This is a bit of brewing geekery but it is really interesting and, for us, kills off one the sacred cows in the brewing world. (Obviously no cows were really hurt in the production of this blog)
The boys and girls at Baird’s Malt had their summer bash this weekend. To add additional interest to the soiree they had a couple of beers brewed specially for the weekend by Full Mash Brewery of Nottingham to add to those supplied by the local breweries. Brew A was brewed with malt from a modern barley variety; Tipple. Brew B was brewed with malt from Maris Otter. Both batches were Pale Ale malt spec that came from Bairds in Grantham. The two brews were the same beer apart from the barley variety difference, a session-able mid 4% abv, lightly hopped and brewed under the same conditions. The beers were well brewed and the difference was a subtle one but there was a difference. Everyone that came to the event was asked to taste both beers and identify the one with Maris Otter. In hindsight this was no easy feat. People identified a difference but were unable to correctly place Maris Otter in the beer. Only 50% of the audience comprising CAMRA members and brewers got it right. Bearing in mind it was a 50/50 type question the result was no better than tossing a coin. Thinking about it, there should have been a follow up question as to which beer was preferable but during the conversations afterwards it was clear that a majority of people preferred the malt base in Beer A and incredibly not the Maris Otter beer.
The results from our brewery. Sara thought the Maris Otter beer was A because she preferred it and assumed it would be the better flavour. Richard had the same reasoning chose beer A, as he preferred A. Sean chose beer B as Maris Otter but preferred A to drink. Between us we thought the Beer A flavour was cleaner. Beer B became cloying and slightly grainy. No problem as such, just not to our tastes.
We stopped specifying the Maris Otter variety at Brewster’s a number of years ago when we found the Maris Otter harvest that year was not so good, the malt wasn’t brewing as well as it should have done and in addition the price was inflated. However, some brewers swear by Maris Otter, pay the premium and desire the flavour it imparts to their beer. Each to their own. Thinking about our beers, a cleaner flavour certainly works much better with the type of hoppy beers we like to brew.
Bairds Malt have done their version of the Pepsi Cola taste test and for us, Maris Otter didn’t live up to its hype.