Edition 27: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Edition 27: Friends of Warminster Maltings

FRIENDS of WARMINSTER MALTINGS

Storm Ciara obviously received word that in three or four months time we planned to replace the dilapidated roofs of the former coal fired kilns 3 and 4. So on Sunday evening, 9th February, ‘she’ decided to give us a helping hand. ‘She’ stripped the northern slope of kiln 3, clean off, all the tiles and the battens. But unfortunately, dumped it on the metal roof next door, severely buckling many of the roof panels.

 

One of our maltsters was ploughing the adjacent floor when it happened, and he reported it sounded like a bomb had exploded – one enormous bang! Our roofing contractors, Chalke Valley Roofing, from Salisbury, very quickly came to our rescue and made the roof weather proof ahead of Storm Dennis.

 

The Maltings has survived far worse in it’s time, but if we are to be continually ravaged by these Atlantic storms, thank heavens we have done so much to protect our structures already. As I indicated in the last Newsletter, this last roofing project is all good to go, Storm Ciara was just a little premature in ‘her’ intervention. But hopefully by the time Storm Willow arrives, all this work will be done.

ALL CHANGE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

With all that has happened on a wider context in the last month, I am sure it is not unreasonable to embark on this New Year with more than a little optimism. So I highlight a few stories from late 2019, which for me at least, help to underpin my own sense of “better things to come” within the malting and brewing industry:-

 

But hats off to our team, they are more than up to the challenge, adjusting their practices on a daily basis. For anyone who has spotted the lights on in the malt houses at 2.00am, this is because ploughing of the floors has been necessary at that time in order to keep the ‘modification’ of the green malt perfectly on track.

 

100 years ago, the problem would have been all about how to keep enough warmth in the maltings. That, despite four coal fired kilns, sat firmly amidships, burning flat out 24/7. When the warmer weather came along in May, of course, these kilns would then have made the temperatures on the floors quite untenable. That is why, in those days, production then stopped, and did not restart until October.

Today, we have to maintain production all the year round…and just get used to opening and shutting those windows on a daily basis!

NEW CAR PARK

When I first arrived in Pound Street in 2001, street parking alongside the Maltings was never an issue. I could park where I like, when I liked. Not anymore!

 

It was 4 or 5 years ago when we had to request restricted parking (single yellow line) on the front of Pound Street, in order to load lorries and maintain access for our fork lift trucks. Now, all manner of cars and vans are parked all day and again all night on the opposite side of the road. Some mornings our HGV’s cannot get up Pound Street, and if they can, sometimes they cannot get back down again. It is all down to thoughtless parking of vehicles, without any regard for the restricted access this creates.

Regardless, we feel we have to do our bit to overcome this congestion, so we have dug out the grass bank along Cobbett Place, moved our boundary fence just inside the edge of the pavement, and created 10 car parking spaces on our property. We would like to think this will alleviate the problem of parking on the street. But I suspect it won’t. In time, it will just ‘suck in’ another dozen vehicles from nearby streets, desperate for somewhere to park. If so, that will probably mean we have to resort to more yellow lines!

DEMAND ACROSS THE POND

January and February are traditionally quieter months for malt demand, and this year has been no exception. But March is turning out to be particularly busy. As well as a larger than previous month’s domestic demand for malt, we are loading 5 containers for the US craft beer market. American craft brewers like Maris Otter barley in particular, which they can only buy as malt from the UK. The craft beer market in the US continues to claw in an expanding market share.

 

American beer lovers are very keen on British beer styles, in particular India Pale Ale (IPA) and Mild Ale (both of which they prefer to serve straight from the fridge!). So it is not surprising that in order to replicate these, they feel they need to indulge themselves with the authentic malts. And “indulge” must be the right word, because by the time these malts reach them, they are far from cheap.

 

Anyway, ours is not to reason why, ours is to join all our fellow UK maltsters in helping to satisfy this demand. We just hope that Mr Trump does not confuse malt with ‘single malts’, which he is currently penalising. On the other hand, some of the Distillers who produce the most iconic single malts, say Mr Trump’s intervention has only served to fuel demand! So perhaps we shouldn’t worry, either way. We will just go on gratefully accepting the orders, when they come along.

 

Robin Appel

 

Edition 26: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Edition 26: Friends of Warminster Maltings

FRIENDS of WARMINSTER MALTINGS

May I begin by welcoming a whole new raft of potential readers – we have added all Warminster Maltings’ customers, both brewers and distillers, to the circulation of this bi-monthly newsletter. I hope they find it of some interest.

BEYOND 100 DAYS

This first Newsletter of the New Year (New Decade) is only my second since taking over the manager’s desk, so I suppose, to pick up on politicians parlance, I should begin by reporting on my “first 100 days” in (the) office.

Looking back to those early days in September, at first it was quite daunting, tense, at times bewildering, exciting, and, I am pleased to say, rewarding. At the Maltings I have quite an exceptional team around me, and I am now reassured that, also, I do have an outstanding portfolio of customers, most of whom recognize Warminster Maltings for what it is, and the value of the malts that we make. I am also very lucky that the 2019 harvest delivered some top quality barleys from which we are now drawing all of our raw material going forward.

So what have I/we achieved so far? Well, I believe, in the office at least, we all now understand the numbers and we have costed and created a new 2020 Price List for our Malts. Not only that, we have shared this with all of our customers, mostly via phone calls, in the first instance, and e-mails, securing contracts for the next 12 months. I have visited a dozen customers, just for starters, both distilleries and breweries, all the way from Yorkshire to South Dorset, and I have won a few new accounts. I am also engaging with potentially new outlets in the Czech Republic, Spain, Australia, North America and Mexico.

Alongside all this, we have also tapped into what looks like a renewed interest around the world in Organic Beers. This is coming from some of the major brands, who, perhaps, are seeing this as a way of fighting back over the widely reported findings of pesticide (glyphosate) residues (at very safe levels) in their beers. Warminster Maltings is one of only three UK Maltsters with Organic accreditation.

We are responding to all this support and emerging opportunity by rebadging ourselves to reflect the new era of Warminster Maltings that I and my team now represent. For those who live locally, you will see our new company sign at the entrance off Cobbett Place. This image is being replicated right across all our new publicity material and, particularly, our new website, due to go live on January 17th.

Then, finally, and much to my relief, each month we appear to be recording a modest profit. Our bankers will be pleased!

A NEW DECADE!

With all that has happened on a wider context in the last month, I am sure it is not unreasonable to embark on this New Year with more than a little optimism. So I highlight a few stories from late 2019, which for me at least, help to underpin my own sense of “better things to come” within the malting and brewing industry:-

Pubs Opening!

Some good news from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) at the beginning of December. For the first time in 10 years, at the end of March 2019, there was a nett gain of 320 pubs over 12 months, in the race between pub closures and pub openings/re-openings. This change can be put down to a number of factors, including:

  • Pubs broadening their appeal.
  • Help for some landlords with business rates.
  • Some pubs being saved from unnecessary closure by being designated Assets of Community Value (ACV’s).

Craft Brewery Numbers Declining?

Within the Craft Brewing sector, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) reports a decline in membership, which almost certainly reflects a drop in Craft Brewery numbers for the first time. Many in the industry, particularly those who have been there a long time, will welcome this, as the market place has probably got far too crowded for it’s own good. However…

Craft Beer Forges On!

Craft Beer continues to be the fastest growing category within the Beer Sector! But we must still heed change. When we focus on consumer habits going forward, we now have to kiss goodbye to the ‘millennials’ and instead pitch our forecasts around ‘Generation Z’ (currently under 22 years). We are told this new generation will be drinking less, but better! Mintel, the market analyst, tells us consumer trends highlight growing demand for “genuine products with heritage and provenance, a hand-crafted nature, and trusted values”!

I think Warminster Malt probably ticks all of those boxes!

And then there is… …Probiotic Beer??

Some of you might have spotted this story in the press at the beginning of December. The headline in my paper ran “Raise a glass to the beer that’s good for your gut”. Apparently, researchers on the Continent have discovered some beers that are bursting with probiotic microbes, the bacteria and yeast credited with a host of health benefits.

Of course, we have been here before, back in 2018 (Edition 17) I referred to an exhibit we have here at the Maltings, a Price List from Henry Morgan’s Brewery, Warminster, dated 1883, which advertises their “AK Family Pale” (Ale), at just “one shilling a gallon”, and, interestingly, “…recommended by the Medical Profession for family use”! No doubt there was some substance to that.

So I ran this latest story passed one of our brewer customers for comment. He was very quick to point out that any story that suggested beer was good for your health ran the risk of getting into trouble with the Portman Group, the organization established by the drinks industry in 1989, to ensure drinks are marketed in a socially responsible way. But…
…he went on to point out that beers containing live yeast – draft ale from a cask, and “bottle conditioned” beers, particularly those of a lower ABV – almost certainly imparted benefits for the gut, but strictly subject to modest consumption, of course.

So what is modest consumption? According to my press article of early December – one glass a day! Mine’s a pint.

“THE MALTMEN”.

I am delighted to report that Warminster Town, our local football team which Warminster Maltings sponsor, are not just referred to on the field by their new name, but they are now headlined in the press as the “Maltmen” (Wiltshire Times, 22/11/2019).

And headlines they deserve, because they have been winning quite a lot of their matches of late. Until last Saturday, 11th January, the 4th Round of the prestigious F A Vase. Again they were winning, 1 – 0 for most of the first 70 minutes against Bitton AFC (a whole league above them). But, having played their hearts out, they began to tire, left their defence wide open, and very quickly conceded 3 goals, losing 1 – 3. Never mind, dreams of Wembley will have to be put off for another year, while they concentrate on a strong finish in the league. Long live the Maltmen!

FINALLY, 40! …AND STILL COUNTING.

I cannot sign off without quietly pointing out that my other commercial venture, Robin Appel Ltd (grain merchant), has just celebrated it’s 40th birthday. Wednesday, 2nd January 1980, was the start date for what some said was a commercial undertaking against the odds. However, it is one which proved successful, and went on to precipitate my procurement of the rights to Maris Otter barley, which in turn led to my purchase of Warminster Maltings in 2001.

So further reason for celebration this year! And perhaps more next year, 2021, if I can meet the deadline I have set myself to complete the restoration of the Pound Street malthouses. The next and final restoration project is probably the most exciting yet, and it’s all on track, due to begin this summer, so watch this space!

A Very Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all.

Robin Appel

Edition 25: Friends of Warminster Maltings

Edition 25: Friends of Warminster Maltings

NEW MILESTONES FOR THE MALTINGS

Issue No.25 is something of a milestone for the “Friends of Warminster Maltings” initiative, the completion of 4 years of news bulletins emanating from this iconic malthouse.

But the other, perhaps more significant milestone, is that I am writing this Newsletter from behind the managers desk. Yes, I am now running Warminster Maltings myself and have already set about making some significant changes but utilising the collective talent of everybody here. I have had to postpone any retirement plans I had, and am now firmly in the driving seat, and in particular, responsible for malt sales!

This is a very interesting experience, because my knowledge of malt, and the science of malting and brewing, is not something I have ever had to get to grips with before. You can imagine my fear and trepidation when, at the end of September, I had to drive to Yorkshire to visit our biggest brewing customer, a very large brewery. I explained to the head brewer that I knew a little bit about barley, but a little bit less about malt, although I was trying very hard to widen my knowledge as quickly as possible. The interview appeared to go well, because by the time I had to leave the head brewer was offering to double my order (since confirmed)! I cannot imagine I will have too many ‘sales’ experiences as good as that one.

So, the milestone is now behind us, and a whole new era for the maltings is laid out ahead. We are already beginning to embrace this – a new office layout (all new office furniture), a new marketing campaign, and an ‘all inclusive’ management style. You will see little difference on the outside as you drive past, but on the inside the atmosphere is positively buzzing. It is all very exciting, and I will keep you posted on how we get on in the Newsletters to come.

 

WORLD CLASSS

Our last Newsletter (No 24) was headlined with the triumph of Surrey Hills Brewery, in Dorking, Surrey, winning the “Supreme Champion Beer of Britain 2019”, with its beer ‘Sheer Drop’, made from Warminster Malt. Shortly after that, Island Brewery, on the Isle of Wight, who also make all their beers with Warminster Malt, scooped up two gold medals in their respective classes in the UK round of judging, which propels them into the finals of the World Beer Awards.

The two beers that impressed the judges most are:-

  1. ‘Earl’s RDA’ (Rich Dark Ale), Island Brewery’s flagship beer, the name reflecting that every pint sold contributes to the island’s Earl Mountbatten Hospice.
  2. ‘Victoria of Wight’, a beer commissioned for Wightlink, for their new flagship ferry of the same name.

We will keep you posted on how these beers get on when pitched against the rest of the world, but since we are not, at this stage, aware of any other Warminster Malt based beers in this year’s World Beer Awards, we are not sure the rest of the world really stands much chance against Island Brewery!

 

CALENDAR BOY!

The Warminster initiative behind Cancer Research UK, tirelessly led by Jill McIvor, has, for its latest money raising campaign, decided to produce a 2020 Calendar. Each month depicts a Warminster personality (or two), all drawn in cartoon form by local cartoonist Julia Roberts. I am very flattered to have been invited to be “Mr July”!

It is all a lot of fun, and supports a particularly significant cause. The Calendar can be purchased for £6.00 each, and is available from:

  • Cordons Ironmongers
  • Deli 1
  • Silver Street Stores
  • The Organ Inn

But be quick, they are selling fast!

…AND FINALLY FOOTBALL

“Maltings Gold” sponsored’ Warminster Town are enjoying mixed fortunes so far this season. It seems to be a case of “win one, lose one”, the latter always against the run of play, of course! On Saturday 5th October, the team played an evening match in order to host a visit from the ‘Ground Hoppers’.

The ‘Ground Hoppers’ are a group of football fanatics, from all over the country, whose outstanding ambition in life is to spectate at as many different football grounds as possible. On this particular weekend they packed in 5 matches, on 5 different grounds, thanks to Warminster Town playing an evening game against ‘Bristol Telephones’.

Warminster Town lost 2 nil, against the run of play, again. But the Club still won, they had a gate of 370 spectators, by far the highest in their league. And the ‘Ground Hoppers’ appeared to love our beer “Maltings Gold”, according to ‘Twitter Feed’ they were very impressed with “the clubhouse, and its excellent cask ale!” They will take that message home, right across the country.

So once again, our “Maltings Gold” sponsorship deal appears to have been an inspired decision. If we can come up with a few more ideas like that going forward, this new era of the maltings could be very exciting for us, indeed!

 

Robin Appel