I’m a Beer Sommelier, and I’ve set myself the challenge to brew a beer using only the ingredients I can grow or gather on one tiny piece of land. It’s called Growing Beer and I’ve taken on a rubbish-strewn, unloved allotment – I’m clearing it up so I can plant the hops and barley, collect rainwater and find a way to get a yeast that I can use later in the year.

I’m 75% of the way there, having so far spent over 500 hours gardening, interviewing experts and editing the Growing Beer podcast. So far the project has survived drought, summer storms, cattle, rabbits, insects and my somewhat sizeable gaps in knowledge when it comes to all things gardening. I’ve grown the hops and barley, collected and filtered the water and hopefully I’ll find a suitable yeast any day now – then I’ll combine it all on brew day and, if it all works, open the first bottle of beer at the end of the year.

More info:

The plot was a bit of a mess when I started in January

Covered in rubbish and weeds from years of neglect

Once cleared I planted 30,000 barley seeds

Tried to protect it from the wind, rain and storms (sometimes unsuccessfully)


As it ripened and turned golden


And was then harvested for the individual grains

I collected rainwater and gathered yeast samples from fruit, flowers and insects (gently!), to be processed in a lab to try to isolate a yeast that could be brewed with

I planted 6 hop rhizomes (roots), and encouraged them to grow up a 16ft pole


They grew a lot, so much so that just keeping them under control was a real challenge

Despite storms, rabbit and disease the hops also made it to harvest. It made me happy.