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21st April 2020

Hogs Back Brewery implements social distanced ‘hop twiddling’ for healthy hop crop

Hogs Back Brewery is carrying out the traditional, and essential, task of ‘twiddling’ the newly-emerging hop plants in its hop garden, while complying with social distancing rules.

Hop twiddling involves winding the hop plants round the strings that are pegged into the ground, and up the poles. It is a vital part of hop maintenance which is both time-sensitive and labour-intensive, so extra pairs of hands have been recruited from the brewer’s Tongham TEA Club of loyal local drinkers.

Volunteer hop twiddlers are being strictly limited in number – just four per session – and they are each given a section of the garden to work in, far apart from others.  Instruction is given from a social distance by hop garden manager Matthew King and two brewery tour guides, Bruce Cornford and Denise Gauntlet.  Each volunteer completes a four-hour session and takes away a container of brewery-fresh TEA as a reward for their labours.

Hogs Back Brewery owner Rupert Thompson said: “Thankfully, our hops have not gone into lockdown, in fact they have put on a growth spurt during the recent warm weather.  Hop twiddling helps the new plants to grow upwards to create a healthy crop for us to harvest later in the year and use in brewing our beers.

“Implementing social distancing for seven people in an 8.5-acre hop field hasn’t proved too difficult, and we know our volunteer twiddlers have enjoyed the opportunity to help maintain this year’s hops, while enjoying fresh air and physical exercise in our sunny hop garden.

“We face bigger challenges with some of the other events in our hop garden, including our Hop Blessing, which attracted 200 people last May, and our Hop Harvest Party, enjoyed by 2,000 guests last September.  Although there’s no real substitute for raising a glass of TEA in the company of friends, we’re looking at the potential for some virtual events, so that the local community can stay involved in the hop garden through lockdown.”

Volunteer hop twiddler Nigel Blake, from Send, said: “I really enjoyed my session in the Hogs Back hop garden. It was great to be out in the sunshine, and to be doing something useful to help a local business.”

Hogs Back has been quick to adapt to the Covid-19 lockdown. The brewer opened a Drive Through service at the brewery the day after social distancing measures were announced, allowing customers to buy beer without leaving their car. They are also offering a home delivery service on brewery-fresh draught beer, as well as bottles and cans.

Caption to attached image: Hogs Back Brewery hop garden manager Matthew King (front), with volunteers carrying out essential hop ‘twiddling’ in the brewery’s hop garden


Issued on behalf of:Hogs Back Brewery

Further information:

Ros Shiel: / 07841 694137

Notes to editor

  • Hogs Back Brewery was founded in 1992 in Tongham, 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 in 1992, 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, bottled and canned beers, demonstrating its ability to combine brewing expertise and tradition with product innovation to create distinctive, memorable beers.
  • Hogs Back’s traditional cloudy cider, Hazy Hog, launched in 2013, won a Bronze medal in the International Cider Challenge in 2019.
  • Hogs Back planted a hop garden adjacent to its brewery in 2014, growing three hop varieties: Fuggles – used in its flagship TEA ale; Cascade – used in Hogstar lager; and Farnham White Bine.
  • Hogs Back relocated its hop garden in 2019. At 8.5 acres, the new hop garden is nearly three times the size of the previous one and when fully mature will provide 50% of their hop requirements.
  • Hogs Back is planning to build a hop kiln and warehouse close to the hop garden, which will allow hops to be dried immediately after picking and packed within 24 hours using state-of-the-art vacuum packing technology to capture the hops’ freshness.
  • The hop garden is an essential part of Hogs Back’s commitment to brewing sustainably. With the hops grown just yards from the brewhouse, they are brewing beers with the freshest ingredients – ‘from field to firkin in a furlong’.