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23rd September 2021

Hops Take Centre Stage at Chelsea Flower Show

Farnham White Bine hops from the Hogs Back Brewery hop garden form part of the floral display at Chelsea Flower Show main gates

Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show expect to see some unusual plants, but few will have realised that the main entrance gates to the Royal Hospital have been adorned this year with one of the rarest of all – the near-extinct Farnham White Bine hop.

With the pandemic moving the 2021 show to September rather than its usual time slot in May, the hops were in full bloom. Even as the Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey was harvesting its own crop of White Bine, eleven of its bines made the journey from Farnham to Chelsea to take pride of place in the display welcoming visitors to the show.

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said: “It was wonderful to see a magnificent display of an historic British hop variety at such a quintessentially British occasion as the Chelsea Flower Show.

“Hop bines are only just beginning to send up shoots in May, so most years would not be much of a spectacle for visitors to Chelsea. This year, coinciding with the annual hop harvest at the start of autumn, is probably the only time the show will ever be able to feature such a bounteous display of aromatic hops.”

The Farnham White Bine hop bines were passed on to Tattie Rose Flowers, the florist creating the displays at the main gates to Chelsea, by Hogs Back Brewery hop garden manager Matthew King.

Hogs Back is one of the few British brewers to grow its own hops, and the hop garden adjacent to the brewery in Tongham is the only location where the Farnham White Bine is grown commercially. The variety was once a dominant force in the hop industry, but fell out of favour around a century ago.

Hogs Back revived the White Bine, bringing it back from near extinction, when it planted the hop garden in 2014.


Notes to editors

Hogs Back Hop Garden – key points

  • Hogs Back will harvest 6, 000 hop plants this year, from its garden occupying 8.5 acres of prime farmland next to the brewery.
  • The hop plants are supported with over 100 large posts and ten miles of high tensile steel wire, strung 18ft above the plants.
  • Hogs Back planted its original, 3.5-acre hop garden in 2014, and completed four harvests before moving to the larger site in spring 2019 – though only partially harvested that year, leaving most plants in the ground, as is best agricultural practice.
  • Hogs Back cultivates three hop varieties: Fuggles – used in its flagship TEA; Cascade – used in Hogstar lager; and Farnham White Bine.
  • Farnham was historically one of the most important hop farming regions in the UK. The Farnham area is ideal for hop growing with a rich, loamy top soil over a chalky subsoil.
  • 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.
  • 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. 

Hogs Back Brewery

  • 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.
  • Other awards include CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer of Britain 2020 for its A over T (Aromas over Tongham) 9% ABV bottle conditioned barley wine and a Bronze medal in the International Cider Challenge 2019 for its traditional cloudy cider, Hazy Hog.
  • 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.
  • While pubs were closed during lockdown, Hogs Back sold its beers through supermarkets and direct to customers, offering Drive Through and Click & Collect options at the brewery, or delivering direct to homes. Details on all options can be viewed on the website.
  • As part of its drive to become an ever more sustainable brewer, Hogs Back is aiming to eliminate single use plastic. They have introduced refillable glass Snorters (3.5 pints) and Snifters (1 ¾ pints), and to date have removed 10,000 PETs, earning them Plastic Free Champion status from Surfers Against Sewage.

Press release from Hogs Back Brewery

Issued by: ShielPorter Communications

Further information: / 07841 694137 / 07734 054389