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Maris Otter take a bow at this year’s City of Ale

Barley harvesting near Salhouse, Norfolk, for Crisp Maltings. Commercial director Bob King.

Raffles are known for the weird and wonderful array of prizes they attract. The launch party of Norwich City of Ale saw one such prize – coveted by brewers.

It was a half tonne of the finest Maris Otter malt from Crisp Maltings.

Half a tonne of any Crisp malt would have been good, but Maris Otter was particularly welcome as winner David Winter from Winter’s Brewery in Norwich says.

“Most unusual raffle prize – and best one ever,” he says. “The variety has survived over 50 years because it’s so brilliant in the mash tun – helping craft brewers create really great beer. As a Norfolk brewer, we love using ingredients that have been grown and malted locally. Winning enough of the prized Maris Otter to brew over 5,000 pints of fabulous beer is – well, awesome.”

He’s just been to Crisp Maltings in Great Ryburgh, North Norfolk, to see the traditional floor maltings and collect his treasure. “It’s great to be brewing in a region that grows and malts what’s probably the best barley in the world. Hats off to City of Ale for highlighting ingredients – and thanks to Crisp for the unusual, but highly desirable (to brewers!) prize.”

A couple of years’ ago, grain merchant H Banham and the Norfolk Brewhouse held a magnificent 50th birthday celebration of the Maris Otter barley variety in Norwich, with 50 different craft beers from all over the country – and a few from overseas. This helped raise the profile of Maris Otter among beer-lovers as well as brewers.

The special ingredient gets a lot of attention at City of Ale because it is used by so many local breweries. Steve LePoidevin of Crisp Maltings says, “This year, City of Ale involved 43 Norwich pubs and 36 local breweries. There were 250 local beers on offer – many brewed with Crisp’s Maris Otter malt, made on our traditional floor maltings.

“It was great that Craig McLaren from the Wig & Pen decided to hold a 4 day Maris Otter Beer Festival as part of his activity for City of Ale. Even better – he added an educational element to the event. These were talks and tutored beer tastings with Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz, Woodforde’s head brewer Belinda Jennings and our very own brewer-maltster Carl Heron.”

Crisp also worked with the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) and grain merchants Adams and Howling to engage farmers in discussions on the grain to glass supply chain. Local Maris Otter barley growers spent a happy time upstairs in St Andrews Brew House learning about journey of the grain and being talked through a series of excellent beers. Roger Protz led the session. Bob King and Carl Heron of Crisp focussed on the malt and Steve Chroscicki, resident brewer and Belinda Jennings of Woodforde’s concentrated on the beer. “So did the farmers,” says Carl. “Funny, that!”

Steve LePoidevin concludes, “People are more interested than ever in ingredients and the origin of their food and drink. The opportunities created by events like Norwich City of Ale are brilliant platforms for spreading the word about Britain’s best kept secret: its amazing malt. Here’s to next year’s City of Ale, and all the beer events between now and then!”

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