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Hogs Back heads for new hop heights

Added: Wednesday, August 15th 2018

Hogs Back hop garden

Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey is predicting a top-quality hop harvest this year, with the impact of the long, hot summer raising expectations of quality over quantity. With plans in hand to relocate the hop garden to a much larger site for 2019, the fourth, and final, harvest on the existing hop garden will take place mid-September, after which the process of transferring hops, and planting new ones, will begin.

The brewer, based near Farnham, has been closely monitoring hop growth during the heatwave.  Estate manager Matthew King said, “This is the first extended period of dry and hot weather we’ve experienced since planting the hop garden in 2014. Hops thrive on heat and sunshine, but the lack of rainfall has affected their development. They are drawing water up to the top of the plant which is looking very healthy, but we’re not seeing as much lateral growth lower down.

“For this reason, we’re expecting this year’s harvest to be more about quality than quantity. We’ve learned a lot this summer about how hops respond to hot and dry weather, which will stand us in good stead when we move to our new hop garden.”

The new hop garden is more than double the size of the existing one  – a total of eight acres, compared to the current 3.5 acres – and is located within Manor Farm, where the brewery itself is sited.   The garden will sit in a prime location on the best land on the farm and will also include a test area for different varieties.

Work is due to start this month on the new garden – formerly a wheat field – and is expected to be complete by early 2019. The site will be prepared for the arrival of hop poles which, thanks to an absence of overhead power cables, will be taller – and therefore higher-yielding - than those at the existing garden. After several miles of hop wire have been added, 2,500 hop plants from the current site will be moved by hand, and new ones planted. 

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said, “This is a huge investment in the future of Hogs Back Brewery and we’re proud to be continuing the journey that started with the planting of our hop garden in 2014.

“The new hop garden embodies everything Hogs Back stands for as a ‘farmer brewer’ and will make us an even more sustainable, environmentally-conscious business: we can measure the distance from hop garden to brewery in ‘food feet’ rather than ‘food miles’! 

“Expanding to the new garden will make us more self-sufficient in hops, ultimately providing around half our hop requirement, compared to less than 25 per cent currently. Just as importantly, growing our own hops has made us better brewers, as with each harvest we’ve learned more about how the flavour of the hops is affected by the weather, and how that then impacts the quality and taste of the beer.

“Getting closer to this key ingredient has given us a level of control over our beers that few, if any, other British brewers can claim.”

Hogs Back will harvest four hop varieties in September: Farnham White Bine, a traditional local hop which Hogs Back revived from near-extinction; Fuggles, used in the brewer’s flagship TEA (Traditional English Ale); Cascade, used in Hogstar Craft English lager, and Pioneer, added alongside the other varieties to the seasonal Home Harvest Ale.

Caption to image: Hogs Back Brewery estate manager Matthew King (left) and hop consultant Colin Bird inspect the hop garden

  • Hogs Back Brewery was founded in 1992 in Tongham, Surrey, in the heart of the traditional Surrey hop growing area.
  • Its flagship brand TEA, or Traditional English Ale, is one of the leading regional ales in the South East. The first beer brewed by Hogs Back 25 years ago, TEA has won multiple awards including runner-up in CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain in 2000. Distribution of TEA is currently at an all-time high.
  • The Hogs Back Brewery range includes a number of award-winning draught and bottled beers. Launches over recent years include Hogstar English Craft Lager, Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager and Outback Pale Ale, all demonstrating Hogs Back’s ability to combine brewing expertise and tradition with product innovation to create distinctive, memorable beers. In 2013, Hogs Back also launched a traditional cloudy cider, Hazy Hog.
  • In September 2015 Hogs Back Brewery harvested the first hops from its own hop garden on a 3.5 acre plot adjacent to the brewery, bringing the traditional but near-extinct Farnham White Bine hop variety back to its Surrey home.
  • Hogs Back harvested four varieties in its hop garden in September 2017: Fuggles, used in their flagship TEA, or Traditional English Ale; Farnham White Bine, used in its limited-edition beer of the same name; English Cascade, used in Hogstar English Craft Lager; and a newer dwarf variety, Pioneer, used in its Home Harvest Ale. Hogs Back sources the majority of its hops from within five miles of the brewery.