MD of the Hogs Back Brewery at Farnham, Rupert Thompson, and his team of 35 will be watching with interest over the next few weeks as the new 8.5-acre hop garden begins to sprout. The 2,000 plants dug up from a site opposite the brewery, were planted a few weeks ago, augmented with a further 3,500 brought in. They include 1,200 cascade hops, 800 Farnham White Bine and 200 Fuggles.
Rupert is delighted at progress with the latest part of the brewery’s £700,000 investment plan, to create a new hop garden just yards from what will become a traditional drying kiln and packing store, where the harvested crop will be brought fresh from the field and be vacuum-packed for storage within 24 hours of picking.
First, though, the kiln has to be built – rising from the site of a former barn at Manor Farm, where the brewery has operated since 1992. It’s the final part of the huge investment programme overseen by Rupert in the past 12 months and he’s clearly very excited at the prospect.
The kiln will occupy the same footprint as the barn and will use original brickwork as the first level, incorporating the charming arched doorways. Above will be two floors, built using modern, energy efficient materials, topped by old-style louvres. Rupert hopes to install old wooden floors, which will absorb the hop resin over the years to give the building a traditional aroma.
He is passionate about melding old and new methods, saying: “I like to do something different – to learn from how things used to be done, to find new ways of using old technology. People might think I’m barking mad, but I believe we can sometimes find innovation by going backwards.”
Hogs Back has been on the site since 1992, when farmer Tony Poulson began to diversify his former dairy operation. He still lives in the farm house and is clearly watching with great interest as the latest part of the brewing story takes shape before him.
Hogs Back is one of a growing number of farm brewers in the UK, which draw on rural heritage and attract a loyal band of drinkers. Tours of the brewing process are extremely popular and happy visitors speak of generous “sampling” which brings them back for more. The brewery produces between 16,000 and 17,000 barrels a year, about five million pints.