Guests at the Hogs Back Brewery Hop Harvest celebrations enjoyed beer, food, live music and family entertainment in the late summer sunshine. More than 3,500 people joined the fun at the brewery in Tongham, Surrey, over the weekend of 15-17 September, making it Hogs Back’s biggest hop harvest party ever.
This year, for the first time, the entertainment started on the Friday evening, with a new ‘Roots’ concert on the Festival stage, headlined by folk musician Seth Lakeman. On Saturday, crowds gathered from early afternoon to watch lively performances from six bands, culminating in a set of crowd-pleasing covers from headliners Bloomfield Avenue. Compere David Whitney kept people entertained as bands changed over, and performances were live streamed to the Beer Garden for those wanting a more chilled musical experience.
On Sunday’s TEA Party, a more family-friendly vibe took over, with plenty of entertainment for children of all ages. The fun included a circus workshop, archery, inflatable slides, Mr Magic show, farmyard animals and electric skateboarding, as well as the ever-popular dray rides around the Hop Garden. There was music for the younger crowd too, with the popular Harry Styles Experience topping the bill.
Across the weekend, guests enjoyed the full range of Hogs Back beers, including Green TEA – a variation of the brewer’s flagship Tongham TEA, brewed with fresh ‘green’ hops straight from their hop garden. Food included hog roast, pizzas and authentic Indian dishes from local Mandira’s Kitchen. In line with Hogs Back’s ambitious sustainability aims, no single use plastics were used, replaced with reusable or compostable items.
One of the highlights of the weekend was, as in previous years, the competition for best hop-decorated hat, this year won by Jonathon. The custom of raising money for a local charity was also continued as the Prostate Project, based in Guildford, took a stand at the event and received all donations made on the dray rides. In total, the charity raised £2,543 over the weekend.
Rupert Thompson, Hogs Back managing director, said, “Every year, we say we’ve just had our best Hop Harvest Party ever – and it’s always true! This year we had more guests than ever before, more bands on the Festival stage, fabulous entertainment for families – and we enjoyed nearly all of it in glorious sunshine.
“The whole event was staffed by the Hogs Back team, so a big thank you to them, as well as to local businesses and volunteers, and to the many local people who joined us to create the party.”
He added: “We have already set the dates for next year’s Hop Harvest celebrations, which will run on 13th,14th and 15th September. We look forward to an even bigger and better event.”
Hogs Back harvested three hop varieties this year: Fuggles, used in Tongham TEA; English Cascade, used in its Hogstar lager and Surrey Nirvana Session IPA; and Farnham White Bine, a traditional local variety that the brewer saved from near-extinction by planting in its hop garden in 2014.
Thompson said: “We’re delighted to have harvested hops from our own hop garden for the eighth year. This year’s crop won’t be our biggest, due to the wet weather in July and August, but the hops we have are of good quality and will add distinctive flavours to our beers. We’re proud to be growing hops just yards from the brewery, helping to reduce our food miles and achieve our goal of being an ever more sustainable brewer.
“It’s rewarding to have reinstated hop farming in Farnham and we know it’s meant a lot to local people. We’re grateful for their support, particularly the 50 Hogs Back Hopper volunteers who helped us bring in the harvest. It’s hard physical work over a few weeks and they certainly earned themselves a few pints!”
Hop Harvest weekend: full musical lineup
Roots (Friday): Jim Cozens, J Lee and the Hoodoo Skulls with headliner Seth Lakeman, the West Country folk singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
TEA Party (Sunday): Beato Burrito, Holly Rogers and Harry Styles Experience
Hogs Back Hop Garden
- Hogs Back has harvested 6, 000 hop plants this year, from its garden occupying 8.5 acres of prime farmland next to the brewery.
- The hop plants were 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.
- The hops grown in the hop garden provide on average more than 50% of Hogs Back’s annual hop requirement.
- 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 Tongham TEA (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.
- 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 12,000 PETs, earning them Plastic Free Champion status from Surfers Against Sewage.