Role of ABC Grower Group in nation’s brewing and distilling celebrated

2016 is the tenth anniversary of North Norfolk’s 220-strong ABC Grower Group. Set up by Adams & Howling, H Banham and Crisp Malting Group to improve local sourcing, it has gone from strength to strength. With its focus on malting barley, the ABC Group has played a key role in the success of Britain’s beer sector – as members at a recent seminar heard.

“Malt produced from the ABC growers’ barley makes a significant contribution to Britain’s brewing and distilling,” says H Banham director Tom Rivett. “Crisp also exports substantial quantities of malt, so all over the world people are tasting our Norfolk grain as they sip their beer or whisky.”

The seminar, held at Limagrain in Docking, North Norfolk, highlighted the significant achievements of farmers in the Group – and underlined some of the challenges ahead. Delegates were told by Crisp Malting Group director Bob King that the Group had managed a 97% success rate for the 2015 crop.

“This is pretty impressive,” says Matthew Adams of Adams & Howling, “particularly given the stringent standards required by the maltsters.”

Bob King gave an overview of the malt market, pointing out that 52% of malt produced in Britain is used in distilling, 30% in brewing, 13% for export and 5% for the food industry.

He said that this year, the ABC Group’s production is 41% winter barley and 59% spring barley. Flagon and Venture are the dominant winter varieties, with a new variety, Craft, being trialled for approval in 2017. Spring varieties are predominantly Concerto, Odyssey and some proanthocyanidin-free Husky, with Laureate also going on trial in 2017.

Other presenters included Les Daubney from Limagrain, Steven Tompkins from NIAB TAG, Allison Grundy from CF Fertilisers and Sarah Kendall from ADAS.

Following the informative sessions indoors, during which the rain beat down, blue skies miraculously appeared and ABC delegates were given tutored tour of nearby trial plots by Mr King.

“We’re focussing on dual purpose spring varieties,” he said. “They allow us to produce premium malt for distilling or brewing purposes. This provides maximum flexibility in changing markets – which is good for growers and maltsters – as well as for brewers and distillers.”

The three companies confirmed that last year was a bumper year from a quality and yield point of view barley and agreed that the barley in the trial plots was looking resplendent. However, with the changeable weather, none of the Group would be drawn on predictions for this year’s harvest. They completed the day with a local beer brewed with barley supplied by the ABC Grower Group.

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