Hogs Back Brewery is building a new hop kiln on the brewery site at Manor Farm in Tongham, Surrey as the brewery continues its significant investment programme.
This large-scale project is believed to be the first traditional style kiln to be constructed in the county for over 100 years. It will cost £350,000 to complete, taking total investment in the brewery and hop garden over the last 12 months to £700,000.
The kiln, which will be operational ahead of Hogs Back’s harvest in September, is being built just yards from their brewhouse and their new, much larger hop garden. It will stand on the site occupied for many years by an original kiln within Manor Farm and will be used to dry Hogs Back’s hops for around one month a year. For the rest of the year, it will serve as an event space and visitor centre, educating people about the local hop farming industry which Hogs Back is helping to revive.
Siting the kiln so close to the hop garden and picking machine means hops can be dried immediately after picking. Hogs Back is also investing in state-of-the-art vacuum packing technology to capture the hops’ freshness, with the aim of having them packed within 24 hours of picking. Once packed, hops will be stored in optimum conditions in a new warehouse, to be housed in a converted barn on the farm.
Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said, “A £700,000 investment, at a time of some uncertainty in the beer market, speaks volumes for our long-term commitment to brewing in Surrey.
“Hogs Back is the biggest hop-growing brewer in the UK and this expansion with the larger hop garden and new kiln will make us an even more sustainable, environmentally-conscious business: our hops will be travelling from field to firkin in just a furlong (220 yards). Combined with our new vacuum packaging facility, it means we will have the freshest, best quality hops, which in turn ensures consistently top quality and flavour for our beers.”
He added, “Hogs Back is one of a growing number of ‘farm brewers’ in the UK; brewers who have been founded on a rural, farming heritage that gives them a deep understanding of the ingredients used in brewing. We believe there is a swathe of craft beer drinkers who relate to our values of authenticity and local community.”
Hogs Back’s new hop garden occupies 8.5 acres of prime farmland on Manor Farm, and work started last autumn to prepare it for the 2019 growing season, with anchors, posts and several miles of hop wire now in place. 2,000 hop plants were lifted from the old garden and a further 4,000 new ones planted. Three varieties are being grown on the new site: Fuggles, Cascade and Farnham White Bine.
Thompson said, “We are excited about continuing the journey we started with the planting of our original hop garden in 2014, and, through the new visitor centre, sharing our passion for hop growing with the wider community.
“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. It has also drawn us closer to the local rural community and its history, and gives us a unique opportunity to accentuate the provenance and quality of our beers.”
Caption to attached image: Rupert Thompson, Hogs Back Brewery MD, with an artist’s impression of the new kiln
To view a short film showing Rupert Thompson with a graphic representation of the investment at the brewery, including the new kiln, visit https://youtu.be/f3G1TAiwKgA
Notes to editors:
Hogs Back Brewery hop garden
- Hogs Back Brewery planted a hop garden adjacent to its brewery in 2014, growing three hop varieties: Fuggles – used in its flagship TEA ale; Cascade – used in its Hogstar English Craft Lager; and Farnham White Bine, used in a limited-edition bottled beer of the same name.
- Hogs Back completed its fourth hop harvest in September last year. The long, hot summer produced a harvest of good quality hops rather than quantity, as the plants drew water to the top, with less lateral growth than in previous years. The traditional party celebrating the harvest at the brewery attracted more than 1,000 guests.
- The new hop garden, located closer to the brewery within Manor Farm, is close to three times the size of the previous one – a total of 8.5 acres, compared to the previous three acres. The garden sits in a prime location on the best land on the farm and when fully mature will provide 50% of Hogs Back’s hop requirement.
Hop farming in Farnham
- Farnham was historically one of the most important hop farming regions in the UK. At its peak in the 1870s, hops accounted for around 40% of the land available for farming in the parish. The Farnham area was ideal for hop growing with a rich, loamy top soil over a chalky subsoil.
- Farnham hops commanded a premium price, with a hop pocket – 240lb of dried hops – selling for £9 – £10 in the early 1800s, compared to only £7 – £9 for Kentish hops.
- The Farnham White Bine hop was originally developed in the early 1700s just a mile and a half from the current Hogs Back brewery. It was highly prized for its aromas and was the precursor variety to the better-known Kent Goldings.
- In Farnham, unlike Kent and other growing areas, farmers chose to harvest the hops before they were completely ripe, resulting in a two-week period of intense work for the pickers and a need to supplement local labour with imported labour.
- A carnival atmosphere prevailed during the hop harvest: schools were closed, church attendance fell off and shops opened on Sundays to take the money from hop pickers.
- The hops, once dried and packed down into pockets or sacks, were sold to brewers in the Farnham area and also to West Country brewers, who purchased them at the Weyhill Fair near Andover.
- Hop farming in Farnham started to wane at the end of the 19th century in the face of growing competition from the Kent hops, which were preferred by London’s brewers, and the rising cost of agricultural labour. The industry declined and finally died out in the mid-1970s.
Issued on behalf of: Hogs Back Brewery
Further information: Ros Shiel: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07841 694137
John Porter: email@example.com / 07734 054389