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Maris otter brewers buying local


Maris Otter brewers are leading the way in sourcing locally grown barley for their beers, but its not only smaller brewers who have decided to increase the localness of their beers.

Cornwalls leading brewer, St Austell, expects to increase its use of locally-grown Cornish Maris Otter barley from 20% in 2009 to 60% (1000 tonnes) by the end of 2011 through forward contracts with local farmers. It also invites farmers to its pubs and brewery so they can see the final fruits of their labour, and its brewing team visit farmers fields to watch their barley grow. St Austell head brewer, Roger Ryman, comments:

I believe that Maris Otter barley is a central pillar to our brewing philosophy. I introduced it to our recipes in 1998, and I am certain it has been an important component in our beers success: But I also believe in local sourcing. It is as much about sustainability and assuring the future of the variety as about ecology and road miles; and if brewers can forge relationships with their growers, that should  lead to trust, sustainable pricing and less price fluctuation. Our farmers and my brewers have a shared pride in the premium cask ales we produce, bathed as they are in our wonderful Cornish sunshine.

Wells & Youngs of Bedford use Maris Otter barley to brew a number of their beers including the Youngs range. The majority of the Red Tractor accredited barley is grown in Norfolk by farmers with whom the brewery has long-term partnerships and contracts to ensure the very best quality barley. This fact is proudly displayed on the cask and bottled  versions of the beers ,so drinkers are safe in the knowledge they are drinking a beer which supports British farming.

Wells & Youngs Jim Robertson comments: This summer, the brewery will be inviting farmers to the brewery to share our communal love of beer and see the final stage in the brewing process which began on their farm; and to spread this message further, the brewery will also be looking at erecting signboards in farmers fields to show they are growing barley that will be used to brew pints of crafted British beer.”

Nick Davis of Hobsons Brewery near Kidderminster, is another messiah for local sourcing. His barley contracts with a collective of twelve local farmers have grown from forty acres of Maris Otter in 2008, to ninety acres in 2009, with 300 acres planted for the 2011 harvest. All the barley is grown within ten miles of the brewery and subject to traceability checks and tight specifications: And being in prime hop growing country, it is little surprise that local hops from Little Lambswick are being used as well.

We are closing the loop says Davis between ourselves and local producers of our primary ingredients, and our farmers are excited to taste the beer they have been growing. This project has made them realise that barley is not just a commodity, and that what they grow has a massive effect on the taste of our beers. As we also use the same water for our brewing process as drops from heaven on our barley and our hops, we can achieve fantastic synergies of flavour which logically cant be achieved by using barley or hops grown in other areas.

Hook Nortons MD James Clarke first teamed up with a local barley farmer in 2000 for Hook Nortons Millennium beer, Inspired. That same farmer, a mere two miles from the brewery on the Oxfordshire border, now has Maris Otter in the ground and James is keen to use it for his autumnal brews if this years harvest is successful. The farmer also uses minimal cultivation for his crops and this saves fuel and reduces the environmental impact, says James. So I am very happy to be building on our local sourcing and Im fully committed to Maris Otter for the flavour it brings to our beers.

Jonathan Arnold of Robin Appel ltd, Malting Barley Merchants, comments, Quality ingredients give you the opportunity to create quality beers; and we know from two research programmes that the flavour of Maris Otter barley is very special. But for so many excellent brewers to be involving local farmers in what they are producing is a real step forward, producing local beers with which the local community can really identify. If the people of Bordeaux or Burgundy can be so passionate about drinking the wines of their soil, isnt it about time that we should the same pride for our growing army of excellent local brewers.

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