Maris Otter Day, June 5th 2014, Dunston Hall, Norwich

Maris Otter Day

June 5th 2014, Dunston Hall, Norwich.

 

Farmers from all across East Anglia attended our event at Dunston Hall, designed to promote the expansion of Maris Otter barley production across the region for 2015 harvest.

Chaired by Robin Appel, five speakers representing the supply chain in chronological order, delivered ‘short sharp’ messages of why Maris Otter is important to them, and their view of sustained demand going forward.

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Teddy Maufe of Branthill Farm, Wells-next-the-Sea, began by explaining why he grows Maris Otter. His farm is not a high yielding farm, so it was important to achieve the maximum gross income from every acre. It was also important to build in reliability – before he plants Maris Otter he knows the harvest price, the yield, the collection, and can be more or less certain of the quality. He has been growing ‘Otter for 40 years, and in that time only twice has the crop failed to meet his expectations, due to extreme weather in 1976 and 2012.

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Our own Jonathan Arnold presented the second paper, representing the merchant’s role. He emphasised his understanding of the crop opportunities that Maris Otter had to compete with. The fact is that expanding demand for Maris Otter ensures that it does compete. This was endorsed by Chris Garratt of Warminster Maltings who illustrated the global potential of Maris Otter by highlighting all the countries of the world where craft brewing has taken off. China and India stand out, alongside the phenomenal growth across North America. This could be interpreted as a demand figure many times greater than current orders!

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Next, Keith Bott, owner of Titanic Brewery, Stoke-on-Trent, pointed out that since he took over the brewery in 1985, 90% of his malt usage has been Maris Otter. His preference was based on flavour and performance in the brew house. As for the price of Maris Otter malt, that was not something that concerned him, as it was only a few pence of the total cost of a pint. The punitive tax on beer was of much more concern. And if a new variety came along that was as good or better than ‘Otter, would he change. Probably not!

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Rupert Ponsonby rounded off the event as MC for the lunch, which began with three starters matched to individual beers (tasting samples only), and finished with three cheeses also matched to three more beers. All the beers were brewed with Maris Otter of course, and demonstrated the potential for the barley and the beer to shake off its traditional image for one that rivals that of fine wine!

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