Craft ale and distilling markets crave more East Anglian malting barley

PUBLISHED: 10:03 08 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:03 08 June 2018

Chris Borrett and Matthew Adams, of grain merchants Adams and Howling, in a Norfolk field of Flagon winter barley. Picture: Adams and Howling.

Chris Borrett and Matthew Adams, of grain merchants Adams and Howling, in a Norfolk field of Flagon winter barley. Picture: Adams and Howling.

Adams and Howling

The rising popularity of East Anglian malt among craft brewers and distillers has sparked demand for more barley to be grown in the region, said a Norfolk grain merchant.

While this year’s barley ripens in the fields, Adams and Howling, based at Little Plumstead, has reported an increase in demand of 15-20pc for next season’s crop from its customers at Crisp Maltings at Great Ryburgh and Simpsons Malt at Tivetshall St Margaret.

Joint managing director Matthew Adams said this meant the firm was looking for new growers to grow the highest-quality malting barley, and for existing growers to expand their planted area for the next harvest.

“We are experiencing another large increase in demand for 2019 from our key maltsters that equates to wanting more tonnage from new quality growers,” he said.

“Craft ale and distilling demand for malt is the major driving force, with specific demand to increase tonnages for 2019 for varieties such as Maris Otter and Flagon.

“Last year, harvesting from Yorkshire upwards was not as good as people hoped and that affected the supply of decent distilling barley. So we came into this harvest with quite bare boards as far as maltsters were concerned.

“For the maltsters we supply to, the demand for 2019 is up 15-20pc, and it is a five-figure sum we have been challenged to find. We are starting the ball rolling well.

“We have existing growers with sugar beet not being so profitable as it could be, and oilseed rape has issues with agro-chemicals, and people are perhaps looking to reduce their wheat area and grow more barley because of the premiums available for the crop. So people are taking the opportunity to increase their areas of winter or spring barley.”

Adams and Howling currently works with about 350 farmers across Norfolk and north Suffolk.

To encourage growers to aim for the strict specifications required for malting barley, the company is offering contracts with “moisture allowances” on the scale set by the Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain (MAGB), which means grain can be harvested at moisture levels above the 14.5pc maximum required to prevent mould and mycotoxins developing in storage.

“The MAGB have a scale in place which really encourages the growers not to dry the barley themselves at harvest time,” said Mr Adams.

“The maltsters want to get hold of it and condition it because it needs to be delicately managed and dried correctly.

“The allowances are a great asset because it gives them (the growers) flexibility to continue harvest if there is a poor harvest and know they won’t be penalised with drying charges and shrinkage which store operators have to enforce.”

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