“Tastes like success at the Hogs Back Brewery” was the headline of the Farnham Herald article in August 1992 to announce the launch of the Hogs Back Brewery.
Image by kind permission of Farnham Herald
The first beer out of the Brewery doors was Tongham Traditional English Ale or Tongham TEA for short.
Local deliveries of this new real ale were made to The White Hart in Tongham, as well as The Bush Hotel and The Seven Stars in Farnham. Owners Martin and John Hunt, and Tony Stanton-Precious, were hoping to organise Brewery tours.
The Herald even ran a competition to mark the launch, with T-shirts depicting a clock with the time 7.10am. The first three people to write in and explain the significance of the time won 40 pints of Tongham TEA!
Way back then, it was just a 10 barrel brew (about 3,000 pints) and a pint of Tongham TEA would have cost £1.30! 30 years on a few things have changed. Our standard brew size is 40 barrels (approximately 12,000 pints) and we have brewed over 7300 brews since first opening the doors. That’s over 80 million pints and counting!
Here is a look back at some of the highlights from the last 30 years…..
1992: The first barrels of Tongham TEA are brewed at Manor Farm in Tongham. One of the first pubs to stock it is the White Hart, just down the road.
1994: Brewster’s Bundle is brewed to celebrate the birth of Charley, daughter of our brewster, Mo. Charley weighs in at 7lb 4oz so the ABV is chosen as 7.4% in her honour.
1995: TEA is Runner Up in the Best Bitter category at the Great British Beer Festival, run by CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale).
1995: Our honeyed ale, Friday 13th is first brewed. A triumph born out of disaster! When 6 geese flew into the power cables and caused a power cut, the brew was saved by adding honey. Still brewed to this day every Friday 13th.
2000: TEA is named as overall runner up Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival.
2005: Our steam waggon takes part in the Glasgow to Shrewsbury run.
2006: The Hogs Back Beer Machine with a Harley Davidson engine is commissioned originally as a delivery bike. It’s a bit of a monster!
2006: A over T (Aromas over Tongham) is crowned Supreme Champion Winter Ale of Britain at the CAMRA Winter Beer Festival.
2011: Business is bought by Rupert Thompson, who had worked in the brewing industry for many years on brands including Carling (Britain’s biggest beer brand), Old Speckled Hen and Hobgoblin.
2012: A 30 tonne malt silo is added, together with our very own mill. This replaces the 25kg sacks of pre-crushed malt that have to be opened and poured by hand.
2013: TEA is rebranded with the iconic marque showing the brewery on the back of the hog.
2013: The launch of Hogstar Lager, a 4.5% ABV lager brewed with five different hops and selected herb extracts, and matured for over a month.
2013: Hazy Hog, a cloudy cider is launched. Made to our recipe with 100% British bittersweet apples by fellow family-owned business, Thatchers.
2014: The planting of the hop garden adjacent to the Brewery, makes us the largest brewer with a hop garden in the UK. Rev. Claire Holt from St Paul’s church in Tongham performs a hop blessing.
2014: The Tongham TEA Club is born.
2015: We harvested our first crop of Fuggles (used in Tongham TEA), English Cascade (used in Hogstar and Surrey Nirvana) and the heritage hop, Farnham White Bine.
2015: Winner of the prestigious British Beer and Pub Association Grain-to-Glass award for growing our own hops.
2015: Hogstar wins Gold at the SIBA (Small Independent Brewers Association) National Keg Competition for Premium Pale & Golden Lagers.
2015: A collaboration with Montezuma’s results in what we believe to be the world’s first genuine lager.
2016: The new Dual Purpose Vessels (DPVs) arrive and have to be lifted over the brewery to get them into place!
2016: Countryfile visits. Anita Rani spends time in the hop garden before the all important tasting!
2016: “Farnham White” ale is launched. Brewed exclusively with Farnham White Bine hops from our hop garden, we have helped to bring this hop back from the brink.
2019: The hop garden is relocated to just yards away from the brewhouse and is expanded to 8.5 acres. Rev. Claire Holt performs the traditional hop blessing ceremony for us again.
2019: The Summer Bar is awarded the Cask Marque accreditation – the sign of cask ale quality. It’s very fitting as Rupert helped set up the Cask Marque scheme!
2019: BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen visits.
2020: Hop Garden tours are introduced.
2020: Due to Covid and the lockdown, the Brewery Shop closes. But undeterred, we open the Drive Through, start Virtual Tastings screened live from the brew house, and launch our very own Local Delivery service.
2021: The Brewery Tap opens in what was once the old hop kiln.
and 2,500 people enjoy the Hop Harvest party celebrations over a weekend in September.
2021: A over T wins Champion Bottled Beer of Britain (CAMRA).
2022: Tongham TEA is given a brand-new design. The traditional graphic style features our familiar hog in front of the brewery, farm buildings and hop garden.
2022: When Hogs Fly, our first beer collaboration with a brewery, London-based Mondo, launches.
2022: Utopia 30th 5% cask ale launches in the Brewery Shop and Tap......
.....Meanwhile Utopia 30th bottle-conditioned beer goes through the brew house exactly 30 years to the day of its opening.
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported the brewery over the last 30 years. We couldn't have done it without you!