Beer School

Field to Fridge

Field to Fridge door

Glass of beer … what do you think? A good glug of hops and malts and not that much to do with the mud in a field? In fact, it does. Some malts, for starters, are very demanding in what they’ll grow in. Queen Picky of them all, and one of the most sought after by brewers, is Maris Otter. It’s the ‘Rolls Royce’ of barley for brewers –a Heritage variety, prized today all over the world for its consistency, its rich malty flavour and its ease of mashing.

Nevertheless, as we say, very pinickety. It insists on a sea-breeze, sea-mist climate and well-drained, sandy-loam soils, just like you find on Norfolk’s coast. That’s where 90% of it is grown. In fact, you’ll only get a license to grow this malt if you have these conditions.

Maris Otter isn’t cheap (brewers pay around 20-25% more for it), but it seems to be worth every penny. What’s more, our maritime climate suits it so well, it’s almost entirely a UK exclusive. A barley to pride ourselves on, comrades!

In case you’re curious about its name, it was developed in 1965 by Dr GDH Bell, the President of Cambridge’s Plant Breeding Institute on Maris Lane (first clue!). And the otter bit – that was just a habit of the institute to name new breeds after small, furry animals.

In 2015, on Maris Otter’s 50th birthday, there was a beer festival featuring 50 beers made from it. Cheers!

Norfolk’s sandy loam soils suit the pinickety Maris Otter barley perfectly

Maris Otter is prized all over the world for its rich, biscuity flavour

Floor-malted Maris Otter grown on Malt Coast Brewery’s Branthill Farm

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