Surrey breweries - the best of Surrey beer
10:56 14 June 2015
- When was the brewery founded?
- Where did you seek your inspiration?
- What is your proudest achievement to date?
- Tell us about your signature product…
- Tell us something people probably don’t know about your brewery/beers…
- What does the future hold for your brewery?
- What is the most rewarding thing about running a brewery?
To see your brewery featured in this list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Hogs Back Brewery
Name: Rupert Thompson
Role: Director of Hogs Back Brewery
- Hogs Back Brewery was founded in 1992 in Tongham, where it remains today. Its first brew was TEA, Traditional English Ale, which remains its flagship and is the leading independent ale in Surrey. Hogs Back quickly gained a reputation for brewing a range of outstanding cask ales such as HOP and Ripsnorter, and bottled beers such as OTT and A over T, many of which have won awards over the years. In 2014, we planted our own hop field next to the brewery, bringing the traditional but near-extinct White Bine hop variety back to its Surrey home. We will celebrate our first real hop harvest later this summer, something we’re very excited about.
- Through a long career in brewing, I’ve been lucky enough to brew and taste many different beers, not just in the UK but around the world. The ones that have inspired me most are those where the brewer has had a real passion for brewing, and the resulting beer has a unique and distinctive character.
- Personally, being voted Brewer of the Year by the Guild of British Beer Writers in 2005 for recreating the Brakspear Brewery in Witney was very special, and seeing David Cameron hand President Obama a case of Hobgoblin as a ‘beer swap’ for Goose Island Ale on a state visit to Washington in 2010 was very exciting.
- Our best-seller is TEA. It’s a 4.2% ABV beer with a refreshing and well-balanced flavour, made from English malt and Fuggles hops from the other side of the Hogs Back. TEA has won many awards over the years, including CAMRA’s Best Bitter Category for the London and South East Area earlier this year, which means it will be at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia this summer.
- I think people are often surprised by the diversity of beers we brew at Hogs Back: we’re famous for TEA, which is a very traditional ale, but we’ve also started to explore other beer styles, launching Hogstar English Lager and Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager, which have both proved very popular and, earlier this year, our new Hopping Hog IPA.
- I think the future looks pretty rosy for Hogs Back. While mainstream lagers are losing sales, the UK’s drinkers have developed a real thirst for locally brewed beers from smaller brewers like us. We’re pleased with the new beers we’ve launched since 2012 and will be looking at further new product development – so watch this space!
- Apart from the free beer, you mean?! What I value most about Hogs Back is that we’re building a long-term business in a village in Surrey, using local ingredients, employing local people and supplying local pubs.
Hogs Back Brewery, Manor Farm, The Street, Farnham, Surrey GU10 1DE: hogsback.co.uk
Surrey Hills Brewery
Name: Ross Hunter
Role: Owner (and cleaner!)
- I had originally planned to set up a brewery later in life, but ultimately I decided that given the very demanding and physical nature of the work, it would be a good idea to start much earlier. Therefore, in 2004, I left my previous occupation and embarked on a long search to find a suitable site (I had a picture of a rural location in my head), which was eventually identified on the Albury Estate. The first barrel of beer was sold on Friday May 13, 2005 and we have just celebrated our tenth birthday.
- I have been a life-long beer drinker and I have sought out and consumed many different beers from around the country and the world. Many beers have stood out over the years, and for me, the key is trying to work out what made each beer particularly enjoyable. Experimentation at home with different ingredients and methods eventually yielded the beers that you see today.
- We have reached the finals of the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain Competition every year since 2005. I am particularly proud of this as it is an indication of the consistent high quality of our beers over a long period of time. Our highest ever award came in 2010 with Hammer Mild winning the Champion Mild of Britain and Bronze in the overall Champion Beer of Britain. We have won many awards over the years and, in 2013, both Ranmore and Shere Drop picked up awards in the Champion Beer of Britain competition.
- Shere Drop is our flagship beer, named after the village of Shere, and is comfortably our best selling beer. The beer has become a favourite locally, and many regulars order a pint of “Drop” in local pubs now. We also brew collaborations with Cobbetts Beer Shop in Dorking. The beer is called Collusion and we have already produced four versions of this.
- A little known fact is that over 95% of the beer we brew is consumed within 15 miles of the brewery, a fact we are very proud of.
- We have no intention of growing too large – we feel the fun would go out of it. We will continuing to supply the Surrey Hills and surrounding area with our core beers for many years to come, as well as creating more innovative beers in the future.
- The people, the brewery fraternity, the publicans who support us, the customers who we can enjoy a pint with and, of course, the five guys who work at the brewery and keep the beer flowing.
Surrey Hills Brewery, Denbies Wine Estate, London Road, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6AA: surreyhills.co.uk
Name: Graham Henderson
Role: Managing director
- The brewery was formed by three friends passionate about real ale. In 2006, we purchased a small brew kit from Germany which produces 20 litres of real ale. This was put into one of our garages and brewing began. After about 18 months, and many brews, some recipes were formulated and a rudimentary grasp of brewing was learned. It was then decided to find premises and purchase a new 10 barrel brew plant. Premises were secured and the brewery was purchased. The brewery was delivered in June 2008. For the first six months the brews were perfected and the directors learned to brew on the new equipment. The first commercial sales were made in January 2009.
- We produce a range of real ales for pubs and clubs within a 30 mile radius of the brewery. The latest brew is an American Pale Ale style called Buffalo Buffalo Extra, which is a strong 5.7% brew using some fantastic American hops.
- We have now won several Gold medals in competitions but the best are the two national awards for our Mild and our Red India Ale.
- DBOne is our best seller but we make a wheat beer called Ceres and a smoked beer called Smokestack Lightnin’ - all are very different
- We now have a licence to sell beers at the brewery and have built a small bar. We recently had an open day, which went really well and we will be opening more often over the next few months. Follow us on twitter for opening time details @Dorking_Brewery.
- We have seen sales rise from year to year. We bottle two ales at the moment but hope to add to the range, we may even be bringing the beer out in cans. We hope to expand sales from the brewery
- Simple. Seeing people enjoy the beer!
Dorking Brewery, The Engine Shed, Station Road, Dorking, Surrey RH4 1HF: dorkingbrewery.com
Big Smoke Brew Co
Name: Richard Craig
- Big Smoke Brew Co was founded in July 2014. We had a fantastic space in the back of our pub that was perfect for a microbrewery. We also had two staff members with experience in brewing, who were keen to step up to brewing on a larger scale.
- Having worked with beer for the last 10 years we have a great amount of experience with different beer styles. We didn't seek inspiration from any particular breweries, more from the burgeoning beer scene in the UK at the moment and the beers that we enjoy drinking ourselves.
- Our proudest achievement to date is having our beers stocked in some legendary pubs and bars in the Capital. Bars such as The White Horse in Parson's Green, The Rake in Borough Market and The Southampton Arms in Kentish Town.
- We have five core beers: Electric Eye Pale Ale, Solaris Session Pale, Underworld Milk Stout, Dark Wave Porter and Bonfire Bitter. Our best seller is Electric Eye, which is a very hoppy and bitter pale ale with a juicy mouth feel and a huge citrus aroma.
- Some people probably aren't aware that our beers are suitable for vegans. We don't use Isinglass finings in our beer, which are a fish byproduct that help to make beer clear. As a result some of our beers may appear a touch cloudy.
- We're looking forward to one day moving to a larger premises, so that we can produce more beer and send it further afield.
- The most rewarding thing about running a brewery is making something, selling it and seeing people enjoying it.
Big Smoke Brew Co at The Antelope, 87 Maple Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 4AW: bigsmokebrew.co.uk
Name: Chris Gill
- The brewery started in 2007. It was the intention to set up in Ascot, but every location that was looked at in the area had the same problem: low water pressure. For a brewery, that's not good news. So we're a few miles west in Camberley, where the water pressure is great!
- I like hoppy IPAs and Belgian Trappist breweries - Orval is a desert island beer for me. I also have a dark side, with a love of decent porters and stouts.
- I'm proudest of our Anastasia's Exile Stout winning Silver at Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2014 - judged to be the second best stout in the country.
- Our best seller is Posh Pooch, our 4.2% Best Bitter. So called after seeing a lady walking her dog in Ascot with a diamond necklace – it was the dog wearing the necklace!
- I've created 20 different versions of our Anastasia's Imperial Stout and brewed many different version of Single Hop IPA.
- Keep brewing beers that we love and winning more awards.
- Being able to produce a product that you're passionate about and going into a pub that's serving your beer is great. Then hearing someone say how much they like it.
Ascot Ales, Compton Place Business Centre, Surrey Avenue, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3DX: ascot-ales.co.uk
Name: Emily Stephens
Role: Director / co-founder
- We wanted to find a place that was special to us. Frensham is a place of beauty, so stumbling across a disused outbuilding on Pierrepont Farm while on a walk seemed ideal. We approached the Countryside Restoration Trust who owned the farm several years ago with our idea, and Martin Carter, our director, put our business plan to the trust. We were incredibly lucky that they too saw a future in our plans and thus repaired the roof and made it weather tight. Our aim was to work alongside the farm in a symbiotic relationship, enhancing what was already a place of interest but also in helping to bring more people to the countryside. We are based on a public footpath that cuts through Tankersford Bridge and Frensham Common. Frensham Brewery started trading on July 1, 2014.
- We sought inspiration from British ingredients and flavour profiles, wild botanicals and all things country.
- Our proudest achievement to date has to be our recent award, winning Beer of the Festival at Farnham’s Beerex for Rambler 3.9%. We were over the moon, especially as there were over 80 other beers and an array of quality produced beer. Being in our local town and already avid regulars of the festival, we really couldn’t have hoped for more, the feeling of recognition that we are doing something right and people enjoy it.
- Forager 4.5% was our first brewery beer, so we are naturally very proud of that. Rambler flies off the shelves in the pubs and we recently made a porter called Owlswood, which seems really popular. Soul Of The Shoes is a limited edition beer we make in conjunction with The Three Horseshoes pub in Thursley. It was made especially for their 10th anniversary. This beer is also available direct from the brewery this summer.
- We brew on a handmade, self designed brewing system using converted dairy milk tanks – in an old dairy barn!
- We are small in size, not about mass marketing and a hard sell as it is just us. The demand is there for good local beer and we also have a premises licence so our customers can enjoy our beer in a beautiful serene setting on Pierrepont Farm. We wanted to be uniquely situated and I think we certainly have that. We are very lucky to have found the perfect home for Frensham Brewery.
- There is a sense of pride at taking raw local ingredients and converting them into something magical that gives people enjoyment. It is very hard work, but worth every minute!
Frensham Brewery, The Old Dairy, Pierrepont Home Farm, The Reeds, Frensham, Farnham, Surrey GU10 3BS: frenshambrewery.co.uk
The Little Beer Corporation
Name: Jim Taylor
Role: Founder and chief executive officer
- The brewery was founded three years ago, in May 2012. For the first two years we just focused on premium bottled beer, from a small unit in Slyfield, Guildford, whilst I also worked full-time as a global marketer for SABMiller. A year ago, I quit this day job, and we simultaneously moved premises to the Midleton Ind Estate, just off the main Ladymead gyratory, and up-scaled to a bigger brewery set up whilst also producing keg and cask beer for pubs
- My inspiration came from holidaying in the United States over the last decade, and trying all the different craft beers there. In particular, I remember about six years ago visiting both Fat Tire and Odell breweries, in Fort St Collins, and thinking ‘I could do this’. I also have always been inspired by Dogfish Head brewery from the States. They are one of the most innovative breweries on the planet. Closer to home and more current, I am inspired by Siren Brewery at Finchamstead (towards Reading). With their massive barrel-ageing programme, they’re producing some fantastic beers at the moment.
- One of our proudest achievements to date is seeing our beers in many pubs in Surrey and London. Another is the formation of our Little Drinking Club membership. Basically, we hold events every two months at the brewery and members (on signing up) get to come to the events with a few mates, where there is live music, comedy etc and, of course, as much free beer as they like.
- We have a core range of 10 beers… so a large range. This covers many styles of beers. Six of these are in keg or cask, for pubs. Probably our best known beers are Little Snug (Pale Ale w/ sweet chestnut), Little Slow (Czech Pilsner), Little Vienna (Vienna Lager) and Little Haka (Pale Ale w/ NZ hops)
- Whilst a couple of our beers are remarkably hoppy (Little Wild and Little Slow Limited Edition w/ Farnham hops) nevertheless we lean more towards malt-taste in our beers and you’ll find Munich malt (the malt that gives a malt-taste) in many of our recipes.
- We currently have a brewery shop, which is open on Saturday mornings, but given our central location in Guildford, we’re about to expand the retail side of things and we want to make the brewery a regular part of the weekend shopping. So our shop will soon be open on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday; we’ll have a brewery bar selling draft beer on Saturdays 1pm to 6pm at affordable prices; and we’ll also offer consumers the ability to buy a ‘growler’ (one and two litre containers to carry fresh beer from the brewery to your house) that they able to re-fill regularly at the brewery
- Brewery start-ups are very hard work and they’re relatively complex businesses. But the bit that makes it all worthwhile is brewing. Whilst as a CEO, you should probably delegate brewing, I personally think it’s important to ‘keep your hand in’. One definition of a ‘craft brewery’ is ‘that the brew-master is also the CEO’. It’s a definition I like because I think it’s important not to start to take short-cuts or buy cheaper ingredients. The beer must always come first.
The Little Beer Corporation, Building 3, 14-15 Midleton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 8XW: littlebeer.co.uk
Name: Tony Scardarella
- The seed was sown in April 2014 with co-founder Erik Van Dongen, probably over a beer! But it took several months of research and planning to develop a business plan that we could take to the bank. Finance was not easy but with persistence and some personal breaking of piggy banks we got the offer. Hop Art was finally born in July 2014 but it took a further seven months before we were in production. In that time, we developed our recipes, identified the equipment and plant required, tracked down suitable premises and made all the necessary structural works required for the brewery installation. A unit on Blacknest Industrial Estate ticked all the right boxes and is now known as ‘The Brewery’.
- Inspiration comes from everywhere and with Erik and I both having European cultural backgrounds, continental beers (especially Belgian) play a strong role. The US craft beer revolution has also played a major part in spurring us on. Nearer to home, breweries such as Thornbridge and Brewdog show what an exciting time it is for beer.
- We have had many proud moments. For instance, finalising each of our recipes in our ‘brew lab’ but clearly the greatest pride comes with the positive feedback from people who try the beers. In particular, getting a very positive thumbs up from Roger Protz, the eminent beer writer and editor of The Good Beer Guide, has to be a highlight.
- Our best seller is Hoppy Blonde, which is proving very popular, offering a light balanced hoppiness with refreshing, dry citrus finish. This was a beer we designed to have a broad appeal and we’re very happy with the reception it has had. Our signature product may still be yet to come: our Hoppist, a Trappist style Dubbel and Weisshop, a Belgian style wheat beer are going to be very distinctive.
- The fact that most surprises people is just how little time we have been operational but to us it seems frustratingly slow sometimes. Perhaps we are just impatient but understandably we want everything to happen fast. The other surprise is that the brewery consists of just myself and Erik at the moment. Most are surprised at the ambitious styles and range.
- We don’t have a master plan but want to be successful enough to grow significantly over the next couple of years. We want to develop some more specialised beer styles, such as the Hoppist and Weisshop, but also wish to be recognised as a local producer. Strong links with pubs and outlets that support local is vital so we need to supply a consistent high quality, locally produced product that people recognise and trust.
- A new challenge very week, or day! Producing something that people genuinely enthuse about, there’s nothing more disheartening than working on something that you feel no one appreciates. I am constantly delighted whenever someone tells us they are not going to like one of our beers for whatever reason but then says ‘oh that’s really good’. A common example is our porter: many people think they won’t like dark beer but are completely surprised when they taste it.
Hop Art, The Brewery, Blacknest Industrial Park, Blacknest Road, Bentley, near Farnham GU34 4PX: http://hopartbrewery.com
A few more to try…
The Cronx Brewery
The Leith Hill Brewery
The Tillingbourne Brewery