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The world’s top four cereals are corn, wheat, rice and barley, in that order. In 2021 – 2022, nearly 150 million tonnes of barley were produced globally.

Norfolk, England may produce only a fraction of that volume, but this easterly county is responsible for what is probably the best malting barley in the world.

What gives Norfolk that claim to fame? Well, here are six explanations:

1. Sensational soil

Much of the soil in the county is light and sandy – and has naturally high levels of phosphate. It drains relatively freely, which means its nitrogen component is low. The resulting crops are relatively low in protein. This makes for great malt for brewers.


2. Temperate weather

East Anglia is the driest region of the UK, with just 26 inches of rain a year on average in Norfolk. However, gentle sea breezes carry a little moisture across the dunes and into barley-growing areas.

Temperatures in June, July and August reach an average maximum of around 200C, 230C and 220C, respectively, the warmth supported by the Gulf Stream ocean currents.

3. Sun bathed for longer

Norfolk, England has around 1,600 hours of sunshine a year, with longer daylight hours during the ripening season than regions and countries with more southerly latitudes. With skilled farming practices, barley yields are high, and the quality of the crops is excellent.

The decent growing season allows for the thriving of both winter and spring barleys in the area, with harvesting in July and August.


Man holding barley4. Home to Maris Otter

Norfolk is home to Maris Otter, the variety probably best loved and certainly best known by craft brewers in Britain and, increasingly, overseas.

In the north of the county, hidden amongst the normal plots of agricultural farmland, are the Maris Otter mother fields. Here, only the purest selection of seeds are planted, propagating the supply of seeds for the region’s farmers – who go on to produce fabulous crops of Maris Otter for us maltsters.

Many of those farms have been growing Maris Otter ever since it was first introduced in 1965 – just as Crisp Malt has been malting it since then.

5. Home to Crisp Malt

It may seem odd to say that Norfolk is great for barley growing partly because of the existence of the maltings in the county, but when the parts of the supply chain work hand in hand over 150 years, it’s clear that the elements become intrinsically linked. Crisp Malt technical experts, plant scientists, seed merchants and farmers pool their knowledge and experience to develop new varieties and make the best of existing ones.

The county is the hub of barley expertise.


6. Minimising carbon footprint

Grain is heavy, and significant carbon emissions are produced in its transportation. Given that the process of malting reduces the weight of raw grain by around 25%, it makes sense to malt the barley grain as close as possible to where it is grown to minimize the environmental impact of the onward haulage.

Since so much of the superb malting barley is grown in Norfolk, and since we malt it here, well that’s another claim to fame – or at least to best practice!

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