IT was hop picking galore at the Hogs Back Brewery as the Tongham TEA Club met for its annual harvest on Thursday, September 7.
The hop garden which is home to a variety of hops every year including Farnham White Bine – the ‘lost’ hop variety which was the precursor to Goldings, and which has been revived at Hogs Back Brewery – was planted in 2014.
As well as the Farnham White Bine, the brewery has planted fuggle hops, the classic English balanced bittering and aroma hop, and cascade, grown mainly in the USA and famous for its citrus and grapefruit aroma.
The Tongham TEA Club have been involved since the early stages, actually helping to plant the hops back in 2014, when they twiddled them up the vines and removed the little shoots.
“These guys are well versed in our hop gardens, it’s fantastic,”commented Andrina Murrell, marketing officer at The Hogs Back.
“In our TEA, or Traditional English Ale, we use 100 per cent Surrey fuggles, so we take fuggles from here but also from Hamptons Estate in Puttenham.
“It’s a really local beer and actually one of our best sellers, which is fantastic, so we love the fact we can use our own hops and be local at the same time.”
The return of Farnham White Bine in the Hogs Back Brewery hop garden is an example of tradition and innovation working hand-in-hand. No one else is growing it.
Around 250 years ago, Farnham White Bine was what made this area rich, the fields were covered in them, however about early 20th century it started to die out due to disease.
All of the hop growing moved to Kent, which later became a much bigger area for hops and apparently preferred by London brewers.
“But it started here and we’ve brought it back home. We’ve done this for many, reasons, one we wanted to bring something back to the local community and revive something. It also allows people to come over here and brew with the hops that we’ve got,” continued Andrina.
“We are embedded in the local community and always have been and want to continue to be so. It all comes together at this time of the year basically. It’s such a lovely time and we can create all these lovely beers.
“Once this is harvested Matthew King, the hop manager, will tend the ground and provide whatever the ground needs and then in February next year, we will start seeing the little shoots come up again.”
The Tongham TEA Club is the brewery’s membership programme. Members pay £40 a year and get invited to all sorts of events, and receive discount in the brewery’s shop.
The privilege of being part of the brewery’s TEA Club is to come and pick the hops by hand, as this is what people would have done back in the day.
According to the team, people would have come down from London on holiday especially to hop pick, and school holidays would have been adjusted so children could help harvest the crop.
The brewery’s newest ale is coming out this October, known as New Harvest Ale, which uses four different hop varieties.