Hogs Back organises Hop Harvest ‘Drink-Up' in the Brewery for a record 2,000 locals

September 2019

Hogs Back Brewery celebrated the first harvest of its new hop garden on Saturday (14th September), with a record 2,000 people joining the Hop Harvest Party at the brewery in Tongham near Farnham.

Guests enjoyed the glorious sunshine as well as live music from five bands, a Kids Zone, street food, and of course plenty of Hogs Back beers, including Green TEA, made with Fuggles hops freshly picked from the new hop garden – a hop harvest tradition, served exclusively at the party. Hop bines were also used in another tradition, as guests took part in a Hop Garland competition. And in a nod to traditional harvesting techniques, dray horses Fred and Ginger offered rides around the hop garden.

The event was an enjoyable and memorable day for the guests, who included local residents, families and members of the Tongham TEA Club of loyal Hogs Back customers.
Hogs Back planted a new hop garden earlier this year, replacing the original garden created in 2014. They transferred 2,000 plants from the old garden and planted 4,000 new ones, creating a new hop garden which is three times larger than the previous one, and closer to the brewery, on the Manor Farm site.

On the day, Hogs Back managing director Rupert Thompson named Alzheimer’s Society as the company’s charity partner for the next 12 months, presenting them with a cheque for £10,000. Hogs Back will aim to raise at least £10,000 more for the charity over the coming year. Thompson also presented a £10,000 cheque to Phyllis Tuckwell, the local hospice care provider which has been its nominated charity for the last year, taking the total donation to the charity to £20,000.

Returning to the brewery was Rev. Claire Holt, of St Paul’s Church in Tongham, who offered a thanksgiving for the harvest. Rev. Holt officiated over a blessing of the new hop garden in June this year.

Thompson said, “This was our fifth Hop Harvest Party and our best ever. We were blessed with the perfect weather for an outdoor event and our guests had a fantastic time drinking beer, listening to some wonderful music from our mainly local bands, and soaking up the sunshine.

“We’re delighted to see how the party has grown over the years to become the unmissable community event it is today. Hop farming is an important part of Farnham’s history and we’re happy to have brought it back to the region and to celebrate our harvest with local residents.

“This party was particularly special to us as it marked the first harvest of our new hop garden. This is an essential part of our commitment to becoming an even more sustainable brewer. With the hops grown just yards from the brewhouse, we are brewing beers with the freshest ingredients and creating a minimal carbon footprint – ‘from field to firkin in a furlong’, as we say.”
He added, “Moving hops from the old garden to the new one was a huge challenge, as plants had to be dug out and replanted by hand. We’re grateful to the Tongham TEA Club members who helped the Hogs Back team with this, and pleased that many of them were here today to enjoy the fruits of their labours with a refreshing pint of Green TEA.

“A big thank you to all the local businesses and volunteers who put in a huge amount of time and effort to make this year’s Hop Harvest Party such a wonderful event.”

Five bands performed at this year’s party, catering to a range of musical tastes and featuring several local musicians: 50s/60s Swing band The Bee-Bops; Farnborough-based indie-rock band Armstrong, who were recently featured on BBC Introducing; energetic folk band The Salts and local band The Frets, who have played the brewery’s Hop Harvest Party and Summer Bar evenings. This year’s headliners, Black Market, delivered a ‘big finish’ performance of covers from bands including Foo Fighters, Black Keys, Killers, Bowie and the Beatles.

Younger visitors were able to make their own music thanks to the Rock & Pop Foundation within the Kids Zone, which also offered a Bouncy Castle and face painting.

Several local businesses and groups were involved in making the event a success. Food included a hog roast from The Barbeque Chef; locally-made Alf Turner sausages – made using Hogs Back beer – and burgers; wood-fired pizzas from Stromboli and, new for this year, Thai Next Door’s street food.

The stage was kindly donated by Hi Speed Services, and Hedgehogs capably built and took down marquees. Volunteers from SamFest welcomed everyone on the gate and the 4th Farnham (Tongham) Scouts directed cars and manned the Kids Zone.

The next event on the Hogs Back calendar is a Pizza & Music Evening at the brewery’s Summer Bar, on 26 September, featuring live music from a popular local performer, wood-fired pizzas from Stromboli, and a range of Hogs Back beers. The Hogs Back’s Summer Bar was set up earlier this summer with seating, canopy and lighting just outside the brewhouse, and has proved popular among drinkers wanting to enjoy sunny days and balmy evenings with a pint of refreshing beer brewed just yards away. For more details, visit:

To view a short film of the Hop Harvest Party:


Mind over matter

September 2019

Brakspear team complete 100K walk for mental health charity

A team from the Brakspear head office in Henley completed the Thames Path Challenge over the weekend, finishing their 100km continuous walk in Henley on Sunday evening. Their efforts – and those of colleagues who completed part of the route – have raised more than £5,200 for Mind, Brakspear’s charity partner this year.

The Thames Path Challenge is an annual event, starting at Putney and following the course of the Thames upstream to Henley, taking in the beautiful riverside scenery as well as historic jewels such as Hampton Court Palace and Runnymede. This year, more than 2,000 people started the challenge, most of them walking, others jogging or running.

Six Brakspear walkers completed the 100 km challenge, starting on Saturday morning and walking through the night without sleep, to finish in Henley on Sunday morning. Four colleagues joined them for the final 22km from Cookham to Henley, and three others pulled out after completing 72km, but their fundraising efforts helped to reach the impressive total collected.
Sue Williams, Brakspear’s Head of People, said: “This was a huge challenge for me and I’m both proud and relieved to have completed it.

“I wasn’t fit when I signed up, so I had to get fit and that was hard; after my early training walks, I ached for days and my feet were covered in blisters. I was determined though, and I became the office cheerleader, encouraging the others to start their training.

“The walk itself was tough both physically and mentally. Walking through the night, cold and sleep-deprived, and knowing you’ve still got a long way to go – that’s tough! Through it all though, there were good times, when we belly laughed hysterically at ridiculous jokes, or came together to help one another through when it got really hard. And knowing we were doing it all for Mind helped us to keep going.”

Brakspear has been supporting Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, for the past year. Pubs have raised money through a range of fundraisers including pub quizzes, music nights and Fun Days, while the head office team have organised a ‘Bake Off’, crazy golf and taken part in sporting challenges such as the Ride100 bike ride.

Tom Davies, Brakspear chief executive, said: “This was clearly a seriously tough challenge and I’m really proud of the team for completing it. The money they’ve raised will be used by Mind to continue the great work they do supporting people experiencing mental health issues.

“The fact that the Thames Path Challenge finishes in Henley made it a clear winner when we were looking for this year’s charity challenge. I’m sure a pint of Brakspear has never tasted as good as the ones the team enjoyed in the pub after crossing the finish line!”

Caption to attached image: Team Brakspear after completing the Thames Path Challenge (l-r): Gavin Mansfield, business development manager; Vicky Manning, financial accountant; Sue Williams, head of people; David Nathan, finance director, Trang Tran, accounts assistant and Dan Turner, retail marketing manager

The book lover’s beer

September 2019

; Brakspear brews Writer’s Block to support Henley Literary Festival

A beer with your books, anyone? Literature lovers in Henley can enjoy a new ale from local brewer Brakspear, specially brewed to celebrate and support the town’s Literary Festival running later this month.

The aptly-named Writer’s Block is brewed at the Bell Street Brewery and will be sold from mid-September in Brakspear pubs in and around the town. For every pint sold, 10p will go to the festival, which runs from 26 September to 6 October.

Writer’s Block is a 4.6% ABV rich, red ale, brewed with Amarillo and Jester Hops and Carared malt. Brakspear has designed a striking, book-shaped pumpclip for the beer to spark interest and orders from pub customers.

Henley Literary Festival is now in its 13th year and this year features a stellar line up of authors, journalists, TV presenters and politicians, including Mary Berry, Melvyn Bragg and Alastair Cook as well as children’s authors Konnie Huq, Dougie Poynter and Chris Riddell, and former PM Theresa May in her first public speaking appearance since leaving office.

Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “The Literary Festival is one of the highlights of Henley’s cultural calendar and we applaud the sterling work done by the organisers who have built it into one of the UK’s leading book festivals.

“We’re delighted to be brewing Writer’s Block, a beer that celebrates the Festival and raises money for it. With its red colour and rich taste, it heralds the autumn season ahead and is the perfect pint for supping, book in hand. Or just supping!”

He added, “Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee a pint of Writer’s Block will turn the drinker into the next literary sensation, but taking a short break in the pub with a sociable pint just might help the creative juices to flow again!”

Harriet Reed-Ryan, events director at Henley Literary Festival, said: “We were delighted when Brakspear approached us about brewing a beer as one of our main focuses of the festival is bringing people into the centre of town to go to pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants in between events, so now they can even order a pint of Writer’s Block too!”

Brakspear regularly brews special beers to commemorate local events and support local causes, including ‘Rhuby’, brewed for the first Eat Food Festival in Henley this June and ‘Two Bells’, which has been given to swimmers at the end of the Henley Club to Pub Swim for the past six years.

For more information on Henley Literary Festival, visit

Fernet-Branca celebrates 25 years of St. JOHN

September 2019

Classic Italian digestif Fernet-Branca is celebrating the 25th anniversary of iconic London restaurant St. JOHN by presenting co-owner and renowned chef Fergus Henderson with a specially designed Fernet-Branca challenge coin.

The coin recognises the devotion that Henderson holds for Fernet-Branca, which is the principal ingredient in his two favourite cocktails, the Dr. Henderson and the Hanky Panky.

This marks the first time a Fernet-Branca coin has been created for a specific venue rather than for an event, and the exclusive coin will be sent to VIP guests invited to the party to mark the restaurant’s anniversary in September.

Henderson is responsible for transforming how and what people cook and eat. He coined the now-ubiquitous phrase Nose-to-Tail in his seminal and multi-award-winning cookbook of the same name, Nose to Tail Eating, which was published in 1999 and went on to be named in the LA Times as the most influential cookbook of all time. It has never been out of print.

2019 sees not only 25 years of St. JOHN but also the publication of a new book, The Book of St. JOHN, which includes the recipe for Henderson’s beloved Hanky Panky.

Fergus Henderson said: “Fernet Branca has been a ritual of mine for many years. It’s the ideal kitchen nip and I am proud to discover that a generation of chefs feel just the same. It is a miracle. I can trace its path through my body – ping! Ping! Like a human pinball machine, working its magic as it goes. It has been my ritual at St. JOHN for many years and, as we now celebrate our quarter-century, we are living proof of its benefits.”

Poppy Croft, marketing manager with Fernet-Branca UK distributor Hi-Spirits, said: “Thousands of Dr. Hendersons and Hanky Pankys have been served over the bar at St. JOHN over the past 25 years, and Fergus’ passion has introduced many customers, as well as bartenders and chefs, to the delights of Fernet-Branca.

“It’s very appropriate that St. JOHN is the first venue to have its own Fernet-Branca coin, and creating an exclusive design for Fergus and the team seemed the right way for us to mark the 25th anniversary of one of London’s finest restaurants.”

Fernet-Branca coins are carried and swapped by a select group of bartenders, chefs and industry professionals around the world, marking their membership of the exclusive Fernet-Branca Secret Society. The many different designs celebrate the brand’s heritage and versatility.

Created in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca, Fernet-Branca is a 39% ABV digestif amaro with a distinctive bitter flavour, still made to the closely-guarded original recipe.

The Hanky Panky was created at the Savoy in London in 1926. In his new book, Henderson says of the cocktail: “It lifts the spirits like nothing else. Take equal measures of Gin and Punt e Mes, stir with ice, strain into a cold martini glass. Gently pour a little Fernet-Branca float, serve with a twist of lemon.”

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

Caption to attached picture: Fergus Henderson toasts the 25th anniversary of St. JOHN with a Fernet-Branca at the bar. Photo by Sam A. Harris.

Pubs and grassroots sport: the perfect match

September 2019

Pubs contribute an estimated £40 million to grassroots sport as rich heritage remains strong

Pubs across the country are providing a lifeline for grassroots sport, worth an estimated £40 million a year in financial and in kind support, according to new research published today.
This first-of-its-kind research was undertaken for PubAid, the organisation that promotes the good work done by pubs across the UK, and supported by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

Sports Minister Nigel Adams said: “Pubs play an important role in supporting local sports clubs. They act as sponsors, fundraisers and meeting places, saving teams significant sums every year.

“This survey highlights the strong relationship between pubs and sports clubs, and is a clear indication of the importance of local, community support.”

Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance added: “Funding at a grassroots level is one of the biggest concerns for sport and recreation clubs across the country.
“Looking at innovative, engaging ways to connect with the local community is an excellent way of making clubs financially stable and, in turn, allowing them to support a local industry.
“We’re delighted to see such a vast range of sport and recreation activities benefiting from these relationships.”

Des O’Flanagan, co-founder of PubAid, said: “We were expecting the research to show a strong connection between grassroots sport and pubs, but the scale of the support, both in financial terms and in the sheer number of sports sponsored by their local, was staggering.

“The support – either in money or in kind – equates to an average annual donation from each pub of £1,025. For many grassroots clubs struggling to stay afloat, that kind of help plugs the funding gap and enables thousands of people across the country to play the sport they love, with huge benefits to their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “The PubAid report showcases the vital role pubs play in helping grassroots sports teams to compete across the UK and to encourage sports participation and physical activity which is so vital to our health and wellbeing.

“From sponsorships, through to free meals and venue hire, it is clear that many community sports teams simply wouldn’t get by without the help of their local pub. For pubs, helping a local sports team is a great way of giving back to the community they serve.”

Top 5 sports supported by pubs
• Football (40%)
• Pub games (e.g. darts/pool): 30%
• Cricket (16%)
• Rugby Union (10%)
• Rugby League (4%)

Getting involved: tips for licensees
• Think carefully about which sports you’d like to support: for your sponsorship to be successful, choose a sport that is popular in your local community. What sports do your regulars play or follow?
• Research the local sports teams in your area. Create a list of those you would like to offer support to, and think about what this support will include before you approach a team. Will it be direct financial support, or in kind, or a combination of both?
• When you are ready to approach a sports team about offering support, make sure you approach someone who is in a position to make decisions for the club, such as a chair or treasurer.
• Remember the value of in-kind support: if you’re offering a free buffet after home games, make sure the sports club realises how much that will save them in room hire and refreshment costs.
• Be clear to the sports club about what you expect from them in return for your support. Do you get sponsorship rights? Are you expecting them to drink in your pub after matches and training? Being clear up-front saves confusion down the line and leads to a better partnership for pub and sports team.


Pub group cuts 10,000 water bottles with Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz

September 2019

Award winning gastropub group Whiting & Hammond is on course to remove 10,000 single use water bottles from its supply chain this year, following the installation of the Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz dispense system across its eight sites.

In each pub, the distinctive Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz bar-top font serves sparkling and still pure filtered mains water, replacing 75cl single use water bottles. Having initially installed the system to provide a premium non-alcoholic drink solution, Whiting & Hammond soon realised the added environmental and economic benefits of switching to dispensed water served in re-usable stoppered bottles.

Paul Worman, Operations Director for Whiting & Hammond, said: “We’re on course to dispense and sell at least 10,000 bottles of water by the end of the year, which means switching to Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz equates to eliminating close to 900 cases of 75cl water bottles from transport, delivery and storage across our sites.

“We additionally make operational savings on storage and chilling, open up fridge space for other products, and as an added bonus we generate near to 100% profit on each sale. It’s good for our business and good for the environment, and customers see no difference in quality.”

Over and above its standalone water sales, Whiting & Hammond is also seeing the benefits of serving an appealing range of non-alcoholic drinks, made by mixing dispensed sparkling and still water with the Mr Fitzpatrick range of more than 25 botanically infused flavours.

‘A premium non-alcoholic drinks range is increasingly important to our customers, and we’d been looking for something innovative and different to deliver that,” added Worman. “There was simply nothing available to match the Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz solution for flavour, variety and profit delivery.”

The bespoke system, supplied by dispense specialist Brewfitt, is connected to the mains water supply. The system comes with premium branded glassware and exclusive drinks recipes. The combination of cost-effective dispense and premium serves can deliver a category-leading GP of 85% on soft drinks, and close to 100% on still and sparkling water.

Mark Fenton, head of brand for Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz, said: “As an ‘early adopter’ of the system, we’re delighted that Whiting & Hammond are seeing such clear benefits to both their sustainability profile, and to their bottom line.

“The environmental impact of bottled water is an issue of increasing concern, while more consumers than ever are looking for appealing and engaging non-alcoholic drinks. The Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz system addresses both issues for operators of restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels and the full range of hospitality businesses.”

For more information, visit