Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery has said it is reaping the benefits of its hop garden by increasing the amount of homegrown hops it uses in its beer.
Hogs Back harvested four varieties in its hop garden in September this year: Fuggles, used in their flagship TEA; Farnham White Bine, a traditional local variety which Hogs Back has revived from near-extinction; English Cascade, used in Hogstar English Craft Lager; and a newer dwarf variety, Pioneer, which Hogs Back has used for the first time in its 2017 Home Harvest Ale.
Rupert Thompson, managing director of Hogs Back Brewery explained: “We planted our hop garden next to the brewery in 2014, as part of our commitment to local sourcing, reducing food miles, sustainable brewing and taking greater control of the ingredients in our beers.
“Growing our own hops has been rewarding in many ways and is certainly making us better brewers.
“The hike in hop prices, firstly because of a shortage of US varieties, and then the post-Brexit referendum fall in sterling, have subsequently delivered another benefit, as growing our own hops gives a level of control over one of our key ingredients.
“As prices of imported hops have reached an all-time high, so this benefit will continue, especially as we plan to grow the proportion of our own hops used in our beers.”
Thompson was speaking at a recent event that also featured Peter Darby of the Wye Hops research centre, Ali Capper of the British Hop Association and Paul Corbett of Charles Faram.
They explored a number of topics that included hop breeding; flavour attributes of British hop varieties and the 2017 UK hop harvest, and trends in the global hop market.
Matthew King, Hogs Back Brewery estate manager with responsibility for the hop garden, added: “With each harvest we’re discovering more about the part that ‘terroir’ plays in the flavour and aroma of hops.
“The microclimate where our hop garden is located, in the lee of the Hogs Back ridge, is warm and protected from the wind and seems to favour hops, which is why they’ve been grown here for centuries.
“Weather is only part of the story with hop farming; there’s also a lot of management that we can control. For example, this year we further refined the structure of strings and wires supporting the hop plants, as well as ensuring we gave them the right soil and nutrients, and controlling pests and disease.
“Hops are a fragile crop, but bringing in our third harvest and then tasting beers brewed with those hops, makes the hours of labour in the garden all worthwhile.”