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Adnams' long-term barley growers

By Fergus Fitzgerald, also posted in News on

Fergus at Holkham Estate's Manor Farm, Castle AcreOver the last year or so we’ve been doing a lot of work to arrange some long-term contracts with specific barley growers. Historically we’ve bought malted barley year to year and while we knew where it was grown, that could change year to year. What I wanted to do was to have a longer-term relationship where we knew who was going to grow the barley that would eventually end up in your beer. Farming is a business and so any crop must make the grower a profit and in recent years it could be argued that barley has slipped down the pecking order of crops and for many it has dropped off the radar completely. Equally, there are years like this one, where the difficulty in getting on to the land in winter to sow meant that spring barley plantings actually increased because there was little else that could go into the ground by the time the weather improved. In normal years, which are becoming less frequent, Spring malting barley still has a place for many farmers as either a part of a crop rotation or as an aid to another crop, but I didn’t want the availability and consistency of our most important crop to be linked to a graph on a spreadsheet as the worldwide price of feed wheat fluctuates due to the success or failure of the harvest in Russia. Over the last few years we’ve taken a lot of time to understand the environmental impact of growing barley and the effect on the carbon footprint, and by knowing with some certainty where the barley is being grown we can measure that impact more accurately and hopefully help to reduce it. Simpsons Malt, Openfield and Adnams barley growers at Adnams breweryWe also get the opportunity to pick the best farmers, those that want to grow malting barley for the longer-term and those that have the flexibility, knowledge and experience to produce a good crop even when the weather conspires to produce the wettest (or driest, substitute as required) month since records began. We get to pick growers who farm sustainably and fit in with what they do. I can't quite prove it yet but I also believe that by having a more consistent base of growers, that regardless of the vagaries of the weather, we should get more consistent barley, which leads to more consistent malted barley, a more consistent brewing process and ultimately a more consistent beer. Jes Hanson with Adnams team We’ve always used East Anglian barley but using barley from the same growers year-in, year-out should enshrine that sense of place in the beer and spirits that are brewed and distilled in Southwold. We’ve set up these long-term contracts through our two main Maltsters, Simpsons and Boortmalt, and through the grain merchants Dewing Grain and Openfield. So a huge thank you to them for helping us do this. We had a visit to the brewery from most of the growers a few months back along with the guys from Simpsons malt and Openfield, and once things quieten down after harvest we’ll do the same with Boortmalt, Dewing Grain and the guys at Holkham farm. The plan is to have a yearly visit to the brewery for all the 'Adnams Growers Club', like our shareholders the growers will all get a discount in our shops and hotels, which they can take advantage of when they visit here, or not, no pressure! Poul Hovesen from Holkham Estates and Adnams Brewer FergusI hope over the next year or so that we can introduce you, via the magic of the web, to the people who will be growing the barley. But until then you can see some pictures of the visit to Adnams by some of the growers along with our little trip out to see Jes near Halesworth and then Poul at Holkham. Both are really interesting guys, really passionate about farming and both originally from Denmark so in their honour here is a quote from Hamlet (really tenuous link but what the hell). HAMLET “No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it, as thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust, the dust is earth, of earth we make loam, and why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop at a beer-barrel? “ For the sake of clarity we don’t use loam to stopper barrels of beers.

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Fergus Fitzgerald

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