Tribute beer brewed in memory of malting barley saviour

A beer named Tony's Tribute has been brewed in memory of malting barley merchant Tony Banham.

Brewers have made a beer named Tony's Tribute in memory of malting barley merchant Tony Banham. From left: David Holliday of Moon Gazer Ales, Rob Howlett of Barsham Brewery, Mark Banham of H Banham and brewers Andy Mitchell and Steve Chroscicki - Credit: Norfolk Brewhouse 

Two Norfolk breweries have collaborated on a tribute beer brewed in memory of the saviour of a treasured malting barley variety.

Tony Banham, of agricultural merchants H Banham in Hempton, near Fakenham, died in January at the age of 81.

He was 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.

Tony Banham pictured with his son Mark in a field of Maris Otter malting barley

Tony Banham (right) pictured with his son Mark in a field of Maris Otter malting barley - Credit: Frances Brace

So Moon Gazer Ales, based at Hindringham, and nearby Barsham Brewery have joined forces to produce a 100pc Maris Otter ale named Tony's Tribute, in his memory.

David Holliday, of Moon Gazer Ales, said Mr Banham's passion for the variety inspired his team to make Maris Otter the cornerstone of their craft ales and lagers.

“Tony’s involvement with Maris Otter stretches back to 1965 when he was 24 and started trading this then brand-new barley variety," he said.

"Maris Otter was in high demand, however, during the 80s its popularity waned as many of the larger brewers sought new varieties in the name of progress, efficiency and cost-cutting.

“Fortunately, Tony had the vision to see Maris Otter still had a future amongst the growing band of craft brewers who demanded its brewing qualities and flavour profile. So, in 1992, he worked with grain merchant Robin Appel and Gowlett Grain, to obtain the growing rights from the Plant Breeding Institute.”

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Barsham Brewery is based on the neighbouring West Barsham Estate, where the variety has been grown for 25 years.

Like Moon Gazer, they approached Mr Banham's son Mark, who is now managing director of the H Banham family business, to ask if they could brew a tribute ale.

He said: “We have always been very proud of the passion brewers have for Maris Otter, not just in the UK, but also in over 20 countries worldwide.

“It was touching that two brewers so local to us both approached us separately wanting to brew a beer for Tony.

"I suggested that by combining their resources, using Barsham-grown barley, malted at Crisp Maltings in Great Ryburgh and brewing the beer at Moon Gazer, they could create a truly local collaboration and tribute to dad.” 

The limited-edition brew will be available at pubs across Norfolk during March.

A thanksgiving service for Mr Banham will be held at 11am on Tuesday March 8, at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Fakenham.