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21st May 2012

Drought, what drought? Maris Otter barley harvest 20% up

Despite on-going scares of a subterranean drought, barley growers have confirmed that there should be good supplies of Maris Otter malted barley for the production of top quality bottled beers and draught in the autumn.

The winter-sown malting barley variety, developed in 1965 for its outstanding flavour profile, has seen a 20% uplift in plantings this year across Britain.
Jonathan Arnold, Robin Appel Ltd’s Barley Director, gives the following update on the 2012 harvest: “Whilst there was a severe subterranean water shortage in the South of England, East Anglia and the South East, you would never know it by looking at spring and winter barley crops in the field. In excess of 130mm of rain fell in the main malting barley growing areas this April, so the chances of a repeat of the high grain nitrogens seen last year are fast diminishing. Most crops have recovered from the March drought and now look full of potential, as long as the rain stops and we start to see some warm sunshine as the crops run through May/June and into harvest.
“Due to the extraordinarily dry spring of 2011 in East Anglia, Maris Otter supplies have been tight in 2012. Although Maris Otter from other regions such as Cornwall, Yorkshire, Kent, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Shropshire was good to excellent, East Anglia suffered low yields and its malting barley was very high in nitrogen. The supplies of high nitrogen Maris Otter from this normally high-quality region were not good for the production of quality ales.
“To redress the imbalance, Robin Appel Ltd contracted a big area of Maris Otter across several counties last autumn in response to the shortage from 2011 and this should provide enough quality Otter malt from the 2012 harvest to make up the shortfall. It will also allow brewers who had to move to other low nitrogen barley varieties this year to move back to Otter at the earliest opportunity.
#“In mainland Europe, it is interesting to see the amount of autumn sown wheat and barley that has been killed by severe frosts over the winter. Whilst some of this area has been re-sown with spring barley, doubts are being raised over eventual yield and quality. The weather in May will dictate the direction for both wheat and malting barley. A lower wheat area and drought in Spain have already strengthened the feed barley price.

“With a summer brim-full of celebrations and major sporting occasions, like the Jubilee, the Olympics and the European Football Championships, Britain should develop a thirst for good quality beer. We therefore hope that the 2012 malting barley crop is a huge improvement over the 2011 crop in terms of yield and quality; however at this stage there is still everything to play for.”

Maris Otter brewed beers have been serial award winners for many years, with the following nine Maris Otter brewed Champion Beers of Britain between 2000 and 2011: 2000 Moorhouse’s Black Cat
 2001 Oakham Jeffrey Hudson Bitter
 2004 Kelham Island Pale Rider
 2005 Crouch Vale Brewers Gold
 2006 Crouch Vale Brewers Gold
 2007 Hobson’s Mild
 2008 Triple FFF Alton’s Pride
 2010 Castle Rock Harvest Pale
 2011 The Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde
Further, in depth, harvest reports are available on request.