Business Grows As Barley Blooms For
Pendle Witch Brewer In Move For Beer ‘Terroir’
Lancashire brewer Moorhouse’s is toasting record sales and early success for an initiative to revive the cultivation of Britain’s favourite ‘brewing barley’ the North West.
The internationally acclaimed brewer is encouraging farmers to grow the traditional Maris Otter barley in the region as it seeks to secure crucial sustainable supplies for the future of its new £4.5m brewery.
While hailing the project as central to a strategy of ‘growth through quality and provenance’, the North West’s newest regional brewery reported a record turnover of £5m for last year. It also announced a sales surge of eight per cent in the first six months of the current trading year – with almost 2.6m pints sold.
Maris Otter barley variety was developed specifically as malting barley for British cask-conditioned ale in the 1950s and became a mainstay of the industry with the cask ale revival. However, following bad harvests and difficulties with seed, many arable farmers shunned the variety in favour of more easily cultivated, higher yield crops.
But now the Moorhouse’s project has convinced a clutch of arable farmers in the St Helens and Preston areas to revive the variety – including Ian Bennett of the 700 acre Home Farm, Rainhill, and father and son team Tom and Olly Harrison who farm 1000 acres at Water Lane Farm, Prescott.*See footnotes.
They are now preparing to harvest the first crop, which the fast growing Burnley brewer will take as part of some 500 tonnes of malted barley a year now required to brew the famous ‘Pendle Witches’ ales.
MD David Grant said: “It’s still a very tough market as pubs close and the number of micro-brewers grows unabated. Some regional brewers have contracted, but we continue to see sales rise as we win new business nationally. We have confidence in our strategy to push forward through quality and provenance– not price discounting.
“Our barley initiative is at the heart of that. We aim to build a ‘terroir’ similar to that for French wines. We want publicans to know they can have cask ales with real provenance from Burnley – ales brewed in Lancashire from the area’s best malt. By ensuring a market we are helping it to survive, for our own sustainable future and for the industry.”
Muntons is a major national supplier of malted barley to the brewing industry. Managing director Guy Newsam said: “Moorhouse’s has taken a leading role in persuading northern farmers to grow more Maris Otter malting barley.
“This has been achieved through hosting structured visits at the brewery, supported by Isaac Poad the Grain Merchant and ourselves as maltsters, aimed at building a sustainable Maris Otter supply chain with local provenance. This has stimulated interest from the farmers with a number committing to grow Maris Otter for the brewery on potentially a long term basis.”