Hogs Back Brewery has recruited a team of beer fans to carry out the traditional task of ‘twiddling' newly emerging hop plants, all while complying with social distancing rules.
Hop twiddling involves winding hop plants around strings and up poles that are pegged into the ground. It is a vital part of hop maintenance that is both time-sensitive and labour-intensive, so extra pairs of hands have been recruited from the brewer's Tongham TEA Club of loyal local drinkers.
Volunteer hop twiddlers are being strictly limited in number – just four per session – and they are allocated a section of the garden to work in, far apart from others.
Instructions are given from hop garden manager Matthew King and two brewery tour guides, Bruce Cornford and Denise Gauntlet. Each volunteer completes a four-hour session and takes away a container of brewery-fresh TEA as a reward for their labours.
Hogs Back Brewery owner Rupert Thompson said: "Thankfully, our hops have not gone into lockdown, in fact they have put on a growth spurt during the recent warm weather. Hop twiddling helps the new plants to grow upwards to create a healthy crop for us to harvest later in the year and use in brewing our beers.
"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."
The brewer opened a drive-through service at the brewery the day after social distancing measures were announced and are also offering a home delivery service on draught beer, as well as bottles and cans.