The traditional practice of ‘twiddling’ is a vital part of ensuring a healthy hop crop harvest
It involves winding the hop plants round strings that are pegged into the ground and up the poles. It is a time- and labour-intensive task so extra hands are usually recruited. This year, this has meant implementing social distancing in Hogs Back’s hop garden in Surrey.
Volunteer hop twiddlers are being strictly limited in number – four per session in the 8.5-acre field – and they are each given a section of the garden to work in, far apart from others. Instruction is given from a distance by hop garden manager, Matthew King, and two of the brewery’s tour guides. Each volunteer completes a four-hour session and takes away a container of brewery-fresh TEA as a reward for their labours.
‘Thankfully, our hops have not gone into lockdown, in fact they have put on a growth spurt during the recent warm weather,’ said Hogs Back Brewery owner Rupert Thompson.
‘Implementing social distancing for seven people in an 8.5-acre hop field hasn't proved too difficult, and we know our volunteer twiddlers have enjoyed the opportunity to help maintain this year's hops, while enjoying fresh air and physical exercise in our sunny hop garden.’
A bigger challenge will be shifting some of the brewery’s popular community events – such as the Hop Blessing, which attracted 200 people last May, and its Hop Harvest Party, enjoyed by 2,000 guests last September – online, said Thompson.
In response to the covid-19 lockdown, the brewery has already opened a drive through service, allowing customers to buy beer without leaving their car. It is also offering a home delivery service on brewery-fresh draught beer, as well as bottles and cans.