A memorial tankard has been awarded in honour of a respected Norfolk grain merchant who helped save a revered beer-making barley from extinction.

Tony Banham, whose family business is based in Hempton, near Fakenham, lived in Colkirk for many years and later moved to Barney before he died last year at the age of 81.

He was well-respected in the Norfolk farming community, and a key figure in the 1990s revival of Maris Otter, prized by the brewing industry as one of the best malting barleys in the world.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Tony Banham (right) pictured with his son Mark in a field of Maris Otter malting barleyTony Banham (right) pictured with his son Mark in a field of Maris Otter malting barley (Image: H Banham)

Fittingly, the three finalists for the malting barley competition founded in his memory were samples of Maris Otter.

The inaugural Tony Banham Tankard was awarded to the winning growers Sam and Katharine Phelps, of the Grove Farm Partnership at Grove Farm in Langham. 

Second prize went to James and Robert Fowell, of Hill Farm in Itteringham, and in third place was Andrew Alston of Whitehouse Farm in Marsham. All three finalists also received some Norfolk-brewed Moongazer beer.

Mr Banham's son Mark, who is now managing director of the H Banham family business, said: "I’m proud of this competition we’ve introduced this year, it’s a good way for my father to be remembered in Norfolk farming.

"I’m sure he would approve, as he always liked to drink his beer with a handle.

"We looked at all the samples we had taken in over harvest, as they were, with no tampering or doctoring, and shortlisted nine. 

"Coincidentally, all the winners were Maris Otter, which is a lovely looking barley, but the shortlist did contain some Planet too."

The competition was judged by former Crisp Malt commercial director Bob King, who retired earlier this year after 35 years at the Great Ryburgh-based firm which processes Norfolk's barley into malts for beer and whisky manufacturers.

Mr King said: “Considering the growing season and harvest conditions, the grain quality was better than could have been anticipated - in most cases."