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Barley Harvest 2013

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Fergus holds some of the 2013 barley harvestIt's going to be a beautiful year for beer! The 2013 barley harvest is currently in progress and both yields and quality from our selected barley farmers is looking really good. Fergus has been working with two maltsters, Simpsons Malt and Boortmalt, to create a three-year barley contract with a small group of East Anglian farmers. The largest farmer in the group is Holkham Estate in North Norfolk and Fergus visited one of their farms with Holkham's Director of Farming Poul Hovesen and the Boortmalt team to have a look at this year's crop. Adnams uses barley for both making beer and our Copper House Spirits, so it's very important to us that we buy locally-produced grains of the highest quality. Using long-term local growers is of great benefit as it guarantees quality; we know the growers have the expertise to grow the crop well and sustainably, and will plant the right varieties. It also secures supply in a rapidly fluctuating grain market, and allows us to have some control over the price we pay. You can read more about our contract with selected growers in Fergus's blog post here. At the time of Fergus's visit a Claas harvester, enveloped in its own comet of dust, was cutting clean lines through a golden field of 'concerto' barley at Holkham's Manor Farm at Castle Acre. View pictures of the 2013 barley harvest in North Norfolk here.

What makes a good quality barley?

The weather conditions during the growing year, the right variety, farm management (crop rotations and farming practices) together with soil conditions are crucial in producing top quality barley used for brewing. Brewers look for barley that is consistent in size (odd-shaped grains malt differently) and grains that are low in Nitrogen. If there's too much Nitrogen in the barley too many proteins are produced which can cause a haze in the resulting beer. Too much Nitrogen also means there's less starch available in the grain, and therefore less sugar. It's very important that the grains are low in moisture - not only for the health of the crop, but it also saves lots of energy in drying the grains to dormancy. Harvest at Manor Farm, HolkhamHolkham Estate's Poul Hovesen comments on the 2013 barley harvest:  “This year’s spring barley promises to be one of the best over the last 3 – 4 years with both yields and quality looking good. Our winter barley, despite the wet autumn, cold winter and spring, is surprisingly good. Thanks to Holkham Estate’s famous crop rotation system, pioneered by Coke of Norfolk in the 18th century, Holkham will always grow top quality spring barley. The rotation system ensures our soils are in the best condition to grow a sustainable, healthy, quality crop. It’s really gratifying to see a direct connection between us, the farmer, and the end-user, Adnams. The next time we see this barley will be in a pint of Adnams beer, or as nip of Adnams Copper House Spirit.”    

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Sarah Groves

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