Hogs Back Brewery reaps rewards of hop garden investment

Hogs Back Brewery is reaping the rewards of planting its own hop garden next to the brewery in Farnham in Surrey as the price of imported varieties reaches an all-time high, fuelled by the weakness of sterling.

Speaking at a ‘Hop Tales and Hop Tails’ event in London to celebrate the brewery’s third hop harvest and share insights on the UK and global hop markets, Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said, “We planted our hop garden next to the brewery in 2014, as part of our commitment to local sourcing, reducing food miles, sustainable brewing and taking greater control of the ingredients in our beers. Growing our own hops has been rewarding in many ways and is certainly making us better brewers.

“The hike in hop prices, firstly because of a shortage of US varieties, and then the post-Brexit referendum fall in sterling, have subsequently delivered another benefit, as growing our own hops gives a level of control over one of our key ingredients. As prices of imported hops have reached an all-time high, so this benefit will continue, especially as we plan to grow the proportion of our own hops used in our beers.”

Hogs Back harvested four varieties in its hop garden in September this year: Fuggles, used in their flagship TEA; Farnham White Bine, a traditional local variety which Hogs Back has revived from near-extinction; English Cascade, used in Hogstar English Craft Lager; and a newer dwarf variety, Pioneer, which Hogs Back has used for the first time in its 2017 Home Harvest Ale. UK imports from the US of Cascade, a popular variety in craft brewing, have increased in price by about 60% over the last year.*

‘Hop Tales and Hop Tails’ was staged by Hogs Back Brewery in London, with talks by hop experts Peter Darby of the Wye Hops research centre, Ali Capper of the British Hop Association and Paul Corbett of Charles Faram. Topics explored included: hop breeding; flavour attributes of British hop varieties and the 2017 UK hop harvest, and trends in the global hop market.

At the event, held at CAMRA award-winning pub The Dispensary in Aldgate, guests also enjoyed a selection of Hogs Back beers including the first batch of Home Harvest Ale, an ale brewed with all four varieties grown on the hop garden. Other beers, also brewed with Hogs Back hops, included TEA (Fuggles), Hogstar (Cascade), Surrey Nirvana (Cascade) and Farnham White.
Thompson said, “We’ve now been growing our own hops for three years and are the country’s leading brewer-grower, so we felt we were in a good position to hold this hop-focused event, which we’d like to see become an annual fixture.”

Matthew King, Hogs Back Brewery estate manager with responsibility for the hop garden, said, “With each harvest we’re discovering more about the part that ‘terroir’ plays in the flavour and aroma of hops. The microclimate where our hop garden is located, in the lee of the Hogs Back ridge, is warm and protected from the wind and seems to favour hops, which is why they’ve been grown here for centuries.

“Weather is only part of the story with hop farming; there’s also a lot of management that we can control. For example, this year we further refined the structure of strings and wires supporting the hop plants, as well as ensuring we gave them the right soil and nutrients, and controlling pests and disease. Hops are a fragile crop, but bringing in our third harvest and then tasting beers brewed with those hops, makes the hours of labour in the garden all worthwhile.”

Hogs Back brewery is working towards growing 25% of the hops it uses in its own garden, and sourcing 70% within walking distance of Tongham. This year saw hops dried in a brand new oast house, built just three miles from the brewery and the first in Surrey for over 50 years.

*as reported by The Grocer, 27 April 2017

CAPTION TO ATTACHED IMAGE (l-r) Paul Corbett, Charles Faram; Ali Capper, British Hop Association; Peter Darby, Wye Hops research centre and Rupert Thompson, Hogs Back Brewery

Bartenders challenged to design 2018 Fernet-Branca coin

October 2017

Classic Italian herbal spirit Fernet-Branca is inviting bartenders to submit designs for the UK’s 2018 Fernet-Branca Challenge Coin.

Distributor Hi-Spirits has set the challenge, with a theme for the design of “what makes the UK bar scene so great?” A shortlist of coin designs will be voted on by the industry, and the winning design will be produced next year.

The coins are carried by a select group of bartenders around the world, marking their membership of the exclusive Fernet Branca Secret Society, which celebrates the brand’s heritage and versatility.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “Fernet-Branca is hugely respected by bartenders, and the Challenge Coins are an important part of the international bartending community. We’re delighted to be giving UK bartenders the chance to design the 2018 UK coin.”

Designs should be for one side of the coin only and are limited to five colours. Bartenders have until 31 December 2017 to submit their ideas at, where full T&Cs can also be found. Entries will be shortlisted in January 2018 and voted on by the industry, with the winner announced in February.

Created in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca, Fernet Branca is a herbal spirit with a distinctive bitter flavour, and is still made at the Fratelli Branca Distillerie to the closely-guarded original recipe.

Along with Fernet Branca, Hi-Spirits distributes other speciality drinks from Fratelli Branca Distillerie in the UK including BrancaMenta, Antica Formula, Punt e Mes, the Carpano Vermouth range, and Caffè Borghetti.

For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Hi-Spirits breaks out the brands for London Cocktail Week

September 2017

Hi-Spirits will be celebrating the capital’s booming cocktail culture by putting some of the biggest brands in its portfolio in the spotlight during London Cocktail Week.

Southern Comfort, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and the classic Italian Fratelli Branca liqueur range will all be featured, with the cocktail cognoscenti able to enjoy a range of £6 drinks at selected bars throughout LCW, which runs from October 2 – 8.

Buffalo Trace and Fratelli Branca will be offering a programme of masterclasses during the week at the Buffalo Bourbon Empire pop-up bar, which will be located this year at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club in Shoreditch.

VIP hosts for the classes will be Drew Mayville, Buffalo Trace master blender, and Nicola Olianas, World brand ambassador for Fratelli Branca. Along with an opportunity to taste the 2017 release of the five-strong Buffalo Taste Antique Collection, there will be a special masterclass featuring cocktails made with the Antique Collection and vintage Carpano Vermouth.

Other classes will spotlight the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, and the full range of premium brands from the Fratelli Branca distillery in Italy. With limited spaces available and demand expected to be high, bar trade professionals can sign up at

The Spitalfields Market Village cocktail hub will host the Southern Quarter, celebrating the true Spirit of New Orleans. Inspired by the city’s French Quarter, the bar will be welcoming cocktail lovers with a selection of delicious Southern Comfort cocktails paired with freshly-cooked Buttermilk Fried Chicken.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka will also feature in the Spitalfields Market Village, with the Tito’s Texan Mule Cart bringing a Texan twist to the classic mule cocktail. Tito’s, the Vodka for Dog People, will be supporting the Guide Dogs Foundation, giving £1 from every cocktail purchased to the charity. MASH and Off Broadway are also giving £1 from every Tito’s drink sold to the Guide Dogs, with Tito’s matching the funds raised.

Partner bars around London will be offering exclusive £6 cocktails throughout the week. Buffalo Trace will be at Vaults of Soho, Fat Bear, Benares, Four Sisters, Four Sisters Town House, Barbecoa, and Basement Sate; Tito’s Handmade Vodka will be at Mash and Off Broadway; and Southern Comfort cocktails will feature at Hoxley & Porter, Quaglinos, Bermondsey Yard Café, Salvador and Amanda, Kansas Smitty’s, Stillwater and Bobo Social.

For those looking to chill out between cocktails, Our/London Vodka is taking up residence at Blixen in Spitalfields village, offering respite as well as free coffee, snacks and WiFi access for trade wristband holders. There will also be an opportunity to try the newly launched range of Our/London Infusions.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “London is one of the world’s great cocktail cities, and we’re delighted to be featuring some of the iconic brands from our portfolio during London Cocktail Week.

“It’s especially exciting to be bringing Buffalo Trace and Fratelli Branca, two of the world’s greatest distilleries, together at the Buffalo Bourbon Empire, which will be a great opportunity for bar professionals to learn more about the heritage and skills of both.

“With cocktail sales booming in UK pubs and bars, London Cocktail Week is a great showcase for our national cocktail culture, and so we’re delighted to be right at the heart of the action again this year.”

For more information, contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email, or visit

Provenance Inns appoints new managing director

September 2017

Provenance Inns has announced the appointment of Rupert Farquharson as managing director. An experienced hospitality and drinks trade professional, Farquharson takes up his new role as the seven-strong gastropub and hotel operator gears up for the next phase of its growth.

Farquharson was most recently managing director of Norfolk brewer Woodforde’s, and in a 25-year career has also held roles with Adnams, where he was retail director, as well as with Bass Brewers, Diageo and the Wine Society.

Chris Blundell, chairman and co-founder of North Yorkshire-based Provenance Inns, said: “We’re delighted that Rupert is joining us. His experience will be invaluable both in maintaining the impeccably high service and quality standards that mark out our existing pubs and hotels in the very competitive hospitality market, as well as ensuring that we are ready to make the most of new opportunities.”

Farquharson added: ”Provenance Inns has established a strong reputation as a leading hospitality operator, both across our trading area and nationally, and the opportunity to be part of this hugely professional team, both at senior level and in each of the pubs and hotels, is wonderful.

“In a market where consumers have more choice than ever, and the economic outlook is likely to challenge us, I’ve had to hit the ground running. However, I’m confident that we will continue to take Provenance Inns from strength to strength.” Provenance Inns was founded in 2010 by Blundell, a former director of supermarket group Morrisons, and Michael Ibbotson, who stepped down as managing director earlier this year. The company currently has 275 employees and a turnover of c.£10m.

Among the many national and regional accolades for the business, Provenance Inns was named Pub Group of the Year in the Good Pub Guide 2015, Best Accommodation Operator at the Publican Awards 2016, and, most recently, Best Large Company 2017 at the Harrogate Advertiser Business Awards.

The seven businesses in the Provenance Inns portfolio are: The Black Bull Inn, Moulton; the Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk; the Crown & Cushion, Welburn; the Oak Tree, Helperby; the Punch Bowl, Marton cum Grafton; the West Park Hotel, Harrogate; and the most recent addition, the Cleveland Tontine, Staddlebridge, acquired in 2016.

Ex-McMullens chief becomes non-exec at Brakspear

September 2017

Pub operator and brewer Brakspear has recruited Peter Furness-Smith as a non-executive director, with a particular focus on helping to develop the company’s expanding managed estate.
Furness-Smith retired this summer from McMullens, the Hertfordshire brewer and pub retailer, where he served nearly 20 years as managing director. McMullens has 85 managed and 35 tenanted pubs.

Previously, Furness-Smith spent 10 years as retail director of brewer and pub operator Morland. He also worked for Whitbread, including a stint as a manager of a Beefeater Steakhouse, and spent time in the City and the Army.

Furness-Smith said, “I’ve been impressed with what Brakspear has achieved over the last few years, particularly the clear market positioning they have developed for each of their pubs.
“I like their focus on people and the culture that exists across the business of genuinely putting customers first, and helping good individuals and teams to achieve their potential. The Brakspear managed estate looks set for great things and I look forward to helping the team to develop this side of the business.”

Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said, “Having someone of Peter’s calibre to advise and guide us is a tremendous asset and we are delighted to have him on board. His experience over many years in the hospitality industry, particularly at McMullens with its sizeable managed estate, will prove invaluable as we seek to build our own managed business.

Brakspear’s managed estate stands at nine pubs including four sites in the Cotswolds as well as Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Mickleham in Surrey, Staines and Shepherd’s Bush. Three more sites are scheduled to open later this year.

Furness-Smith joins Brakspear’s existing non-executive directors Ed Turner and Tim Davies.

Caption: Tom Davies with Peter Furness-Smith in the Bull on Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames


Magnificent seven: Unique Hospitality Management expands further with Star Pubs & Bars’ site

September 2017

Unique Hospitality Management has taken on its seventh pub, Star Pubs & Bars’ owned venue The Fox Inn at Boars Hill, Oxfordshire.

The lease of the Fox Inn, which is situated between Oxford and Abingdon, has been acquired from MLC Pubs and Unique Hospitality Management is investing £350k in the venue. The pub is currently being refurbished September and will reopen on Thursday, 21 September.

The Fox Inn will offer seasonally changing menus which reflect the best of British produce, local beers, fine wines, spirits including a big gin range and cocktails. The pub also features an extensive decked area which Unique plans to capitalise further on.

The company’s managing director Andrew Coath said: “The Fox Inn makes it a magnificent seven pubs for the company. The Fox Inn is a really exciting acquisition for us and is a lovely traditional pub located in a great position close to affluent Oxford. We believe our fantastic Epic Pubs’ food and drink offer will work extremely well in this location.”

Partnership for success

The Fox is Unique’s first Star Pubs & Bars’ site. Tim Galligan, the company’s operations and sales director, said: “We are delighted to be working with Unique Hospitality Management at The Fox, a pub that has tremendous potential.”

He adds: “This is our first venture with Unique with hopefully more to come. We wish them every success and look forward to supporting them with their exciting plans for The Fox.”
General manager of The Fox Inn will be Hannah Strudwick who moves from the company’s award-winning 185 Watling St Pub & Kitchen in Towcester, Northamptonshire.

Expansion plans

Led by managing director Andrew Coath the company aims to have 15 sites by 2019.

Unique Hospitality Management has opened three pubs in the past year with its most recent venue private lease The Wheatsheaf Pub & Grill at Bow Brickhill, near Milton Keynes, which is the company’s first pub with a steak and seafood concept.

The Fox is part of the company’s Heroic Pubs’ division which also includes Charles Wells’ leases The Anchor at Aspley Guise and The Knife & Cleaver at Houghton Conquest, both in Bedfordshire and Punch lease Mill Street Pub & Kitchen in Oakham, Rutland.

New operations manager

The company has also appointed a second operations manager to help support its expansion plans.

Sam King joins the company from Cirrus Inns and has responsibility for The Fox Inn and the company’s first pub The Golden Ball near Maidenhead, Berkshire, which opened in 2015.

Picture caption: The Fox Inn’s new general manager Hannah Strudwick with new operations manager Sam King at The Fox Inn.