Juan Mayorga, founder of acclaimed Peruvian brewery Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado, spent some time working at Hogs Back Brewery earlier this year. We asked him about his experience.
What brought you to Hogs Back Brewery?
A combination of factors. For one, I wanted to find out more about brewing cask ale – it’s something we just don’t have in Peru, so I couldn’t learn about it at home. I was also interested in what Rupert and the team are doing at Hogs Back, in particular the development of the hop garden, which is bringing the whole beer experience to the consumer. And finally, geography - my sister lives not too far from the brewery, so it was a good chance to catch up with her family, including my 18-month old nephew.
What did you do at the brewery?
Anything and everything! I was determined to learn as much as I could in my time at Hogs Back. I probably spent the most time in the brewhouse with Miles and Mark, but I also spent a day with one of the sales guys in London, another day in the hop garden and shadowed the marketing team. Everyone was really welcoming and happy to talk to me, so I did pick up a lot of ideas that I want to try and use somehow back in Peru.
What bits of your visit did you enjoy most? And least?
I’m a brewer, so it was the brewing that really fascinated me – just seeing how things are done in the UK. Take something simple like debunging a cask - the Hogs Back guys do it all the time, but it was a novelty for me as we don’t have casks. It took me a bit of practice with the hammer, but I was doing it like a pro by the end!
There weren’t really any terrible bits, but the couple of hours spent trying to get posts into frozen ground in the hop garden did feel like a lot longer! I have huge respect for farmers of hops, or anything else – it’s hard work.
What did you learn in your time at Hogs Back?
I learned a lot about brewing in the UK, which is very different from Peru – you have a brewing culture going back for centuries, whereas our beer market has really only started to develop over the last 10 years. The whole tradition of cask ales with relatively low ABVs is something I’d never come across before, either in Peru or in the US where I lived for 20 years. I’d like to try and introduce cask ale to Peru, it would be really different to the double IPAs and other strong beers that we focus on, and I think there could be some interest in it.
What do you think Hogs Back could learn from your brewery?
We’re very different types of operation – Hogs Back is a much larger brewery than Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado, so we can be more flexible and take more risks: if a brew went wrong for us, we’d have 700 litres of unsaleable beer, but it would be 10 times that for Hogs Back. However, Miles and I talked a lot about our system of small batch brewing, which allows us to brew so many different beers – we’ve created around 80 in the four years since we started. I don’t know how easy it is for Hogs Back to implement any of our brewing philosophies, but I hope it might inspire them to try something new.
What do you think you’ll miss about Hogs Back and the UK?
The brewery’s setting in the Surrey countryside is pretty special, I loved looking out onto the fields or walking through the woods to enjoy a pint in a country pub. More broadly, I love how everything just works in the UK – people obey traffic regulations and form orderly queues, which just doesn’t happen in Peru! That drives me mad about my country but at the same time it’s part of why I love it.
What’s the legacy of your trip to Hogs Back?
Miles and I collaborated on a sour beer. This is a style we’ve won awards for at Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado, but it’s something new for Hogs Back. We started with some Hogs Back beer and inoculated it with Lactobacillus – the bacteria that turns beers sour. Then we put the beer in oak casks to age it for a few months. We’ve got three barrels ageing, each with a different Lactobacillus strain, so when the three months are up, they’ll be blended to create one beer. Sadly, I won’t be able to pop over from Peru to taste the final beer, but my sister has volunteered to drink a glass or two for me and report back.
Notes: Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado is located in Ollantaytambo, Peru, close to Machu Picchu. The brewery was founded in 2014 by three friends and is fulfilling their dream of having a small, well-respected brewery that supports the surrounding community. They produce high-quality, award-winning beers from local ingredients wherever possible, introducing craft beer and its philosophy to the Peruvian market. www.cerveceriadelvalle.com
The Tongham TEA Club will be invited to try the collaboration sour brew at an exclusive tasting as soon as it is ready.