In September 2015, Hogs Back Brewery (founded in 1992 in Tongham, Surrey, England) harvested the first hops from its own hop garden on a 3.5-acre plot adjacent to the brewery, bringing the traditional but near-extinct Farnham White Bine hop variety back to its Surrey home. Once fully mature, the hop garden will provide 25 percent of the brewery’s hop requirements. Hogs Back Brewery is preparing for its second hop harvest this September, with expectations of a healthy crop thanks to favorable weather and skillful tending of the hop plants.
The 2016 harvest is expected to be between 2,000 to 2,500 kilos, which is more than double last year’s crop.
Hogs Back has continued to cultivate the same three hops it grew for its first harvest in 2015. These are the popular British varieties Fuggles and Cascade, along with Farnham White Bine, a local variety that was once prized for its aroma but which had been “extinct” until last year’s revival.
Hogs Back has used Farnham White Bine to create a single hop beer, Farnham White, which was initially available as a limited edition cask ale and has now been launched as a bottled ale exclusive to Waitrose.
“We’re looking forward to our second harvest,” said Hogs Back Brewery Managing Director Rupert Thompson. “Last year, we left a lot of hops on the bine rather than picking them, in order to create stronger plants, so we’re hoping to literally [um, figuratively] reap the rewards this time with a yield of excellent quality hops.”
Hogs Back doubled the number of strings to support the hop plants from two to four this year and has also been blessed with more hop-friendly weather with warmth, rain and sunshine at the right points in the growing cycle.
“The hop garden is a huge investment for us, and we’re in it for the long term, learning and improving as we go,” he continued. “We’re delighted with the beers we produced from our own hops last season and excited about the potential that the hop garden gives us to create unique beers in the future. It also makes us a little more resilient than other brewers to the global hop shortage, particularly as we expand our plantings in future years to use more of our own hops in our beers, rather than buying in.”
Consumer interest in the hop garden has been bigger than expected; 250 people came to the harvest party last year.
“In a crowded beer market, being the only UK brewer to grow our own hops gives us a point of difference that resonates with a growing number of consumers who are interested in sustainability and environmental issues,” Thompson said.