A director of Norfolk’s biggest maltster has explained how a shocking five-fold surge in energy prices could affect the price of a pint of beer.

Crisp Malt's commercial director Bob King said the firm's total energy costs had risen from £9m last year to £21m this year - and it was projected to be £46m in 2023, driven by the price of gas.

He told about 40 members of Holt and District Farmers’ Club that the maltings, based at Great Ryburgh near Fakenham, had taken in “fantastic” quality barley harvested by Norfolk farmers this year to produce around 230,000 tonnes of malt.

However, the soaring energy costs would put further pressure on malt prices, which would need to be at least £250 per tonne higher.

But while malt is a key ingredient in beer, it only represented a very modest cost element in the price of a pint, said Mr King.

He said a tonne of malt would produce roughly 15,500 pints – so the total extra cost of a pint would be about 2p.

“No doubt there will be headlines that pints will have to be 10p more because of high malt prices but actually it should only add 2p,” he said, in reply to a question by farmer Andrew Ross.

The surge in energy prices had already hit specialist real ale craft brewers and some had already decided to cut production or even close, said Mr King.

However, more Norfolk malt could be shipped to Scotland, where demand remains very strong for whisky production, as many leading distillers are investing and expanding capacity.

Mr King, who told members that he had overseen his last harvest before retiring, also judged the club’s malting barley championship during its meeting at Holt Rugby Club.

Mr King said it had been a “phenomenal” year for quality, with high specific weights, low moisture content and low nitrogen levels.

Some Norfolk malt would be exported to mainland Europe, including Poland - partly because of the exceptional quality, he said.

The supreme barley championship prize was awarded to William Mack, of Hempstead Hall, for his sample of Craft winter barley, while the reserve and spring barley awards went to Graham De Feyter, of Edingthorpe, with a sample of Laureate variety.