We will be celebrating our annual hop blessing despite lockdown, albeit with a virtual ceremony.
We are delighted that Rev. Claire Holt, of St Paul’s Church in Tongham, will officiate from the hop garden next to the brewery, accompanied – at a safe distance - by owner Rupert Thompson and a handful of team members to record the ceremony.
The hop blessing will take place on Thursday 21st May at 7pm. This is Ascension Day, which was traditionally a day when crop blessings were held. Last year, we welcomed around 200 people to the brewery for the celebration, enjoying an evening among the growing hop bines with a pint of Hogs Back TEA (Traditional English Ale).
Rupert said: “The hop blessing was so popular last year that we didn’t want to drop it due to lockdown. We’re grateful for the support of Rev. Holt, who conducted last year’s blessing, and the blessing of our original, smaller hop garden in 2014.
“We are delighted that the local community will be able to join us for the virtual blessing via social media and our website. It won't be quite the same as standing in a sun-filled hop field with friends, but we’re pleased we are able to continue this annual tradition.
“Happily, our hops have not gone into lockdown, in fact the recent warm weather has encouraged healthy growth and we’re hopeful of a bumper harvest in September. We’re also hopeful that we may be able to hold a real Hop Harvest Party rather than a virtual one – even if it has to be smaller scale and socially distanced.”
Rev. Holt says: “Like everyone else, St Paul’s Church has adapted to lockdown, and I’ve become a ‘virtual vicar’ to my congregation. I am pleased that Hogs Back is able to adapt their hop blessing, and happy to lead prayers for the hop garden, the brewery, and all who work in them.
“Ascension Day was traditionally chosen for crop blessings as by this time in the year, new growth would be shooting up. Traditionally, a group of young and old people, usually led by the priest, would walk round the boundaries of the parish, stopping at each boundary post to pray for the protection of the crops.”
Hopefully the blessing will bring a successful harvest in September for our three varieties of hop: Fuggles - used in TEA; Cascade - used in Hogstar and Surrey Nirvana; and Farnham White Bine - a local variety that we have revived from near-extinction.