The annual barley harvest is in full swing, and farmers across Cornwall are in the process of yielding their Maris Otter crops. Over the next 12 months, this barley will be used to brew millions of pints for St Austell Brewery.

Barley Restronguet Barton
Barley being harvested at Restronguet Barton, between Truro and Falmouth

In total, almost 900 acres of Cornish farmland has been cultivated to grow the Maris Otter — exclusively for the brewery — which is anticipated to produce up to 1,500 tonnes of barley. Despite challenging weather conditions, when the crops were first planted in the spring, the 2020 harvest has been a remarkable success for the farmers.

St Austell Brewery purchases more Maris Otter barley that any other brewer in the world, using the legendary heritage variety in every beer that it produces. Modern barley varieties come and go, but Maris Otter remains the brewer’s choice and is often used as the base malt for traditional English bitters. The popular grain is grown exclusively in the UK and produces a rich malty flavour and unrivalled beer clarity.

St Austell Brewery’s former brewing director, Roger Ryman — who passed away in May — set up the Cornwall Maris Otter Partnership in 2002. His aim was to reintroduce the variety as a staple crop in the county and form long-lasting relationships with farmers, to ensure a ready supply for the brewery.

The partnership is one of company’s key initiatives in supporting the local economy and cutting transport mileage. The brewery’s commitment to local sourcing was instrumental to it receiving a Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development in 2018.

‘It’s one of the most exciting times of the year’

Georgina Young — who was announced as St Austell Brewery’s new brewing director last month — paid a visit to the farmers to see the crops for herself, prior to the harvest.

She said: “Quality is the heart of everything we brew at our brewing production sites in Cornwall and at Bath Ales, and barley is absolutely critical to that. We are passionate about sourcing the very best regional Maris Otter barley and are very proud of the relationships that we’ve formed with our trusted community of Cornish growers over the years.

“It’s one of the most exciting times of the year when we can go out and see the crops, speak to the farmers, and remind ourselves where the wonderful process of brewing beer begins.”

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