nice wine section, a small but nicely curated spirit section, ciders, sodas, mixers and yummy quirky snacks”.


Whether online or at the POPP store in Gzira, POPP has an immense selection of wines and spirits, a huge selection of craft beers, and a variety of snacks.

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