The Hoppiness Project!

Alive recently ran the first session of the latest project to be conjured up from the brains of their gardening team – growing hop plants in care home gardens with which to make a unique green hopped beer.

We’ve been growing hops in our community gardens for several years now. One of the participants at our Lawrence Weston Community Garden initially proposed the idea. The group had been discussing what they’d like to grow in the coming season, and G quipped: “I’d like to grow beer”. Little did he know that one of the team already grew hops alongside the East Bristol Hops Collective – a group of over 100 gardeners and allotment holders across Bristol who supply Dawkins Brewery with freshly picked hops at the end of the growing season. Before he knew it, a hop plant was being grown at Blaise Weston Court, which hosts our Lawrence Weston Community Garden.

A former colleague suggested we take the idea into care homes. This year we’re piloting the proposal with Deerhurst Care Home, and the hops will join those grown by East Bristol Hops Collective. The following year we’re hoping to collaborate with a local brewery to make a beer containing hops solely grown by care home residents.

The first session at Deerhurst Care Home introduced the project via a reminiscence and sensory session. We took photos of hop picking in Kent, the old Courage brewery in Bristol and scenes from inside pubs to stimulate conversation. We also had objects for people to touch and play with – dimple glasses, bottle openers, beer mats – and sang drinking songs together. We smelt and ran our hands through dried hops and sampled locally brewed beer!

There was much laughter during the session, and we discovered many people who had a connection to beer and gardening. One man used to grow hops in his garden, and another spoke enthusiastically about St Austell Brewery. There was lots of engagement throughout, and we can’t wait to return.

Once brewed, the beer will go on sale in local pubs, helping to raise awareness of dementia and to challenge stereotypes around old age, care homes and activity provision for those living with dementia. We’re also excited to be starting a project accessible to male residents who are often under-represented in activity provision. And, of course, the project will also tap into all the benefits of gardening – getting people outdoors, connecting them to nature, providing multisensory stimulation, giving people physical exercise and improving their mental well-being.

Academics from Bristol University will be with us for the journey, exploring some of the above issues. So expect to hear a lot more about The Hoppiness Project very soon!

Guy Manchester, Community Allotment Project Officer

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