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19th January 2018


Marston’s Brewery is championing the terroir of barley with the announcement of a long-term barley contract with Norfolk’s Holkham estate to supply the winter barley for all of Marston’s Brewery’s range of beers. If barley is the body of beer, hops are merely the lips!

The contract for Holkham’s winter barley unites two kindred spirits: Marston’s at the historic epicentre of British brewing; and Holkham, at the historic and present-day home of ‘thinking farming’.

Both Marston’s and Holkham are backed by long traditions, which they are reinterpreting to make them inspirational examples for the 21st Century. In addition, both are hell-bent on making the journey of ‘field to fork’ holistic, and championing barley’s hitherto unexplored ‘terroir’.

Holkham is no stranger to innovation. In the late 1700s, ‘Coke of Norfolk’, the Earl of Leicester, was promoting a 4-year crop rotation system with all his tenants, a system based on an annual cycle of turnips, grass, barley and wheat. This fed the soil, putting it in natural balance, whilst growing yields and protecting the plants from disease. His aim was to feed the growing population and to provide protein for humans and livestock.  And even in the 1770s, Coke was inviting farmers and scientists from around the globe to share in his agricultural discoveries and to bring their own knowledge to his farming practices.

The present Lord Leicester has rediscovered his forebear’s methods and, with farming director Poul Hovesen and farming manager James Beamish, is taking it further. Coke of Norfolk’s 4-year rotation has been replaced by a 6 year one, with the likes of rape, winter wheat, sugar beet, maize, potatoes, and spring and winter barley – all chosen to suit the terroir of individual fields. The aim is to diminish the need for fungicides, pesticides and herbicides by giving the soil balance and stronger heath. This is not to say the Estate believes it can yet do away with chemicals completely, or that they will be going organic. But, with their tenants, they will be doing all they can to make their soil rich in nutrients, which will feed through into the quality and consistency of the resultant Marston’s beers. If good grapes lead to good wine, surely the same must apply to barley.


‘Terroir’ may have started with the ancient Greeks labelling their amphorae with a wine region, but it has been taken on most comprehensively and extended by the French. Terroir normally refers to a collection of environmental factors that affect a crop’s individual character, factors like climate, height above sea level, proximity to the sea or desert, wind, rain or snow and drainage, and not surprisingly soil. Crops which have been studied for ‘terroir’ include the likes of grapes, hops, agave for tequila, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate, tea and wheat.


Marston’s Brewery’s Marketing Manager, Joanne Wyke, comments:

“Marston’s Brewery’s vision is not just about traceability and knowing the exact ‘provenance’ of every grain of barley in its beers. It is also about the flavour of that barley, and the way it translates into extra flavour and complexity in our beers. Can the long growing season from the cool seaside fields, and the mellow sea frets (mists) which cloak the crops, deliver a flavour for Pedigree and our other beers, which is special to those farms. Is the ‘terroir’ of Barley at long last on its way?”

But what about other cereals?

Marston’s DE14 nano-brewery in Burton upon Trent has lately been challenging Marston’s brewers and Burtonian home brewers to create one-off cereal brews. If quinoa, freekeh, rye, buckwheat, linseed or sunflower are so popular in mueslis, cereal bars and porridge, might they perhaps provide alluring flavours and mouthfeel for Marston’s beers as well?

To find out, the DE14 team recently designed four experimental beers under the guidance of cereal entrepreneur Alex Hely-Hutchinson. In her 26 Grains café in Covent Garden, the four new DE14 editions were recently sampled beside especially paired foods:

  • freekeh with pomegranate molasses’, like a rich demi-sec Chenin from the Loire, served with labneh yoghurt, dukkah spicing, hazelnut and honey;
  • smoked wheat and honey’, combining intriguing sweetness with depth, served with roasted pumpkin, malted barley, goats’ curd, almond and chervil;
  • fig leaf and oatmeal’, with the fig leaves late-figged; a sweetly exotic herbal brew, like a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, served with dark chocolate almond florentines;
  • rye and liquorice’, a pale coloured brew, served with smoked mackerel and pickled beetroot on rye bread.



Emanuele Barrasso

R&R Teamwork Ltd.

“The Cellar” 754 Fulham Road



T: 020 7384 1333

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