The Others is a monthly series looking at the people who aren’t brewers that help to produce beer and get it onto your tastebuds. This month, the people responsible for the malt…
At the end of April, I had a revelation in terms of The Others. It’s much bigger than I first gave it credit for. The revelation came as I was being shown around Warminster Maltings, by Chris Garratt who started at the company in 1975 as Trainee Assistant Manager, and is now Managing Director.
I asked the question, as I have done with other people I have met, of how many people work at the Maltings? The answer was a rather modest 18, which doesn’t seem a large number of people, until you realise that this is just the number of people working on the malting process, in one malt house. For a pint of beer to reach your mouth, you also need farmers and their employees for the grain, and farmers and their employees for the hops, people to look after the water supply, people to make casks and kegs and bottles and glasses, not least the people who drive the grain and hops and finished beer from one place to the other. Put simply, one simple pint of beer keeps a few hundred people in employment. The fact that it also tastes good is a pleasant bonus.
I left Warminster Maltings rather daunted by the prospect of writing this post. I left with a lot of information, all of which was fascinating to me, and some of which was featured in last month’s Introduction to Malt.
Warminster Maltings is one of two Malthouses in the country to still use traditional floor malting methods. The other Malthouse is Tuckers Maltings in Newton Abbot, which is open to the public for tours, and is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Back in the 18th Century, Warminster was said to be the biggest producer of malt in the West of England, with up to 36 Malthouses in the town. Today, the Malthouse that I visited is the only one remaining that still serves as a Malthouse, though you can still find the old buildings around the town.
The site in Pound Street was designed by William Morgan, who was from a family of Brewers and Maltsters, in 1879. Morgan handed the business down to his son, WIlliam Frank Morgan, who subsequently transferred the business to his brother in law, Edwin Sloper Beaven in 1902.
It was Beaven, who through his development of barley breeding, and liason with the Guinness Research Laboratory, helped seal the fate and future of the maltings. Beaven’s work led to him recieving an honary doctorate, and the malthouse a contract supplying malt for Guinness.
Guinness did try to close the Pound Street Malthouse in 1994, but found they couldn’t as it was still owned by the Beaven Family. In 2001 it was owned by the grain merchant Robin Appel, who could not only manage the supply of the raw grain to the malthouse, but also owns the marketing rights to Maris Otter, a variety of pale grain used by many brewers.
The Malthouse was listed as a Grade 2 building in the 1950s, and today runs 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, with a two shift, 24 hour operation in process. Approximately 50 farmers supply malt to Warminster, and the method used has been the same for over 150 years. In the 1990s, a second level was installed to double the production capacity, and chillers were also installed to allow production of malt in the hot summer months.
Today, Warminster Maltings pride themselves on the close relationship that they have with their customers, and also the quality of their ingredients and the cost they sell them for. The emphasis that Chris Garratt and Warminster put on the need for local quality has even travelled across to America, with an increase in maltings and the creation of the Craft of Guild Maltsters.The need for local quality also has a positive effect on local economy, as it creates jobs for local people.
I’m sure that across the two posts on Malt and Warminster, I may have missed something. I shall, however, leave you with this. If a brewer wants to brew a beer today, the malt that he will be using will have been negotiated with the grower around 18 months ago. The Others isn’t just about the people, it’s about time as well.
As I focus on moving house next month, The Others shall return in September.