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MPs unite to cheer Maris Otter Barley

Malt from the 50th anniversary Maris Otter barley harvest is on the market and will be available to brewers for the production of craft beers for the next ten months or so. To celebrate Maris Otter’s extraordinary half century, two MPs put aside party differences to stand on the same platform in support of a ‘national treasure’.

Keith Simpson MP, Norman Lamb MP, David Holliday of the Norfolk Brewhouse and Mark Banham of H Banham raise a toast to Maris Otter

Keith Simpson MP, Norman Lamb MP, David Holliday of the Norfolk Brewhouse and Mark Banham of H Banham raise a toast to Maris Otter

“Maris Otter can definitely be counted among our national agricultural treasures,” the MPs agreed. “Most cereal varieties are superseded after 5 years, but this amazing barley variety has lasted for 50. It has a great story – with skilful agronomy and great beer at the heart of it.”

The North Norfolk region, represented by Norman Lamb MP and Keith Simpson MP, plays a crucial part in the success of Maris Otter. Here grain merchants H Banham are based. They, together with Robin Appel, rescued the variety from almost certain extinction, cleaned it up and revived it.  Here farmers benefit from the sunny climate, sea breezes and light soils to consistently produce crops of the highest quality. Here Maris Otter is traditionally floor-malted by Crisp Malting Group for use by craft brewers all over Britain – and indeed the world. And here Norfolk Brewhouse, huge advocate of the malt, produces fine ales in casks and bottles.

“The role of our region in the farming, malting, brewing supply chain, and in the production of Maris Otter is crucial,” says Norman Lamb MP. “So we joined forces to request a beer brewed with Maris Otter malt to feature in the bar at Parliament. This gives MPs the chance to acknowledge its considerable contribution to the flourishing craft brewing sector – and to celebrate its 50th birthday!  And of course they get to try the excellent Moongazer Ale from Norfolk Brewhouse.

Keith Simpson MP adds, “All MPs with craft brewers in their constituencies no doubt have some debt of gratitude to Maris Otter and the grain merchants who saved it.

“Just 6% of the malt used for brewing is Maris Otter, yet 10 out of 15 Champion Beers of Britain are brewed with it. This is an amazing achievement, helping the barley variety stand out in a class of its own. It’s extraordinary that a malt variety of such relative rarity is responsible for so many award-winning beers.”

The MPs, who arranged for Norfolk Brewhouse’s Moongazer Ale to adorn the Strangers’ Bar at Westminster, invited Banham’s and Norfolk Brewhouse to raise a pint with them. The toast was to all barley growers, maltsters and brewers involved with Maris Otter, one of Britain’s national treasures – and a significant contributor to the economy as well as to the enjoyment of beer.