Hogs Back Brewery in Tongham, near Farnham, staged its annual Hop Harvest celebrations on the last weekend in September, with a music festival-style event on Saturday and a more family-friendly TEA Party on the Sunday. A record 3,000 people attended over the two days.
The brewery opened its gates from Saturday afternoon, welcoming guests to enjoy a range of Hogs Back beers, including Green TEA – a variation of the brewer’s flagship Tongham TEA, brewed with fresh or ‘green’ hops straight from their hop garden. Bands entertained the crowds all afternoon and evening from a stage in the brewery courtyard, culminating in a storming performance from Queen tribute Majesty.
On Sunday, live music continued to play from bands including popular Bloomfield Avenue, while the Kids Zone offered child-friendly amusement including farm animals, bouncy castle, face painting, Fred the Shed magic show and dray rides round the hop garden. Children and adults took part in a hat decorating competition, using freshly cut hop bines to create eye-catching headwear.
Rupert Thompson, Hogs Back MD, said: “Our Hop Harvest parties have always involved the local community and we were delighted that so many people joined us to celebrate this year’s harvest. And as we’re the only regional brewer in the UK to have our own hop garden, it is a uniquely Hogs Back celebration.
“Hop farming is an important part of Farnham’s history and we’re happy to have brought it back to the area with our hop garden. We know it’s meant a lot to local people who were involved in hop farming in their youth or remember stories about it. 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!”
He added: “We’re delighted with the quality of the hops this year, which will add wonderful, distinctive flavour to many of our beers. The size of this harvest was half that of last year’s bumper crop: hops need water to thrive, so this summer’s drought had an impact. However, we’re still delighted 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: on average the hops we harvest here provide more than 50% of our brewing needs for the year.”
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.
As well as the full range of Hogs Back’s beers, and home-made Hop Lemonade, guests enjoyed food including Hog Roast, burgers and Hair of the Hog hot dogs, all supplied by local butcher Alf Turner as well as freshly baked pizzas, Pad Thai, Tex Mex and poke bowls. All food was cooked by Hogs Back’s chef, Ben and his team.
The music line-up included local bands The Bluecasters, Bloomfield Avenue, Grizzly & The Grasshopppers, The TR5s and The Farleys. Performing for the first time at Hogs Back were Noble Jacks, Groove Mannoova, Papa & The Jim Jams and Majesty. All performances were live streamed from the stage to the beer garden.
Several local groups helped to manage the event, with charity Hedgehogs providing marquees and volunteers from 4th Farnham (Tongham) Scout Group manning the car park and Kids Zone – in return for which Hogs Back is making a donation towards completing their new HQ. Supporting local charities has always been part of the Hop Harvest celebrations, and of Hogs Back’s ethos generally, and over the weekend, they raised nearly £800 for Dementia 1st a Surrey-based charity which provides care and support for people living with dementia.
Thompson said, “This was our seventh Hop Harvest Party and our best ever! We were blessed with good weather and our guests had a fantastic time drinking beer, listening to some wonderful music or taking part in our activities. As always there are learnings as we grow and we will be moving to a whole new level next year.
“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. Everyone involved put in a huge amount of time and effort to make this year’s Hop Harvest celebrations wonderful events.”