Our Hop Garden
LABOUR OF LOVE
It has always been our vision to re-establish the traditional link between hop growers and brewers so in 2014 we embarked on a journey to build the first new hop garden in the immediate Farnham area for over 100 years.
Surrey was once the pre-eminent hop growing region of England, with local Farnham White Bine hops commanding a 30% premium. Sadly over the decades, the industry declined. After several disastrous harvests, the many hop gardens were grubbed up. Farnham owes much of its wealth to hops and you can still see reminders in local names such as the Hop Blossom pub.
(Image provided courtesy of Farnham Museum)
Our revival hop garden spans 8½ acres. Not large by commercial hop growing standards, but when fully mature, the garden will provide over 50% of our annual hop needs.
We grow 3 varieties
Farnham White Bine – we’ve revived this heritage hop, once prized for its fine, subtle, slightly peppery character.
Traditional Fuggles – the classic English ale hop. TEA, our Traditional English Ale, is brewed with 100% Surrey Fuggles hops, providing a firm bitterness and gentle aroma.
Cascade – we are one of the few English growers of this wonderfully aromatic hop, with its strong citrus and grapefruit character.
MEET THE TEAM
Matthew is our hop guru and dedicated Hop Estate Manager. Although he is officially part of the brew team, he is never happier than when in the hop garden! He’s ably assisted by the rest of the brew team, our willing volunteer Hogs Back Hoppers and members of the Tongham TEA Club.
BUMPER 2021 HARVEST
As the hop plants mature each year, the yield increases.
Good weather and harvesting the hops at their prime, meant a bumper 2021 harvest.
For 5 weeks in August and September, we harvested, picked, dried and packed from early morning to late in the evening.
That’s 86 hop rows cut and 534 hop bales. Or over 4 tons or 80 zentners to use the traditional measure for hops. Enough for 250 brews.
But we did stop for a weekend to celebrate the Hop Harvest Festival & TEA Party with about 2,500 visitors!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Work began in 1994 to transform the field opposite the brewery into a 3 acre hop garden. Bill and Bridget Bidell and the Hampton Estates team lent a helping hand.
The garden quickly became quite a landmark, with many a traveller stopping to take a photo. Little did they know, our historic Farnham White Bine hops were not grown anywhere else in the world.
MORE SPACE NEEDED
Although our harvests grew in yield and quality over the following four years, it soon became clear we were outgrowing the space. So after the September 2018 harvest, work got underway to move the hop garden – lock, stock and barrel.
The whole hop garden was dismantled and over 2,000 hop plants dug up.
THE NEW HOP GARDEN
Set just behind the brewery on the best land on the farm, the new 8½ acre hop garden was built in just 4 months. 2,000 plants from the old garden, plus 4,000 new hop plants were planted. Local vicar, Rev. Claire Holt, conducted the traditional Hop Blessing ceremony, the time-honoured way of blessing the crop for an auspicious harvest.
A BIG SHOPPING LIST
The hop picker and drying kiln were commissioned, and a tractor and packing machine duly purchased.
So for the first time we were growing, harvesting, picking, drying and packing the hops ourselves. The rest, as they say, is history!
But our story isn’t finished yet. We’re trialling new hop varieties and still plan the restoration of a traditional style hop kiln with a Visitor Centre. Covid has knocked our plans a bit, so we’re starting with a more modest visitor display in the Brewery Tap! With the help of our friends from Farnham Museum and Rural Life Living Museum, we’ll bring to life the story of hop growing in Surrey.
DID YOU KNOW?
There used to be dozens of hop farms around Farnham. The emblem of a church bell was traditionally used on local hop sacks, to show how far from the centre of Farnham the hops were grown. We’ve carried on this tradition and our hop sacks carry two church bells.