Two long-established regional grain merchants have been recognised by Parliamentarians for their role in saving the iconic Maris Otter malting barley variety.
The variety marks 50 years in use this year – despite being outclassed by more modern types in yield terms, malt from the variety has found a strong niche in the growing microbrewing and craft beer sectors of the market.
The All Party Parliamentary Beer Group made a joint presentation of its Lifetime Achievement Award to Robin Appel, the managing director of the eponymous business in Hampshire who also owns the Warminster Maltings, and Tony Banham, head of Norfolk’s H Banham & Son, at its recent annual dinner in Westminster.
The presentation was made by Andrew Griffiths MP, chairman of the APPBG. He noted that Robin and Tony had worked with Maris Otter since the 1960s, but praised their vision and tenacity in acquiring the rights to the variety in 2000, despite knowing that it needed lots of work to bring it back to the market.
“Over the years, they have determinedly improved its quality and promoted its use among craft brewers. They were championing this grain before interest in quality ingredients in food and drink soared and long before the craft beer movement really took off. It may be just a small part of the overall barley market, yet the majority of the last 14 Champion Beers of Britain have been brewed with Maris Otter malt,” Mr Griffiths said. “Maris Otter only survived due to the dogged determination - some would say bloody mindedness - of two separate seed merchants. It is just a small part of their overall businesses but they have devoted a phenomenal amount of time and energy to its preservation.”
L to R: Tony Banham, Andrew Griffiths MP and Robin Appel.