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Hogs Back Brewery, Tea

It's nothing too outrageous, just a damn fine, balanced example of a traditional english bitter.

In the early 90s the founders of Hogs Back Brewery, Tony Stanton-Precious and Martin Zilwood-Hunt, were brought together by a shared love of beer. At that point it was all they had in common.

Tony worked as a surveyor in Canary Wharf, but decided a career in brewing would be infinitely more exciting. His adventure started at the library (rock'n'roll eh?) where he found a book titled "How to Start Your Own Brewery". Perfect, except the first word in the book was "Don't", followed by a recommendation to steer clear of the industry.

It would take more than that to put him off. He got in touch with the small brewers' magazine The Grist, who in turn put him in touch with Martin. At the time he was running a courier service but hunting for investment to turn his homebrewing in to something more serious. The pair hit it off immediately.

Their first ever brew, at 6am on 4th August 1992, was 3,000 pints of this week's beer, TEA (Traditional English Ale, which sounds a bit boring). It sold out in a few days. Although the recipe has been tweaked a bit over the years, TEA has served them well and still accounts for about 70% of production.

It's a classic British Bitter that pours a burnt amber colour and immediately greets you with some lightly toasted malt on the nose. It's nice and smooth, with toffee and syrup sweetness quickly balanced out by textbook British hopiness; gentle, crisp bitterness offering cut grass, hedgerow fruit and a little citrus bite. It's nothing too outrageous, just a damn fine, balanced example of a traditional English Bitter.

Hogs Back are now 22 years old and churning out over 50,000 pints a week from their headquarters in 18th-century barns at Manor Farm in Tongham (on the A31 between Farnham and Guildford), making them the largest independent brewery in Surrey.

If you get the chance, you should pop in and visit. Partly because it's a nice part of the world; the brewery is in view of the Hogs Back Ridge that spans the South Downs, from which it takes its name and brewing water. But perhaps more importantly, you can also go on a decent brewery tour, finishing with a scoot around the on-site bottle shop and off license.

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