The Icknield Series

Barley Field on the Icknield Way

Barley Field on the Icknield Way. Photo courtesy of geograph.org.uk on Wikipedia Commons

Terroir; a sense of place

Terroir is the voice of experience, amply demonstrated with the Icknield Series of soils

It’s the voice of credence, in agriculture, to a produce’s claim.  ‘The best’ is tired, overused and subjective.  However, when one can say it is the best because; stating a reason of substance, then the produce in question achieves a much greater status.

What are we talking about here?  We are of course talking about Maris Otter barley and the reason why Maris Otter is recognised as a superior barley.  The character of the malt for brewing is as much determined by the soil it is grown in, as in the variety of barley.  The British Isles offers a great many soil types and each type influences the character of your beer.

The Icknield Series of soil

The Icknield Series of soil is a huge belt which runs from Dorset in the South to The Wash in the North East.  Smaller belts can be found from Winchester across the South Downs and from Guildford, touching Greater London and onto East coast of Kent.  The Icknield Series is memorable, as the main belt of soil follows the Icknield Way, one of Britain’s oldest highways.

Why is the Icknield Series of soil superior?

Icknield-way map

Map of the Icknield Way & smaller belts of Icknield Series soil. Source: Amercian Pink

It’s superior because it is a light, free working soil where winter variety barley crops can easily be established in late September or very early in the spring – February and early March.  The  topsoil is sufficiently pervious to limit fertility which ensures low nitrogen grain.  The chalk subsoil maintains sufficient moisture from the winter rains to sustain crop establishment throughout the warmer, drier springs.  This ensures optimum establishment for yield, and a growth pattern that maintains ahead of the seasonal curve, increasing the chances of an early harvest when the days remain hot, long and dry.

Superior malting barley from farms on the Ichnield Series

Much of the malting capacity of England sits on or immediately adjacent to the Icknield soil type, due to the discovery of this goldmine of a soil type over 150 years ago.  Maris Otter barley is predominantly, though not exclusively, grown on the Icknield Series.

Maltsters like Warminster Maltings, a long term trusted supplier to Flack Manor, now have the ability to contractually procure barleys from right across the Icknield soil belt, in order to ‘hedge’ against any extremities in weather, which often occurs as an east-west divide.

Farley Farm in Farley, Hampshire sits on one of the smaller belts of Icknield soil and for the first time, is growing maris Otter barley which will be malted by Warminster Maltings and supplied to Flack Manor, as genuinely local malt of the highest quality.

Icknield Way

Photo courtesy of geograph.co.uk on Wikipedia Commons