A new partnership to ensure 9,000 tonnes of barley a year are supplied to Marston's Brewery has been announced – but drinkers have been assured the unique taste will not change.
The Burton brewery has joined forces with the Holkham Estate in north Norfolk to provide the grain for Marston's beer as its new sole supplier.
The link-up between Marston's Brewery and Holkham's farms was confirmed when the Marston's brewing team visited the Norfolk Estate with its long tradition of growing both winter and spring barley for the brewing industry.
The contract has been driven by local maltsters, Crisp Malting Group at Great Ryburgh, Norfolk, who helped secure the exclusive contract between Holkham and Marston's and who will malt the barley from the estate before it is used to brew Marston's beer.
Marston's previously dealt with a grain merchant who would scour the country in search of different farmers to supply. The brewery has now chosen to use Holkham's as its sole supplier.
As the backbone of beer, and giving it much of its flavour and appearance, the grain is a key ingredient that, when brewed, ferments into alcohol. Marston's chose north Norfolk in East Anglia, for its perfect maritime, micro-climate to select their grain from the Holkham Estate, bringing it more than 140 miles back to the spiritual home of brewing in Burton.
Patrick McGinty, head brewer at Marston's Brewery, said: "It was fantastic to meet such a great team and people who are so passionate about their product as much as we are. Our whole focus is built around 'From Burton with Love' and what better way to celebrate this than taking the grain from the heart of crop agriculture to the heart of Burton brewing."
James Beamish, Holkham's Farm manager, said: "The Holkham Estate is considered to be the birthplace of modern agriculture, with Thomas William Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, better known as Coke of Norfolk, renowned for championing innovation in agriculture in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
"Today farming at Holkham adopts many of Coke's principles and we are encouraged that through the partnership to supply Marston's with malting barley, we will be able to work with Holkham's tenant farmers to secure their long-term sustainability for the estate in the barley industry.
"The soil and climate here are ideal for growing superlative malting barley and we are confident that our product fits well with Marston's values for provenance and quality."
The agreement ensures that the grain will cover a large proportion of Burton's malt and will be used as the backbone supply for Marston's beers. The agreement, set to extend past the 2019 harvest, and will supply classic ales such as Pedigree and 61 Deep, to newer innovative beers from the micro-brewery, DE14.
How is the grain used
The quantity of grain in this deal is 9,000 tonnes a year. One tonne of malted barley is needed to brew 54 barrels of beer or 15,552 pints.
The grain is winter barley. The barley is malted in a process where the grain is encouraged to start the germination process by soaking in water. The grain is then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. Malting grains develop the enzymes required for modifying the grain's starches into various types of sugar which are turned into alcohol.