Hogs Back Brewery near Farnham has started to harvest hops from its hop garden, helped for the first time by a Suffolk punch horse.

The brewery is predicting its best ever crop from the 8.5-acre fields where it grows three hop varieties.

Harvesting is being carried out by a team of 20 volunteer Hogs Back hop pickers, working with a horse as well as a tractor.

The horse, called Sovereign, pulls a trailer between the rows of hop plants until it’s full and then takes it to the nearby hop hangar.

The varieties being harvested this year are fuggles, used in the brewery’s flagship TEA or Traditional English Ale, English cascade hop, used in its Hogstar lager and Surrey Nirvana Session IPA and Farnham White Bine, a traditional local hop variety that the brewer saved from near-extinction.

Once sorted, the hops are loaded into a kiln to be dried, vacuum packed to capture their flavour, and cold stored at 5°C on site until needed.

Brewery owner Rupert Thompson said: “We’re hoping for our biggest ever crop, thanks to the right combination of warmth and rain, but also because we’re able to pick the hops when they’re at their best, so we have very little waste.

“And by transporting them just a matter of yards – from field to firkin in a furlong – we’re keeping our carbon footprint at virtually zero.”