On Saturday, Tom and I visited the Hogs Back Brewery in Tongham, Surrey, for one of their popular brewery tours. I always knew Tom liked beer from the moment I met him (and from the stack of cans and bottles on the living room window in our student house) but when we began dating I also grew a taste for it and it’s become a bit of a tradition to buy a beer each on a Friday night and relax together after a week of work.
Even though I like beer, half ten in the morning was not the most ideal of times to go on a brewery tour, which would of course involve beer tasting. We arrived outside the 18th century converted barns at the Hogs Back and waited in the brewery shop for the rest of our tour group to arrive. We had time to wonder around the shop and make a mental note of what we wanted to buy later. As well as several shelves dedicated to the brewery’s own beers, there was also an array of foreign beers and unusual beers as well as food and clothing merchandise.
At the beginning of the tour we were handed our own keepsake glasses and several big jugs full of the first beer (Hogs Back Bitter) to pass around whilst we listened to our tour guide and we also got to taste different types of malt. I wasn’t going to be greedy but unfortunately the brewery didn’t like to waste and we were told that we couldn’t move into the next room until all the beer had gone. I happily obliged to this ‘rule’.
Then we moved into the mixing room where we were provided with several more big jugs, this time of the Hogs Back’s most famous beer “TEA”. This all had to go as well.
Then we went outside for a breath of fresh air before congregating in the meeting room surrounded by the many awards the brewery had won over it’s 20 year history, including one for best Pork and Ale sausages.
Then we went to the fermentation room. Everyone pressed buttons on the fermentation vessels to see the golden liquid inside. I just happened to press a button on the only one that wasn’t near completion yet so all I saw was gunk.
Then we went into the barrel room before retreating outside into the glorious sunshine to finish the rest of the beer.
Although we drank way more than we paid for in the tour ticket price, we made up for this in the money spent in the brewery shop. The mental note we had made earlier had somehow grown into a weekly shop and we left with a box full of goodies. Nevertheless, I think it was money well spent.
- Brewing is a woman’s job – the brewing was always done by a woman in the past and at the Hogs Back that tradition has continued.
- It’s recession-proof – as everyone elses businesses seem to have suffered recently, the brewery industry has flourished with several hundred new breweries opened in the UK within the last few years!
- There are beers stronger than wine – apparently the strongest that still has a beer taste to it is 15%.
- Double chocolate stout is not made from chocolate – I was devastated to discover that I had been one of the many people who had been tricked by this clever marketing ploy. It is in fact just a different type of malt.
- Everything matters – in brewing it’s not just the ingredients that determine the taste. Everything from the position of the tanks to cement in the walls can somehow affect the taste. Some breweries have even gone out of business after moving to another location because the beer just wasn’t the same.