Edition 32: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Edition 32: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Happy New Year

I want to begin by wishing you all a Very Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year.

I have little to report, at least little positive news, and so instead, I would like to list Warminster Maltings’:-

10 New Years Resolutions

We are in the process of creating, and hope to shortly add, a virtual tour of our Maltings to the website. We will let you know when it is released!

It will, quite deliberately, only be a very short film, about 4 minutes long, but it aims to capture, and attempts to explain, the whole process, start to finish. So, shortly, there will be a much safer alternative to the actual tour, for which we have become renowned. No more the need to negotiate those awkward steps, wet floors, low ceilings and sharp pieces of metal infrastructure which prod you in the ribs. Instead, you can now select a comfortable chair, grab a glass of beer, and quietly remind yourself on screen just how the brewing of that particular tipple most probably began.

1) We are going to get through this!

The pandemic is clearly set to run on, and its impact on our Maltings is now worse than that experienced last Spring. But our track record of success, coupled with the ever-widening raft of new opportunities which keep coming our way, underline the viability of our business. We hold a unique place in the supply chain, as well as being the only Maltings in the West Country.

2) As a team, we will work ever closer together

We have an amazing team at the Maltings, and their forthright willingness to get to grips with the Covid restrictions to our work practices has been professional, versatile, and always uncompromising. We have stayed safe throughout the pandemic, so far, and to their credit, everyone cannot wait to get properly back to work again.

3) We will continue to hone our malting skills

Over the last 15 months, we have continually researched and studied the practice of our predecessors, adding (or putting back) disciplines to our malting process which contribute to the quality of our malt. We now have three ‘additional’ procedures, and a fourth, pending some fabrication work, which, individually, and as appropriate, are quite definitely adding value, and raising the specification of our malts.

4) We will widen the range of malts we make and sell

Our very sophisticated, and very modern Veishaupt kiln allows us to make a whole kaleidoscope of different malts, including some particular bespoke formulations for individual customers (subject to batch size).

This bespoke market is a new dimension to our portfolio, and, based on feedback, is a potentially much bigger opportunity for us. Also malts with their individual provenance is in increasingly widening demand, and something we are uniquely able to deliver.

5) We will continue to improve and modify our website

We have been slowly learning how to “go forth and multiply” our sales, without knocking on doors, or attending events. Our website is currently our foremost Sales Platform, and we are fortunate to be able to manage this on a week-by-week basis with improvements, additional material and changes that reflect time and events.

The number of new enquiries we attract each week would appear to endorse this policy. All communications are dealt with very promptly, which has become another one of our hallmarks.

6) We are going to finish our Buildings Restoration programme

When I set out on this project nearly 20 years ago, I visualised two schedules of 10 years each, completing all major works by 13/02/2021, the anniversary of my arrival 13/02/2001. We comfortably completed Phase 1 before 2011, and back in March we were on schedule to also complete Phase 2 on time. Re-instating the pyramid kiln roofs to Kilns 3 and 4, will be the most outstanding project we have undertaken, and will transform the Maltings complex back to looking like it was for the first 60 years of its life.

These pyramid kiln roofs are significant because they are the signature architecture of a Victorian ‘floor Maltings’.


7) We will serve Teas in the Garden again

If we are stopped in the street in Warminster, the most frequently asked question is “will we go back to serving teas in the garden, like we used to?” The answer is a resounding ‘yes’!

Pat Whitty’s homemade scones and cakes are as famous as Betty’s Tea Rooms in Harrogate and served in our beautiful garden across the summer months, they are a very special treat we could never deny   the townsfolk of Warminster.

8) We will work towards a wider Visitor Attraction

As the custodian of the Maltings, I do feel it is my duty to share the ‘experience’, for want of a better word, with a wider public. The magnificent Grade 2* buildings, the history, and the very traditional process, which has all but completely disappeared from the industry, commands enormous interest.

This interest is partly fuelled by the revolution in brewing and distilling which has given rise to a Craft example of either a brewery or a distillery established near where you are. It is also driven by the increasing number of people who are looking for something different to the ‘National Trust’ experience with its overrun car parks, and over trodden gardens.

9) We will continue to sponsor ‘The Maltmen’

This is a wonderful example of an unforeseen consequence. When we undertook to sponsor Warminster Town Football Club, it was partly driven by staff interest, and partly driven by a desire to engage with the local community.

That the footballers should become ambassadors for Malt never ever occurred to us. It is a fantastic outcome, and that the club, under the chairmanship of Pete Russell, is such an outstanding community project, has all added up to a “win, win” for Warminster Maltings, quite apart from all the winning on the field.

10) When we get out of the current muddle, we will have a Big Party!

We need to be able to dream of this day. We will probably pitch a big marquee on our new car park.

There will be food, music and dancing, and lots and lots of beer. The date? I will have to come back to you on that.

Robin Appel

Edition 31: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Edition 31: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Lockdown 2

Our weekly order book is back into struggling mode again, while brewers fall back onto online sales. As one brewer advised me: ‘fireside’ consumption favours higher strength, and (unfortunately for us) less volume! If you have not already caught up with this, this has precipitated some “special offers” from some brewers. It is worth taking a look.

Meanwhile, at the Maltings, we are obliged to take advantage of the furlough scheme, again, keeping our maltsters apart, as half the staff do an a.m. shift, and the other half a p.m. shift. But we are led to believe two things: the R number is coming down, and this lockdown is definitely time limited. So we should soon be busy once more, we hope, making ready for Christmas! But for the time being…

…We are in the Film Business

We are in the process of creating, and hope to shortly add, a virtual tour of our Maltings to the website. We will let you know when it is released!

It will, quite deliberately, only be a very short film, about 4 minutes long, but it aims to capture, and attempts to explain, the whole process, start to finish. So, shortly, there will be a much safer alternative to the actual tour, for which we have become renowned. No more the need to negotiate those awkward steps, wet floors, low ceilings and sharp pieces of metal infrastructure which prod you in the ribs. Instead, you can now select a comfortable chair, grab a glass of beer, and quietly remind yourself on screen just how the brewing of that particular tipple most probably began.

We are in the final stages of editing, with much footage on the cutting room floor, so to speak. The plan is, another day, to use this film to go on and make other bespoke films for our customers. The idea is for me to take our customer on a tour, when we can create additional footage as we observe the process, and both interact. This new film can then be material for our customer’s own website, visitor centre, or however they wish to use it.

Back to your armchair, if it is a large glass of beer you have poured for yourself, you might like to also watch another film linked on the Home Page of our website.

This is a very amusing production, sponsored by the Brewers Society, made in 1973, and found in the East Anglian Film Archive. Titled “I Know What I Like”, and starring the comedian Bernard Cribbins, it is the story of how beer is made, with Bernard playing all the parts, including the ‘floor maltster’! There is no doubt it was originally an attempt to sell the virtues of modern industrial brewing, as opposed to the traditional process. Today, of course, it does the complete opposite!

You’ll find the clip at www.warminster-malt.co.uk

I should add, Bernard Cribbins’ take on a floor maltster, really belongs to the 1950’s. We do not employ anyone at Warminster Maltings today who either looks like, dresses like, or even talks like Bernard does in the film, but…we do still use the same tools!

“Oat-manouvre”

We hope we are going to start making Malted Oats, something we have not done before. We already Malt barley, wheat and rye, but due to increasing demand, we are going to have a go at making Oat Malt.

It all began with a commitment I inherited, to make a couple of hundred kilos of malt from a heritage variety of oats for a research project at Dublin University, where they are going to try and recreate some Tudor ales. Then we received a request to make x3 whole batches (24 tonnes) of oat malt for a single customer. So, “in for a penny, in for a pound”, as the saying goes. Since then, we have had even further enquiries – it is almost as though our thoughts and intentions have gone viral. Well, they certainly will now!

News of the Brews

Harvey’s iconic Victorian Brewery in Lewes, Sussex (www.harveys.org.uk), does not buy a lot of malt from us, but from that which they do take, they produce some particularly spectacular alcohol. Miles Jenner, Head Brewer and joint Managing Director, describes this year’s ‘Southdown Harvest’ ale, as “sublime”!

Well, I’m not surprised to hear it is a bit special, because it is not only made from Warminster Malt, but Warminster Maris Otter Malt, and what is more, Maris Otter grown on Edward Tupper’s farm near Petworth in Sussex. A rich combination of Sussex barley and Sussex hops, Harvey’s own well water, and their 60-year-old yeast. You really can’t beat that, a truly local, and sublime, Harvest Ale!

But it does not stop there. An earlier batch of the same malt supplied by us to Harvey’s back in February, was made into a ‘brewers wash’ at the brewery, then sent away for distilling. From some of this, a clear malt spirit has now been bottled, labelled “Spirit of Sussex”, and is now on release. The balance will, in 3 years time, become Harvey’s “Sussex Single Malt Whisky”.

We are very proud that Harvey & Son have chosen Warminster Maltings to be a part of this new and exciting dimension to our alcohol marketplace.

P.S. If you would like a virtual tour of one of Britain’s most traditional breweries, then I can thoroughly recommend going to Harvey’s website, and taking the tour, conducted by Miles Jenner himself. Like the beer, it has been wonderfully crafted.

Thrills from the ‘Stills

And there is even more for us to shout about. The Cotswolds Distillery (www.cotswoldsdistillery.com), whose malt is all made at Warminster, have just launched their Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky nationally with Sainsbury’s. Daniel Szor, Cotswolds Distillery’s founder, is justly very proud of this, because this is the first English whisky to achieve shelf space with this particular grocer. I should point out this whisky is already available nationwide from both Majestic Wine and Waitrose.

So we congratulate Dan and his team on another major ‘breakthrough’. Since opening 6 years ago,  Warminster Maltings has supplied Cotswolds Distillery with all their malt, and we have continuously observed the huge investment and enormous amount of hard work which has gone into delivering this superb whisky, which, quite rightly, is now really beginning to impact the market place. Again, we are particularly proud to be a small part of this story. We just say: Scotland beware!

P.S. Tours of Cotswolds Distillery are up and running again, and also highly recommended. But you need to book in advance.

El Maltico!

Last, but far from least, “The Maltmen” have been playing some very good football this season, maintaining position close to the top of the league – 5th at the moment, and only 3 points behind the leaders. Their last match, two Saturdays ago, was against Devizes, who are sponsored by Wadworth Brewery. So, from the outset, this match was seen as the local ‘El Clasico’ event, the Maltsters versus the Brewers. Warminster won 6 – 0, so the outcome was dubbed ‘El Maltico’!

It might be dangerous for me to suggest this, but I wonder if, unconsciously, ‘the Maltmen’ are being spurred on by the ladies team? You see, the question our high scoring lady footballers ask themselves each time they walk out onto the pitch, is not whether they are going to win or not, it is by how many goals are they going to win? Their top score so far is 15 – 0! They are also top of their league. This cannot possibly have gone unnoticed by the chaps.

Robin Appel

Edition 30: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Edition 30: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Shaking off those “Malt and Barley Blues”

“Malt and Barley Blues” is the title of a song recorded by a pop band named McGuinness Flint, back in 1971. I am not sure if it charted or not, in my opinion it didn’t deserve to. It was nothing to do with making and selling malt, of course, rather more to do with the implications of an excessive alcohol intake.

But that title might easily be imposed on all of us beavering away at Warminster Maltings. We have had the momentum behind our newly branded sales campaign kicked away from underneath us. Any certainty about our immediate future is constantly threatened – Boris has said he will shut the pubs if it will keep the schools open. And we are now witnessing a disappointing malting barley harvest, with many bespoke crops coming off the fields with a specification way outside anything a brewer or distiller could even contemplate. “Malt and Barley Blues”? We could be forgiven for having this written all over our faces. Except it isn’t!

 

Quite the opposite, in fact. We had a very busy July, peaking at weekly sales figures that we would have been happy with back in January/February. August has, as expected, tapered off a little. But as people gain more confidence to go out and about, if we could be blessed with “an Indian summer” there is a possibility our sales could maintain well into the autumn, by which time everyone will be planning for Christmas, we hope. And as for the harvest, like last year, most of the best malting barley crops are in the south. As this is our main procurement area, we regard this as particularly fortunate.

But not only that, we are overwhelmed at the number of new enquiries we are receiving every week, mostly from overseas. We have always had them, of course, but mostly from organisations trawling the international markets for new sources of cheap malt. Not any more for us, it seems, these new enquiries I am talking about appear to be targeted directly at Warminster Maltings, because they are more particular about what they want. They want ‘floor made’ (almost unique to us), Maris Otter (my variety) and/or Organic (my grain company is the market leader for sourcing this). And, underlining my perception, we have begun to convert these enquiries into orders.

So, as we battle on, we live to fight another day. We take each week as it comes, and rejoice in any good fortune that manifests itself before Friday. You see, not so much “The Malt and Barley Blues”, more a case of “Land of Hope and Glory”! Talking of which…

…Another Visit from the BBC 

We have had them a number of times before – Countryfile, Michael Portillo’s Railway Journeys, Sheila Dillon’s Food Programme, to name but a few. And we have had Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today’ programme before, and almost certainly on exactly the same theme, the “the passage of barley to beer”. Regardless, as the son of a newspaper editor, I firmly believe in the adage that All publicity is good publicity!

 

 

Rebecca Rooney questioning me on Four Bottom

Rebecca Rooney, interviewing me this time for ‘Farming Today’, expected our conversation to be broadcast this week. It will be edited down to no more than 2 minutes, so if you blink you will miss it. As well as wanting to understand the malting process, Rebecca was also particularly interested in Warminster Maltings widespread commitment to arranging bespoke crops of barley for individual breweries and distilleries. She regarded the 3-way engagement with the individual farmers involved as particularly progressive. Even more so in light of all the uncertainty facing farmers as the impact of revised farm support, post Brexit, takes effect.

If that message is broadcast, I suspect my inbox is going to be bombarded by farmers everywhere wanting a slice of this action. However, what I would like them to quietly understand is, if their enquiry should happen to bring a brewery or distillery along with it, they will be told, up front, the answer is “Yes”…what is the question?

 

The Maltmen are Back!  

Warminster Town F.C., sponsored by Warminster Maltings, are back on the field. They have played a handful of ‘friendly’s’ in August as part of their training programme, and their first league match, against at home, is on Saturday, September 5th. Supporters are allowed in, up to 300, provided they remain socially distanced around the margins of the field. And, socially even more important, “Maltings Gold” is back on the bar!!

The other good news is our Maltings Gold badging now features on a new ladies team. Warminster Town Ladies are playing mostly on Sunday afternoon’s, but they played a match last Tuesday evening, against Shaftesbury, and they won! And they didn’t just win, they won 7 – 1! Look out ‘Maltmen’!

“Warminster Town’s Golden Girls – photograph courtesy of Martin Smith” 

There used to be a ladies team years ago, so this is not completely new, but the resurrection of a valuable contribution to the club.

The football pitch itself has been maintained in superb condition all summer, and the clubhouse is enjoying something of a makeover. So if you are free on a Saturday afternoon, do go and give a shout for “the Maltmen”. We like to imagine a shout for them is partly a shout for us at the Maltings, and we acknowledge that, because, it all helps to lift and maintain moral in these strange and challenging times.

Robin Appel