We catch up with Mel, who is celebrating 20 years of being a Hogs Back Brewery tour guide…..
It all started in August 2002 when Mel replied to an advert in the Farnham Herald for a Brewery Tour Guide. As one of 3 prospective applicants, he was invited by one of the then owners, Tony, to attend a demanding three-hour visit and interview, which included a tour of the brewery. The other two applicants were never heard of again and Mel duly joined the tour guide team. The rest, as they say, is history!
As a local resident of Ash Vale, Mel already knew the Brewery by reputation and was impressed by Tony’s down to earth approach and his infectious enthusiasm. But stepping in front of a group of eager visitors was certainly nerve-wracking for the first time.
It was about this time that Mel accidently stumbled across his public speaking-career. As a successful author – his first book “From Where I Sit” written under his penname of Anthony Mann, was voted WHSmith Book of the Month. At a book signing in Woking, he was asked by a member of the public if he was on “the circuit”. This rather baffled Mel, but he later discovered this referred to the WI speakers’ circuit. Following a successful 20 minute “audition”, Mel was duly signed up to speak in Surrey.
From these humble beginnings, his reputation and confidence grew. His WI circuit includes Sussex, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Essex, and Mel regularly gives after dinner speeches as well as talks to groups and societies including the Rotary Club, Round Table and U3A. His smallest group was 7 in a care home right up to 600 people at a civic event in Hertfordshire.
He now happily combines being a full-time writer, speaker and Brewery Tour Guide. His key to success? Taking a light-hearted view of life. His biggest joy is bringing together visitors, who have all come to the Brewery to be informed and entertained, learning about their stories and seeing them all gel and finishing up together in the bar for a pint.
Those of you who have been fortunate to have been on one of Mel’s tours will know that they can be addictive. Dave Smith holds the record for 15 of Mel’s tours and still counting!
Although he willingly admits, “I am not competitive. I support Charlton Athletic”, at heart he is as enthusiastic now about the tours as when he first started. “The Brewery has changed a lot over the last twenty years but that means there is always something different to talk about and share, and I am proud to be associated with a local, family-owned business.”
He still jokes that Hogs Back Brewery is the number 1 attraction in the village of Tongham (according to TripAdvisor)!
After pouring out thousands of samples to thirsty visitors, his favourite beer? Surrey Nirvana.
A big "thank you" to Mel for royally entertaining all our visitors for the last 20 years.
You’ll be pleased to know Mel has no plans to retire. But he can’t wait to write a memoir of his experiences at Hogs Back Brewery!!