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Brewery estate manager Matthew King (left) and hop consultant Colin Bird inspect Hogs Back’s hop garden


Hogs Back’s hop harvest: quality over quantity

On the heels of a long, hot summer Hogs Back Brewery is preparing for its hop harvest with expectations of quality over quantity.

Estate manager Matthew King noted that this has been the first extended period of dry and hot weather experienced since the hop garden was planted in 2014 on a 3.5 acre plot across the road from the brewery in Tongham, Surrey.

“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,” he explained.

"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."

Come spring 2019 Hogs Back will be moving its hop growing to a new eight acre site, a former wheat field within Manor Farm where the brewery itself is sited, and include a test area for different varieties.

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 strung, 2,500 hop plants from the current site will be moved by hand and new ones planted. 

Managing director Rupert Thompson said, “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% 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.”

Hogs Back’s enthusiasm for both hops and localism has led to the reintroduction of the distinctive Farnham White Bine variety to commercial use. It has also grown Fuggles, English Cascade and dwarf variety Pioneer. It sources the majority of its hop requirements from within five miles of the brewery.

Larry Nelson
13th August 2018

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