Nowadays, more and more people like to know what goes into their food and drink. With an increasing interest in provenance, craft and sustainability, food and drink lovers are appreciating the ingredients that go into the products they consume.

Hence the rise of foods containing ‘ancient grains’. Hence the opportunity for beers containing heritage grains.  This is where we come in. Our relationship with academic research centres and farmers; our fascination with the past and our commitment to research has resulted in four exciting Heritage Malt varieties.

Traditionally floor malted, these provide stupendous ingredients for adventurous brewers and distillers.  The barley varieties we’ve used made malt history back in the day – and are remaking it now with their respective revivals or survivals.

We’ll tell you a bit more about them, then it’s over to you to make beer or spirits history with them. And if you want a hand, or any advice about them, just say the word. Our technical experts are ridiculously keen to chat about how to get the most out of them – and what each of the Heritage collection can deliver in terms of flavour, body and character.

Chevallier, Hana, Plumage Archer and No 19 Maris Otter floor malts logos.

The Beginnings

Great discoveries are often happy accidents. A case in point is an eagle-eyed clergyman finding a particularly fine ear of barley in his boot in the 1820s. By chance, he knew a bit about this cereal. Fast forward many propagations and there was the great discovery. A barley phenomenon named after him. Chevallier. The basis of English beer for a century.

Serendipity also played a part in how our Heritage Malt range came about. For the moment, suffice to say it all started with the celebrated Seed Bank at the John Innes Centre, an issue of disease resistance, and a handful of original seeds of Chevallier. And it involved their plant scientists, our technical team and our trusted local growers – experts in their own field (literally).  The collaboration worked so well, and delivered such exciting results that it prompted further delving into the seed archives.

Haná and Plumage Archer were the next – after Chevallier – to be successfully revived and propagated. And No.19 floor-malted Maris Otter, with its 55+ years of history – not to mention a story of near disappearance, rescue and resurrection – is of course included in the Heritage Floor Malt collection.

“With Chevallier, Hana, Plumage Archer and Maris Otter, you get diverse and unique characteristics which are enhanced by the process of floor malting,” says Dr Dave Griggs, our technical director. “Biting into grains that have been on our floors, you get subtly different flavours and textures. If you choose the right one for the recipe, and follow basic guidelines, these translate into full, rounded characters in different styles of beers and spirits. If you’re looking to faithfully reproduce beer styles from the past, these malts provide an authenticity that just can’t be achieved with modern varieties. Most brewers and distillers start off by using Heritage Malts for historic or traditional recipes, But many of them  have ended up loving them so much that they now include them in contemporary beers or spirits where they are looking for stand-out flavour. Heritage varieties aren’t easy to grow or malt. They are time and labour-intensive. The effort that’s gone into their revival – and that still goes into their cultivation and production – thankfully turns out to be worth it! It’s involved us in exciting research and collaborations, and has taken us back to our roots, reinforcing the value of craft and technical skills at every stage of the supply chain process.”

Heritage Malts

Looking Back and Talking Floors

Crisp Malt floor malting at Great Ryburgh, NorfolkThere is evidence of malting in Norfolk that dates back pre 1066 to Anglo Saxon times. Crisp’s own history in the region spans over 150 years, and was determined by the perfect conditions for barley growing in the area. Hundreds if not thousands of floor maltings closed during the 20th Century. Our headquarters and No. 19 Floor Maltings have the good fortune to be situated in perhaps the best malting barley growing region of the world. So maybe it’s not a surprise that it has continued to flourish and is now one of just 3 floor maltings in England.

Traditional floor techniques require knowledge, skill and experience. Our maltsters are constantly making judgements by hand, eye and bite. They are the lynchpin in a short supply chain connecting brewers and distillers back to farmers and the land.

Few enough people know what malt is – let alone that it is natural and crafted from crops that are grown with enormous skill and care. All these connections should be cherished, nurtured and celebrated. That’s not just for future generations of brewers and distillers, but also for future generations of drinkers.

Yes, we’re proud of the contribution our technical team and master maltsters have made in the creation of the Heritage Malt series.  But we can’t take all the credit. The team at John Innes, agronomists, biologists seed merchants and our local farmer-partners have played a huge role. As have a few brewers in Britain and the USA, who took on the task of trialling them in their early stages of revival.

So while our Heritage Malts are rooted in Norfolk’s and the nation’s agricultural, economic and social history, they now have wider reach. Shipments of these limited-edition floor malts reach craft brewers and distillers in far-flung corners of the world.

 

Image courtesy of www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk 

What they can do for you

Heritage Malts are for you if you’re keen to explore off the beaten track. That is, if you’re curious to try different ingredients, using them in new and existing recipes to see what benefits they can deliver.

They have their own unique stories to tell; narratives you can share with drinkers of your products. But more than that. They have intrinsic qualities that will help make your offerings truly distinctive. The different varieties each lend themselves well to particular styles of beer or spirits. We can make recommendations, but will be excited to hear about your experiences with them whatever route you take.

We’re excited to hear what you brew with them and even more so to taste the end result.  To get your hands on one of these special malts, feel free to call us on 01328 829391 or contact us.

If you would like to find out more, check out the malts in the collection below.

The Heritage Malts

The Heritage Malts

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