Hogs Back Brewery launches new keg range

February 2019

Family of four keg beers unveiled at Craft Beer Rising

Hogs Back Brewery is unveiling a new keg beer range at Craft Beer Rising as it steps up its product innovation programme. The range comprises rebranded Hogstar lager and three new beers: Unfiltered TEA, Hog IPA and low ABV blonde beer Little Swine.

The new range is Hogs Back’s biggest NPD launch since it introduced Hogstar in 2013 and reflects the brewer’s forward-looking approach to its portfolio, evolving it to meet the demands of younger drinkers, who generally favour keg beers, while also satisfying the many loyal drinkers of its cask beers, particularly TEA (Traditional English Ale). TEA has enjoyed impressive growth over the last year despite the decline in the cask market, and remains Hogs Back’s flagship beer.

The design for all four beers is clean, modern and eye-catching. While each beer has its own distinctive look, they are clearly part of the Hogs Back family, which will encourage consumers to try beers across the range. The new designs are initially being launched on impactful draught founts before being rolled out to packaged product later this year – Hogstar in bottles and cans and Hog IPA in cans. Packs for Little Swine and Unfiltered TEA are to be confirmed.

Rupert Thompson, Hogs Back managing director, said: “We’re delighted with our new keg beer family. Although we’ve been brewing great keg beers, including Hogstar lager, for some years, we’ve been seen more as a cask brewer, thanks to the success of TEA.

“That all changes now as we launch new beers into fast-growing sectors of the market – low ABV, unfiltered and IPA – and present them alongside Hogstar lager. We’re confident our keg beers will compete in modern craft beer bars, as well as finding a place in more traditional pubs already stocking Hogs Back’s cask ales, particularly TEA.”

Hogs Back Brewery will be on Stand 91 at Craft Beer Rising with a distinctive, specially designed Hop Garden Bar. Craft Beer Rising takes place at the Old Truman Brewery in London’s Brick Lane from 21 to 23 February.

Hogs Back Brewery keg range – tasting notes:

Hogstar: 4.5% ABV lager brewed with special lager malts and five different hops from the UK – including English Cascade from the Hogs Back hop garden – Europe and USA. A small quantity of natural herb extracts is added before Hogstar is left to mature for over a month. The result is a beer that has all the crisp refreshment of a lager, but with a greater depth of flavour and aromas.

Unfiltered TEA: An unfiltered version of Hogs Back’s flagship TEA (Traditional English Ale), a full-bodied bitter, brewed in small batches using English malt carefully balanced with Fuggles hops, some of them from the Hogs Back hop garden. Cold-conditioned for 1 week and unfiltered for optimal flavour.

Hog IPA: 4.5% ABV light, hoppy ale with a blend of floral and fresh citrus notes upfront, well-balanced with a long, dry finish. Hog IPA is brewed with a selection of fine English malts and locally grown Cascade and Fuggles hops, alongside US Centennial.

Little Swine: A new 2.8% ABV dry-hopped aromatic blonde beer – billed as a ‘Small’ Beer with a Big Taste. It is brewed with a carefully selected blend of aroma hops including home-grown Cascade, and then dry hopped for additional aroma and flavour. No and low alcohol beers have grown by 22.7% volume and 24.3% value over the past year, according to CGA.

New senior team for Rockpool backed Epic, Heroic and Aspley Pubs

February 2019

Rockpool Investments, the private equity investment firm, has appointed a new chairman and managing director for its Epic Pubs, Heroic Pubs and Aspley Pubs businesses.

Rufus Hall, who is also chairman of Rockpool backed Urban Village Pub Company and Metropolitan Village Pub Company, is the new chairman of the three companies who between them have 11 pubs.

Jo Probert, formerly at Stonegate Pub Company’s Slug & Lettuce, joins as the new managing director of the companies, which operate three freehold and eight leasehold sites across eight counties, including one pub in London. The latest opening is Aspley Pubs’ The Hummingbird in Hertford which opened in November.

The external umbrella operating name for the three companies is Epic Pubs.

Rockpool Investments is looking at further acquisition opportunities for Aspley Pubs in late 2019.

Probert, who also previously held operational roles at Orchid Group and Greene King, said: “We are building a pub company of really great British pubs with fresh, quality, handcrafted food and standout specials boards. We see our general managers and head chefs as at the front of the business leading teams.”

She adds: “We want our sites to be seen by customers as independent pubs, at the heart of their local communities. We want them to be the first choice for local people to go to have a drink, a sandwich or enjoy more extravagant dishes.”

A big focus is being put on driving more pre-booked sales, as the majority of pubs have excellent private dining facilities, with a newly expanded sales and marketing role created to support this drive.

Lisa Burbidge has been appointed company secretary. She joins from the NHS and also previously worked at The Orchid Group.

The pubs were previously operated for Rockpool by Andrew Coath, managing director of management services company Unique Hospitality Management, on a contract basis.

Pic caption: Go Jo: Epic Pubs’ new managing director Jo Probert

Success for first Parliamentary Pub Quiz

February 2019

A team led by MPs Therese Coffey and Simon Hoare quizzed their way to victory in the inaugural All Party Parliamentary Beer Group and PubAid Pub Quiz, held yesterday (5 February). Team ‘Bling’ lifted the winners’ trophy ahead of fierce competition in a packed room in the House of Commons with 20 MPs taking part as well as other parliamentary colleagues, brewers, pub companies and journalists.

With Mark Labbett – aka The Beast as seen on The Chase – as quizmaster, the 100+ contestants worked in teams to answer questions on everything from sport and science to music and movies – as well as a beer round.

The quiz was held just a month ahead of the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz, organised by PubAid with Prostate Cancer UK. More than 1,200 pubs have already signed up to run the quiz between 3-7 March and PubAid hope that the final number will at least match last year’s, when 1,500 pubs took part, raising £190,000 for hundreds of charities.

MPs who took part in the Parliamentary Pub Quiz are being encouraged to also attend a World’s Biggest Pub Quiz in a pub in their constituency.

Mike Wood, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “We’re delighted with this first Parliamentary Pub Quiz, and congratulate Therese, Simon and their team as worthy winners. Not only was the evening a lot of fun, it also served as a reminder of the vital role that pubs play in communities up and down the land, which includes raising more than £100 million for charity, every year.”

Nick Bish, representing PubAid, said: “Everyone loves a good pub quiz and tonight’s was no exception. We’re looking forward to early March when hundreds of pubs will be hosting the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz, raising money for worthy causes including Prostate Cancer, and giving their customers a great reason to come out to the pub and enjoy socialising with other quizzers.”

The World’s Biggest Pub Quiz is completely free of charge to pubs, who receive two sets of questions, posters and social media assets to encourage customers to take part. Pubs can register now at Although the quiz is scheduled for 3-7 March, pubs who want to take part but can’t run the quiz during that week are welcome to run it at any other time in 2019. Pubs are encouraged to support official partner Prostate Cancer UK, but are also free to support another charity of their choice.

Mark Labbett appeared courtesy of Redtooth, the largest supplier of pub quizzes in the UK, with more than 3,000 pubs receiving their weekly quiz from Redtooth. Redtooth also organise the country’s largest pub poker league, host regional and national quiz competitions, sporting dinners, casino nights and have a range of top quality authenticated sporting memorabilia.


World’s Biggest Pub Quiz attracts close to 1,000 pubs – and counting!

January 2019

Fundraising packs for the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz will be arriving over the next few weeks at the 970 pubs, bars and clubs across the country who have already registered for this popular event, running between 3-7 March.

Organisers PubAid are urging more licensees to sign up now for the quiz, which is completely free of charge and offers a great way to attract customers into the pub, as well as supporting charities, including official charity partner Prostate Cancer UK. Pubs who register will receive a fundraising pack containing two sets of quiz questions, posters and social media assets to encourage customers to come along and join in. To sign up, visit:

The World’s Biggest Pub Quiz is now in its fourth year and has seen participation from pubs, bars and clubs and their customers grow over the past three years, along with an increase in the amount raised for charity. Last year, 1,500 pubs took part and the three quizzes together have raised an impressive £405,000 for hundreds of charities.

Co-founder of PubAid, Des O’Flanagan, said: “We’re delighted with the response to the quiz so far, and we’re confident many more pubs will register before March. The quiz is easy for pubs to host, a lot of fun for the customers who take part, and a great way to support a charity. It’s a genuine no brainer!”

One of the first pubs to sign up to this year’s quiz is Will Shaw, licensee of The Crown in Sydenham, Oxfordshire. He said, “This will be the third time we’ve run the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz. It’s been a great event for us, with 60 people taking part last year on a Sunday night – a session we’re not usually open for, so it delivered incremental sales.

“This year, we’re running it on the Sunday night again, and offering customers a package including a meal as well as the quiz and a charity contribution. We’ve already sold about 50 tickets, so we’re confident we’ll have a full house on the night, and will raise a good sum for charity as well.”

The quiz is scheduled for 3-7 March, but the organisers stress that this window is a guideline, not a requirement and pubs who want to take part but can’t run the quiz during that week are welcome to run it at any other time in 2019. Pubs are encouraged to support official partner Prostate Cancer UK, but are also free to support another charity of their choice.

Gabriella Bailey, Interim Director of Fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK said: “We have lots of pubs already signed up to support Prostate Cancer UK at the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz which is fantastic and shows how popular this event is.

“Through supporting Prostate Cancer UK in this way, pubs are not only helping us raise funds for vital research, but it also allows us to reach even more men with an important health message. We encourage as many pubs, bars and clubs as possible to sign up, join in the fun and help us stop prostate cancer being a killer.”

Caption to attached image: PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan (right) presents a World’s Biggest Pub Quiz pack to Will Shaw, licensee at the Crown Inn, Sydenham, Oxfordshire


Bidfresh launches Countrywide Butchers to Make Meat a Treat

January 2019

Chefs can maximise the potential of meat on the menu while still catering for customers looking to reduce their consumption, says hospitality fresh produce specialist Bidfresh.

The business is launching a new national brand for its premium meat range, Countrywide Butchers, and is using National Butchers Week, which runs from 11-17 March, to spotlight the wide range of meat and added value services available to chefs.

Stephen Oswald CEO of Bidfresh, said, “We’re very proud to launch Countrywide Butchers, enabling us to bring the finest quality meat and the skills of our specialist catering butchers to chefs on a nationwide basis.”

The new brand brings together products and expertise from the four regional specialist butchers within the group – Campbell Brothers, Henson Meats, Knight Meats and Williams of Flint – to supply national accounts. These businesses already work with over 2500 chefs in hotels, restaurants, pubs and other catering business across the UK.

As well as the hospitality industry’s widest choice of sustainably-sourced meat and game, services also include preparation by specialist butchers to customer specifications, along with cooking information, menu consultancy and a range of additional support.

Laurence Tottingham, Development Chef for Oliver Kay Produce, sister company of Countrywide Butchers and part of the Bidfresh group, says, “The trend towards consumers eating less meat, especially amongst the younger demographic, has been well publicised and we know from conversations with our customers that many chefs in hotels, restaurants and pubs are looking at ways to address this issue.

“We’re using National Butchers Week and the launch of the Countrywide Butchers brand to help our customers focus on the positives. For consumers taking a ‘flexitarian’ approach to their diet, meat becomes more of a treat, and so we can help chefs emphasise the premium quality of the meat on their menu.

“Sustainability and animal welfare are issues for many consumers. We work with trusted, approved suppliers to source a variety of local, UK, EU and Red Tractor approved ranges of meats, as well as being members of the Ethical Trading Initiative.”

Advice from Countrywide Butchers to make the most of meat includes:

• Make meat a treat for customers by highlighting premium products on menus and specials boards, such as Henson’s renowned salt beef, Campbell Brothers’ Buccleuch Beef steaks, and speciality game, charcuterie and offal;

• Buy the best quality meat you can. Countrywide Butchers has in-house dry ageing facilities at each of their local sites, enabling butchery customers to specify the exact length of ageing they require to suit their tastes;

• Use the whole animal – nose to tail. Specialist butchers can prepare the animal, advising customers how to utilise all parts effectively on the menu;

• Cuts pre-prepared by specialist butchers add value for customers, minimise food waste, and add profit to meat dishes.

Tottingham will be running classes spotlighting sous vide cookery techniques in London on 20 February and Bolton on 13 March, and will also be hosting a class at Henson Meats in London to coincide with National Butchers Week. He says, “Whether it’s meat, vegan or other specialist menu areas such as seafood or a premium cheeseboard, hospitality operators are having to work harder than ever to attract customers in the challenging eating out market, and as a premium food supplier we’re working closely with our customers to help them keep their menus competitive.”

Chefs can sign up for classes through their account manager or by emailing

Hogs Back Brewery to build new hop kiln


Traditional kiln completes Tongham brewer’s £700,000 investment

Hogs Back Brewery is building a new hop kiln on the brewery site at Manor Farm in Tongham, Surrey as the brewery continues its significant investment programme.

This large-scale project is believed to be the first traditional style kiln to be constructed in the county for over 100 years. It will cost £350,000 to complete, taking total investment in the brewery and hop garden over the last 12 months to £700,000.

The kiln, which will be operational ahead of Hogs Back’s harvest in September, is being built just yards from their brewhouse and their new, much larger hop garden. It will stand on the site occupied for many years by an original kiln within Manor Farm and will be used to dry Hogs Back’s hops for around one month a year. For the rest of the year, it will serve as an event space and visitor centre, educating people about the local hop farming industry which Hogs Back is helping to revive.

Siting the kiln so close to the hop garden and picking machine means hops can be dried immediately after picking. Hogs Back is also investing in state-of-the-art vacuum packing technology to capture the hops’ freshness, with the aim of having them packed within 24 hours of picking. Once packed, hops will be stored in optimum conditions in a new warehouse, to be housed in a converted barn on the farm.

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said, “A £700,000 investment, at a time of some uncertainty in the beer market, speaks volumes for our long-term commitment to brewing in Surrey.

“Hogs Back is the biggest hop-growing brewer in the UK and this expansion with the larger hop garden and new kiln will make us an even more sustainable, environmentally-conscious business: our hops will be travelling from field to firkin in just a furlong (220 yards).  Combined with our new vacuum packaging facility, it means we will have the freshest, best quality hops, which in turn ensures consistently top quality and flavour for our beers.”

He added, “Hogs Back is one of a growing number of ‘farm brewers’ in the UK; brewers who have been founded on a rural, farming heritage that gives them a deep understanding of the ingredients used in brewing. We believe there is a swathe of craft beer drinkers who relate to our values of authenticity and local community.”

Hogs Back’s new hop garden occupies 8.5 acres of prime farmland on Manor Farm, and work started last autumn to prepare it for the 2019 growing season, with anchors, posts and several miles of hop wire now in place. 2,000 hop plants were lifted from the old garden and a further 4,000 new ones planted. Three varieties are being grown on the new site: Fuggles, Cascade and Farnham White Bine.

Thompson said, “We are excited about continuing the journey we started with the planting of our original hop garden in 2014, and, through the new visitor centre, sharing our passion for hop growing with the wider community.

“Growing our own hops has made us better brewers, as with each harvest we’ve learned more about how the flavour of the hops is affected by the weather, and how that then impacts the quality and taste of the beer. It has also drawn us closer to the local rural community and its history, and gives us a unique opportunity to accentuate the provenance and quality of our beers.”

To view a short film showing Rupert Thompson with a graphic representation of the investment at the brewery, including the new kiln, visit