Hogs Back Brewery celebrate hop harvest

Karen Neville

Record number of guests enjoy beer and entertainment at Hop Harvest Festival

A record number of people enjoyed Hogs Back Brewery’s hop harvest and raised more than £2,500 for a local charity as they did so.

More than 3,500 guests savoured beer, food, live music and family entertainment in the late summer sunshine in Tongham, Surrey, over the weekend of September 15th to 17th, 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.

At 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!”