Hogs Back Brewery wins SIBA Business Innovation Award

March 2016

Hogs Back Brewery has added to its growing trophy cabinet after winning the prestigious Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) Business Innovation Award for 2016.

The accolade was presented to Surrey–based Hogs Back in recognition of its investment in its hop garden, adjacent to the brewery in Tongham.

The first hops were harvested in September 2015, with Hogs Back later launching Farnham White, a seasonal ale made with the historic Farnham White Bine hop variety, which Hogs Back has revived.

Hogs Back managing director Rupert Thompson collected the trophy at the annual SIBA Business & Industry Awards, held at the BeerX event in Sheffield on 17 March. The judges commented that they were impressed by Hogs Back’s “bold approach to growing their own hops to supply the brewery, which not only makes good financial and business sense, but shows a real commitment to sustainability and British brewing heritage – values which seem core to their business.”

Thompson said, “We are delighted that SIBA has singled us out for an award that specifically recognises innovation. With more than 1,400 breweries in the UK, competition for space on the bar, supermarket shelf and convenience store fridge has never been fiercer.

“For a small brewer like Hogs Back, innovation is key, and the Hop Garden is just part of a programme that has also seen the launch of new beers and packaging formats.”

He added, “This award is a tribute to everyone who has been involved in the development of the hop garden, from our hop manager Matthew King and head brewer Miles Chesterman right through to our friends and neighbours in Tongham who pitched in to help with the harvest.”

Make the switch from sea bass, urges Lynx Purchasing

March 2016

The huge popularity of sea bass on restaurant and pub menus is putting pressure on supplies, warns buying specialist Lynx Purchasing.

With salmon prices also high, operators able to use other species to vary menus and specials boards this spring and summer will not only do their bit for seafood sustainability, but also benefit from better quality and value from suppliers.

The advice to make the switch from sea bass comes in the newly-published Spring 2016 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast.  Rachel Dobson, Lynx Purchasing managing director, says:  “Over the past few years sea bass has moved from being a special to a regular dish on many menus, and we’re now seeing it offered all year around by many operators in the branded pub and casual dining sector.

“That inevitably has an impact. Most sea bass on menus is farmed, and our suppliers are now getting smaller fish from the main producers in Turkey and Greece. That can affect margins, because it may take two fillets instead of one to make a main course, and in the longer term those smaller fish never have the chance to grow to maturity.

“The appeal of sea bass to chefs is that it has a delicate flavour that works very well with sauces and accompaniments, but there are other fish that fit the bill.  Both pollack and cod are forecast to be in good supply, while flat fish including brill, dabs, Dover sole, megrim and witch should also at their best quality this spring.

“Salmon is another menu staple, and Norwegian salmon prices hit a 30-year high at the start of this year after Russia relaxed its import ban.

“With both species, it’s harder for the branded operators to switch quickly, so independents can get an advantage this spring and summer by working with suppliers to keep menu flexible and get the best quality and prices.”

The Market Forecast also sounds a warning note on the impact of the UK’s unpredictable weather patterns on produce this spring. The long, mild spell that lasted through November and into December, followed by periods of torrential rain in many parts of Britain in both December and January, has left both growers and produce suppliers waiting to count the cost.

“Many crops planted in the autumn to be harvested this spring had an early growth spurt due to the mild weather,” says Dobson, “meaning they have either had to be harvested earlier, or will have struggled to sustain quality right the way through until picking.

“As we all know, the warm spell was followed by severe flooding in many areas, which inevitably had a further impact. Some seasonal veg staples such as carrots, parsnips, cauliflowers and cabbage have been harvested earlier, requiring a switch to more expensive imports as home-grown supplies run low later in the spring.

“We’re advising customers planning menus for restaurants, pubs and hotels that salads, soft fruits, root crops and green veg are all likely to see some challenges in terms of both price and availability.”

The Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast combines official inflation data with exclusive insight from across the range of suppliers Lynx works with. A FREE copy of the Spring 2016 edition can be downloaded at

Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2200 businesses including hotels, pubs, restaurants, healthcare and education providers. Lynx offers access to the best prices in the market, with no fees or contracts. Lynx customers also benefit from detailed market insight, enabling them to plan menus more effectively.

For more information on Lynx Purchasing, visit  email or call 01325 377 845

Hi-Spirits to distribute Southern Comfort and Tuaca in the UK

March 2016

Hi-Spirits is to distribute Southern Comfort and Tuaca in the UK from April 1 2016, following the acquisition of the two leading speciality brands by US spirits company Sazerac.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “Southern Comfort and Tuaca are both iconic brands, and a great fit with our expanding portfolio. With strong consumer followings we are looking forward to building further distribution across the UK on-trade, off-trade and travel retail channels.”

Hi-Spirits’ brand-building track record in the UK market includes Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Fireball, and Antica Sambuca. Bolton added: “We’re very excited to be working with current and new stockists of Southern Comfort and Tuaca to drive growth.”

The parallels between Southern Comfort and the New Orleans-based Sazerac Company run deep.  M. W. Heron, the creator of Southern Comfort, was born in 1850. The Sazerac Cocktail was created in New Orleans in 1850. As the Sazerac Company was expanding its roots in New Orleans in the 1870s, Heron was introducing his Cuffs & Buttons brand – the precursor to today’s Southern Comfort – in 1874 as a “smoother, more refined whiskey,” while tending bar in the Crescent City.

Now, the Sazerac Company is thrilled to bring the brand back to its deep Southern roots, and plans to restore the New Orleans connection in its branding and on its packaging worldwide.

Originating in Italy, Tuaca is a brandy based spirit with roots that reportedly can be traced back to the Renaissance period. Traditionally Tuaca is served as an icy cold shot, but the vanilla citrus flavour makes it highly versatile for a range of mixed drinks from hot to cold, sweet to sour.

Sazerac will be developing its comprehensive global strategy for Tuaca in the coming months, including evaluating the current packaging before making determinations about any specific changes.  The brand’s heritage is expected to be played up in the new brand strategy.

Both brands are available through leading trade wholesalers. For any queries, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or see The full Hi-Spirits portfolio is online at

Hi-Spirits backs a winner with Buffalo Trace Mint Julep incentive

March 2016

Pubs, bars and restaurants are being encouraged to kick start the spring and summer in style by celebrating two classics – the Buffalo Trace Mint Julep and the Kentucky Derby.

Hi-Spirits, UK distributor of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, is promoting the mint julep as an ideal warm weather drink. Made with bourbon, fresh mint, sugar and plenty of ice, a refreshing Buffalo Trace Mint Julep is simple to make, and a profitable on-trade serve.

Selected bars are being offered a sales incentive, with an all-inclusive day at the races on offer for two team members. There are three prizes up for grabs; two will go to the venues which sell the most Buffalo Trace Bourbon in April and May, with the third going to the venue which comes up with the best display.

With the Mint Julep one of the signature serves at the Kentucky Derby, Hi-Spirits is encouraging bars to celebrate the spirit of the classic race with their displays. This year’s event takes place on May 6 and 7 at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville, Kentucky, close to the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Pubs and bars not involved in the incentive can still make the most of the opportunity to serve Buffalo Trace Mint Juleps, with POS support available from Hi-Spirits, including the iconic Buffalo Trace Julep Tins.

Tim Giles, UK brand manager for Buffalo Trace, says:  “The Mint Julep is already one of the best-known Buffalo Trace serves, especially in venues that use the julep tins, and we want to spread the word even further this summer.  We’re offering the incentive to some of the brand’s most enthusiastic supporters, and we’re also ready to support other operators with POS.”

The incentive will be based on the percentage increase of Buffalo Trace in April and May compared to the previous two months.  Each venue will receive a full POS kit including julep tins, playing cards, posters, and chalkboards.  The prize will be an all-inclusive day at the races for two people, including food, drink, entry and transport.

RECIPE: Mint Julep Perfect Serve: 50ml Buffalo Trace, 8 mint leaves, 10ml sugar syrup and crushed ice.  Top with soda water for a long drink.

Minimum orders apply to receive Buffalo Trace POS. For details, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or see

Hogs Back launches Hogstar in cans

February 2016

Hogs Back Brewery is to put Hogstar English Craft Lager into cans. The new 330ml format meets the growing demand for craft beer in cans, and will be available from March.

Hogstar is a 4.5% ABV lager which is brewed with five different hops and selected herb extracts, matured for over a month to allow flavours to deepen. The beer is lightly filtered and unpasteurised for a fresher taste.

Launched in 2013 in keg and bottles, Hogstar has quickly become one of Hogs Back’s most popular beers, with stockists of the bottled version including Tesco, Waitrose, Co-op, Matthew Clark, Majestic and JD Wetherspoon. It won a Gold Medal at the Society of Independent Brewers’ National Keg Beer Competition last year.

For the launch of the cans, Hogs Back has updated the Hogstar brand identity to reinforce its English provenance and craft-brewed credentials. The new design will be rolled out to the draught and bottled formats.

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said, “The image of cans has completely changed over recent years among discerning beer drinkers, and it seems the right pack format for Hogstar as one of the new generation of high quality, high flavour craft beers.

“We’re delighted with the new design, which creates great impact for the brand on shelf, both in supermarkets and back bars, and sends all the right messages about Hogstar’s taste, provenance and craft status.”about image: craft brewers in the US started using them because of their light weight, recyclability and versatility for occasions such as festivals.”

Brakspear brews Mild again at Bell Street Brewery

February 2016

Henley brewer and pub operator Brakspear is brewing Brakspear Mild at its Bell Street Brewery to the original recipe for the beer, which was last brewed in 1996 at the New Street Brakspear brewery in the town.

Brakspear Mild, a 3% ABV beer, is available exclusively to Brakspear pubs until the end of March, and joins a growing stable of beers recreated at the Henley microbrewery by head brewer Malcolm Mayo. Brakspear Old Ale, reintroduced in winter 2014, was brought back last year, while Brakspear Special, the first beer out of the Bell Street Brewery in 2013, is now brewed there year round in response to local demand.

Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said,  “We opened the Bell Street Brewery in order to bring brewing back to Henley, and it has been a delight to restore some of the most popular Brakspear beers and allow drinkers locally to enjoy them again. Both Brakspear Special and Old Ale have been hugely popular and we’re expecting Mild to be a similar success.”

Malcolm Mayo, Brakspear head brewer, added, “Recreating beers from the original recipes has been an interesting challenge and we’re pleased with the results. The beers have found favour both with drinkers who remember them from days gone by, and with younger consumers discovering them for the first time.”

A dark brown ale with a reddish tinge, Brakspear Mild has a chocolate taste with a hint of caramel and a delicate bitterness. It is brewed with Crystal, Amber and Chocolate malts and Minstrel hops.

Alex Koniotes, licensee of the Perch & Pike in South Stoke near Henley, attended a pre-launch tasting of Mild with a handful of his regulars. He said, “We were first in the queue to taste Mild, and it brought back memories for a few of us. We’ve never had a Mild in the pub before, but the Brakspear name has real appeal round here and our customers have enjoyed Special and Old Ale.  The Mild is a good beer and I think it’ll taste even better once it’s gone through final conditioning in the pub cellar;  we’re looking forward to having it on the bar.”

As well as the Perch & Pike, Brakspear Mild is currently available in around half a dozen pubs in and around Henley.