IT MIGHT be one of the oldest malting barley varieties still grown, but Maris Otter has stood the test of time – yet again securing malt the top place yet again at real beer campaigner, CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival.

Heroically, this is the 11th time in 16 years that the old stager has been the barley of choice for the 'Champion Beer of Britain'.

Introduced to the industry in 1966, Otter still has a firm following with winter barley growers south of the Border and orders keep coming in for this consistent brewing barley.

This year, it was Binghams’ Vanilla Stout 5%, from Berkshire, which won the title. Chris Bingham, owner/brewer at Binghams Brewery, commented: “We are really keen on Maris Otter as it gives a sure foundation for our beers and the character of a base malt is important.

"It has a balanced, pleasantly biscuity flavour, and is a real class act.”

The variety was developed by a Dr GDH Bell, in Maris Lane, Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, and remains the only barley bred to provide consistency for the brewer and a wonderful spectrum of flavours which come through in the beer.

It yields less than modern barley varieties but what it does yield is special. The variety was saved from likely extinction in 1990 by Robin Appel, of Hampshire, and Banham’s of East Anglia, barley merchants with a passion for malt customers who supply brewers across the globe.

Robin Appel comments: “The last couple of harvests in 2014 and 2015 were hugely successful for Maris Otter. They also marked a great milestone for it as, following the celebrations for its 50th anniversary back in 2015, more Maris Otter was grown in Britain last year than for the previous 20 years.

"Demand has been rising from brewers, not only in the UK, but also from Europe and America.

“However, the 2016 growing season has been a difficult one for many winter barley farmers. A lack of June sunshine has meant that yields are lower than in 2015 but quality has been far better than its more modern counterparts.