Brixton Beer year two

We had a wonderful year of hops and brewing last year, culminating in rather a lot of delicious locally grown beer being drunk – we sold out one pub in less than 6 hours!

This year we’re at it again, so if anyone in or around Brixton wants to grow hops and drink beer, please get in touch. We also have projects springing up in Cardiff (run by Sam), Hackney (run by Isabel) and Crystal Palace (run by Karolina and Kate) if that is closer.

Hop packs cost £20 plus an extra £10 per extra plant.

We’re holding a beer tasting session with growing tips this Friday the 8th March. We’ll be at the Grape and Grain in Crystal Palace from 6.30 to 8.30. If you can’t join us but would like to take part please contact us. Planting day is the 17th March (St. Patrick’s Day – of course!) and orders need to be in by Monday 11th March.


Carole's Hops
Carole’s hops in summer. Picture by Carole Backler.

Brixton Beer – harvest and drinking

The Brixton Beer project has been a delight to work on this year. As you can see on the map below we had hop plants growing in gardens, parks, pots and community areas across South London (click for larger image).

The hops that were ready were picked and weighed, with crops ranging from a modest 30g to an enormous 1.4 kilos from a single plant. You can see Chris from the Secret Greenhouse‘s bumper crop below – incredible stuff!

Our friendly brewer and fellow hop grower Peter from the Florence let us throw our hops into the brew ourselves, and by all accounts a great evening was had by all ‘backstage’ at the microbrewery.

So the hops are grown, the beer is brewing and all that is left to do is drink the stuff! Our beer will be called Prima Donna (after the variety we grew) and will be available from the 6th of October in the Florence and other South London pubs (TBC). We’ll all be meeting up for a pint to celebrate our beer year at the East Dulwich Beer Festival (at the East Dulwich Tavern, the Drafthouse and the Bishop) on Saturday the 6th from 7pm. Come and say hi!

Food Finder

City Farmers is pleased to announce an ambitious new project: Food Finder. This project will be a collaboration between City Farmers and Helen’s sister Nicola Steer, an environmental scientist. Both Helen and Nicola grew up in South Wales and have a passion for food; growing it, cooking it, eating it and thinking about the political and environmental issues that surround it.

We responded to the Wales Coast Path Geovation challenge with Food Finder an idea that will increase food tourism, help visitors find hidden local, sustainable and delicious gems and showcase the best local food Wales has to offer. We were selected to attend the Geovation Camp, and are delighted to announce that we are one of 8 teams to be invited to pitch for a share of £125,000 at the Geovation Showcase.

Food Finder (working title) will be an offline map and an online app that help locals and visitors find food that is local, sustainable and delicious. Our project will help you find amazing delicatessens and markets to “buy your own”, the best local restaurants and gastro pubs to “feed you” and unique foodie “stuff to do” like brewery tours, foraging courses or visiting pick-your-own farms.

We will pilot this plan and develop the initial infrastructure and datasets needed in Section F of the Welsh Coastal Path before completing the whole path using a network of ‘food evangelists’ and secret shoppers. We plan to partner with key data holders like Big Barn, Sustaination, the Welsh government (including the True Taste of Wales) and CAMRA. We also will work with others to produce physical tourist maps of certain key areas, for example the Mumbles coast line.

We are very excited to share this developing project with you, and will keep you up-to-date with any developments!

helen and nicola on the celtic trail

Hop farm visit

As part of the London Hop Festival we’ve been invited to visit a Kentish hop farm to pick ‘poor man’s asparagus’. Peter from the Florence has organized some minibuses, and we’re looking for volunteers to come down with us!

On Friday 27th April at 8am there will be a minibus leaving from Brixton Station and The Florence. We need numbers as soon as possible so get in touch to confirm your place. There is no charge – we just want your time and company!

The plan is to arrive at Harts Heath Farm for around 9.30. We will pick until lunchtime and then break for refreshment at the Kings Head, Staplehurst where a buffet lunch will await us.

We will then review our harvest and either return to pick or return London depending upon whether we determine that we have gathered enough hop shoots and we will then distribute them to the various outlets. I will have bags of ice available and sandwich bags to put the shoots into in the coolboxes to prevent the shoots from wilting on the return journey.

Please bring with you the following – rubber or gardening gloves and a small knife.

We are still short of a few things.

1. Bottled beers to give as gifts to our hosts
2. Volunteers to ensure that all participating pubs get a hop delivery.
3. Coolboxes

If you can help with any of these please let me know.

For more information please see The London Hop Shoot Festival’s facebok page or the Brixton Beer facebook page.

I look forward to seeing you next Friday.

Greenhouses update – all systems go

Thanks to anyone who has requested greenhouses or cold frames from City Farmers. Sorting out the logistics of this project and a very special mapping project with the wonderful Dan have pushed us a little behind schedule, but we have your details and requests saved. You will be hearing from us shortly with further details.

We have already started taking delivery of the beginning of the very large supply of windows we’ve been assigned at the Remakery. If anyone has time Monday to Wednesday mornings to help us carry stuff it would be a great help to us build supply quicker.

First workshops for cold frames will most likely be early March, and we’ll contact greenhouse requests to arrange to come and look at your plots later in the month.

The Very Wasteful Caterpillar & Mission:Explore Food

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle has come under attack for being too greedy. The award-winning teachers and authors of Mission:Explore have renamed the larval character as The Very Wasteful Caterpillar for leaving too many leftovers.

“The tale of the caterpillar munching its way through a fictional diet of a single sausage and fifteen other kinds of food is one of waste. Clearly Carle’s caterpillar is not aware of its environmental impact, but kids should think about this forgotten side of the story” explains Daniel Raven-Ellison of The Geography Collective. “One of the activities in our forthcoming book labels the caterpillar for being wasteful and challenges children to investigate how long it takes for different types of food to waste away”.

“We’re making Mission:Explore Food to help kids and indeed many of their parents learn about growing, harvesting, cooking, eating, waste and soil. Too few children understand where food comes from and how to eat both healthily and ethically. This book will help children to discover food in playful ways while tackling these issues.”

Other missions in the book challenge children to grow and eat cress mazes, forage for food, identify endangered fish, make their own ketchup, get as far as they can on a banana, try and map taste to their tongue, investigate how their diet changes their poo and build soil zoos.

Mission:Explore Food is racing along behind the scenes, with people writing, drawing and designing away. We are big believers in giving back to our community and so we have decided that if we hit our target we’ll give away Mission:Explore Food Taster to every school in the UK.

Mission:Explore Food Taster is a version of Mission:Explore Food that will include 150 missions, activities and recipes. If we hit our funding target we’ll send a PDF copy to every school in the UK and make it freely available to download. Schools will be free to print missions activities and share the book with families. Mission:Explore Food Taster will be a book in its own right and include all of the chapters that feature in Mission:Explore Food.

Thanks to our supporters we’ve raised nearly £3000 so far in pre-orders for the book. We still have a long way to go though, and not much time to do it in! Please pre-order a copy or if you work for a school or business, help raise money for the print run by having us visit you! We’ll visit your school and spend an inspirational two hours exploring food with your pupils. We can give one or more talks, workshops or assemblies about food to any age group. We can focus on specific agreed learning objectives for any subject area too. Find out more and donate here.

Brixton Beer Update

Since the idea of a Brixton Beer Company came to us in the autumn, we have been making plans, finding supporters and tasting lots of local ales (all in the name of research!). We’re now at a point where we can start to make things happen, so we want to share some more information about the project.

So what’s it all about? We want to grow hops across a network of individual and community gardens, get local breweries to make beer out of them and drink the result. Simple!

We need people to get involved by planting some hops. You don’t need much space as it’s a vertical plant – a patch of ground next to a tall fence (dwarf varieties grow up to 6ft tall) would be ideal, or you can simply put a spike in the ground. Growing hops is quite easy and we’ll be creating a series of instructional videos and an FAQ to get you going.

We have a number of growing experts on board, as well as people with hops and beer knowledge and some supportive local breweries who are keen to use our hops in their brews! Hops are a perennial plant (they grow back every year) and they reach full maturity in three years. You’ll get usable hops in year one and two, just not as many as when the plant is fully grown. One plant can produce up to 1kg of hops each year, and as an added bonus you can eat the delicious shoot trimmings in spring – they are known as poor man’s asparagus and taste incredible fried in butter!

We’ll be creating a starter pack that will include a hops rhizome, the growing medium, organic fertilizer, training string and instructions. We are still working up the costs but its likely to be £20. You’ll need to prepare the ground (we’ll show you how) a week before the planned big plant on the 17th March, when we’ll be distributing the hops from a stall at the Stockwell Green Fair. When the hops are ready each year we will organize a place for pick up, then we’ll take them to a local, independent brewery to get made into beer! Naturally, we’ll need to sample the fruits of our labour…

If you want to take part in this project please get in touch with us using the contact form below, stating how many plants you’d like to order and we’ll take it from there!

Mission:Explore Food

We are very pleased to announce that City Farmers will be co-publishing a children’s book with the wonderful Geography Collective about food. Mission:Explore Food will be the next book in the award-winning Mission:Explore series and we need your help to make it happen!

Mission:Explore Food will be a cookbook, guide, fieldbook and atlas about what we grow in the ground, chase around fields, put in our mouths, poo out of our bums and plant our seeds in. The 320 page full colour, illustrated hardback book will have chapters titled: Grow, Harvest, Cook, Eat, Waste and Soil, including missions, games, recipes and guides to food.

As with all the Mission:Explore books, Mission:Explore Food will be gender neutral, educational, radical and fun. We’re going to get young people thinking about where food comes from, how people eat and what happens once you’re done digesting.

To make this book happen we need your help. We’re crowd funding the publication and need as many people as possible to get behind it. At the lowest level of funding support you will get a signed copy of the book, a surprise and an invite to the launch party. For a school or other organisation you can invest more and get enough free eBook editions for all of your families.

Please help make Mission:Explore Food happen. Click here to learn how.

Space sharing

A friend’s papermaking group are looking for some garden space in or around Lambeth to grow food crops that double as material for making paper. See the text of their Landshare advert below. Get in touch if you have, or know of, space to share!

We are a small group of papermakers and paper artists specialising in work with locally-sourced plant materials, and are currently looking for a garden space in Lambeth or surrounding boroughs where we can grow food plants with a dual purpose of providing materials for making handmade papers.

We ideally seek a medium to large sized garden that is not currently in use, with space for a large shed or outhouse (with option to build if necessary) where materials can be dried and stored, and where members of the group can meet to work together (optional). Free access via a garden gate also preferable.

In return, we offer help with maintenance of the space, a generous share of any crops, and the expertise and input of members with experience of gardening and access to a broad network of gardening contacts in South London.

Members can also offer free papermaking workshops to community organisations.

Many thanks for your interest.

Brixton Beer Company

Along with an enthusiastic group of local people, we recently started an exciting new project: the Brixton Beer Company. There are many plans afoot, but our first step is to start growing hops to supply independent local brewers. We are looking for groups or individuals who already grow hops (ideally Fuggles) or who are looking to plant something new this winter.

If you want to get involved or find out more, please use the contact form below. It would be great to hear from you!