Our February monthly club meeting was held at a different venue Cuddington Golf Club were the Speaker was Mel Rees a Tour Guide for the Hogs Back Brewery.
Members arriving for the talk
Mel opened his talk with a few words introducing himself. Mel Rees was born in 1947 and lived in Battersea, South London, until he was 21 years of age. He married and moved to Ash Vale, Surrey, where he continues to live. He is the father of three children, managed to get rid of two, any suggestions for disposal of the third greatly appreciated!!.One day he was casually looking through the Sits Vac in the Surrey Advertiser and happened upon a job vacancy for a Tour Guide required for the Hogs Back Brewery and thought that’s for me and applied and was duly appointed to the job.
Mel continued by telling us about the brewery and the method of making the cup that cheers.
Hogs Back Brewery is a Brewery in Tongham, Surrey, England, and named after the nearby Hog’s Back ridge . The brewery started in 1992 as a joint venture between two friends, Martin Zillwood-Hunt and Anthony Stanton-Precious. Growing rapidly since then, it now produces 40,000 pints per week and supplies over 500 outlets.
The Brewery has won over 40 awards for its beers over the years. CAMRA voted, TEA was the “Best Bitter” in Britain in 2000, and in 2006 A over T was voted “Supreme Champion Winter Ale of Britain”.
Beers and lagers are brewed with different types of yeast. Ale yeast ferments at the top of the brewing vat at a comfortable room temperature while lager yeast ferments at the bottom of the vat at a lower temperature. The main difference between the two is the different types of yeast that they both use. It was the Germans who first found a preservative in hops that enabled the drink to have a shelf life and they called it Lager, that being the German word for storeroom and the nearest they could get to in their language structure to give their beer a name. Here in Britain we drank something called small beer which has to drunk within a short space of time of being brewed, which in the past when water was not so pure as today was the only safe refreshment readily available. So it was years before we caught up with the rest of the world and added hops to our brew.
Beer is made from four basic ingredients: Barley, water, hops and yeast. The basic idea is to extract the sugars from grains (usually barley) so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol and CO2, creating beer. The brewing process starts with grains, usually barley as is the case with Hogs Back (although sometimes wheat, rye or other such things can and are used). The grains are harvested and processed through a process of heating, drying out and cracking, this called malting. The main goal of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing so that it’s ready for the next step. The grains then go through a process known as mashing, in which they are steeped in hot, but not boiling, water for about an hour, sort of like making tea. This activates enzymes in the grains that cause it to break down and release its sugars. Once this is all done you drain the water from the mash which is now full of sugar from the grains. This sticky, sweet liquid is called wort. It’s basically unmade beer, sort of like how dough is unmade bread.
Being a minor brewery and there being necessity for scale of economy Hogs Back buy in their malt. This also applies to their supply of Hops, which they source the majority of their hops within 5 miles of the brewery, though we also source from Germany, the Czech Republic and the USA. With this in mind they have recently bought some land across the road from the brewery to start their own hop garden. Where the hops are grown has an effect on the flavour of the beer brewed. The wort is boiled for about an hour while hops and other spices are added several times. Hops are the small, green cone-like fruit of a vine plant. They provide bitterness to balance out all the sugar in the wort and provide flavour, aroma, and distinctive character are equally important. . Hops are a natural preservative, which is what they were first used for. Once the hour long boil is over the wort is cooled, strained and filtered. It’s then put in a fermenting vessel and yeast is added to it. At this point the brewing is complete and the fermentation begins. The beer is stored for a couple of weeks at room temperature (in the case of ales) or many many weeks at cold temperatures (in the case of lagers) while the yeast works its fermentation magic. Basically the yeast eats up all that sugar in the wort and spits out CO2 and alcohol as waste products.
You’ve now got alcoholic beer, however it is still flat and uncarbonated. The flat beer is bottled, at which time it is either artificially carbonated like a soda, or if it’s going to be ‘bottle conditioned’ it’s allowed to naturally carbonate via the CO2 the yeast produces. After allowing it to age for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months you drink the beer and it’s delicious!
Dave Rich with a jug
During Mel’s talk there were short stops when his helpers (two of our members) moved amongst the audience dispensing samples from jugs of beer. These were small amounts of the Breweries beers; they were A over T (aromas over Tongham) APB ( a pint of bitter) HBB (Hogs Back bitter) and TEA (Traditional English Ale). In his display Mel had a wide variety of beers running to some 18 different plus brews. Some were specials only brewed for specific times of the year, Advent Ale and Santas Wobble brewed for December and Christmas celebrations.
Mel rounded off his talk by mentioning tours of the brewery. Details can be found at https://www.hogsback.co.uk/contact/.
The brewery shop looking outwards the road
Narrative produced by Dave Rich