At Last…Our Virtual Tour!

Hey ho! We can, at last, invite you to have a virtual tour of our very traditional malting process. The short (6 minutes) film has now been uploaded and here is a link for you to see it.

It seems to have taken forever to complete this project, the main stumbling block being my walk on parts, and my ability to look the same at the beginning and the end, despite being filmed 6 months apart.

We are talking about my need to get a haircut in between! Having made most of the film in October/November last year, we had to wait for the sunshine to return in order to capture the final scenes.

The problem then, was, that we might have transformed our gentle documentary into a Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde horror movie, me standing there, second time around, with 4 months growth on my napper!

Freshly shorn, we filmed the scene in brilliant sunshine on April 22nd, only to have to do it all over again the following week just before it started to rain. But we got there in the end.

We are hugely indebted to Jasper Williams at Juice Factory Design, whose great skill with modern technology has put this film together for us. Jasper has also produced a slightly more comprehensive version for our US market. Our agents over there, LD Carlson Company, are very pleased with what we have achieved for them. Now we have started down this road, we are already thinking about what, and where, we are going next.

The Challenges of Forecasting…

Throughout April, sales of our malts have improved markedly. Brewers are responding to demand from pubs (with outside spaces) following the April 12th reopening. However, it seems, what nobody really predicted was the gorgeous sunshine, which has meant those pubs have been enormously popular, so popular that some of them even ran out of beer! All this despite near freezing temperatures in the evenings.

Well, we certainly did not run out of malt, but demand has called for a rapid reset of our recent working patterns, almost back to normal hours. And the Maltsters are so much happier, well, everyone is, of course.

There is a suggestion that this lovely weather is set to continue for some time. Add this to ‘Staycation’, and the fact that since this time last year so many more people have discovered Craft Beer, we are trying to weigh up what this all means in terms of malt demand, going forward.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), CAMRA, and others are all promoting a catchy little slogan “Craft is back, so back Craft”. I think it sounds like we are going to be very busy. That will be a nice change!

…and Broadcasting!

On Wednesday 21st April, Maggie Dee, a presenter on Warminster Radio, invited me to be interviewed on her programme ‘Maggie in the Mix’. Each day, Maggie tries to interview “a Warminster person of interest”, and she was given my name. But…the interview, over the telephone, was not to be about the Maltings, it had to be about me!

One minute before I was due to be on, Maggie phoned – I was at home in Hampshire. Maggie was calling on a telephone from an office at the Radio Station, and she was crystal clear. Then she said, I am just going to transfer to the studio telephone, whereupon it was as though her voice was 100 meters away. I could now only hear the sound of Maggie’s voice, not the words that she was speaking.

So, my answer to Maggie’s first question was “I cannot hear you Maggie”. Clearly Maggie did not hear me either, because, she failed to react to this, and nothing changed. Luckily, ahead of the interview, I had been sent a list of the sort of questions Maggie intended to ask, so I was more or less able to guess each question from the odd word I managed to pick up.

I do not suppose we had that many listeners, but when my response to one of her questions was “I first got involved in the Barley trade at the age of four”, those listeners might have thought they too were having problems with their hearing. My answer was no exaggeration, and I did go on to explain.

None of our encounters with broadcasting from the Maltings have ever gone without a hitch. Most notably, and it is a few years ago now, was Michael Portillo’s Victorian Railway Journeys. Michael and his team travelled to Warminster by rail, of course, but when they got off the train, they managed to leave the film camera behind!

I think I should probably stick to the written (printed) word.

Present Champion…

Congratulations to Rick Lyall of Frome Brewing Company Ltd, who has just been awarded a Double Gold Medal at the European Beer Challenge 2021 for his Triple IPA, appropriately named “You Can Call Me V”.

All made with Warminster’s finest Maris Otter Malt. We have been claiming that our malt is just getting better and better, and Rick has just gone out there and offered us the best endorsement we could wish for. Thank you Rick. What’s next?

…Absent Monarch.

I have ‘a bee in my bonnet’ about the absence of traditional Maltings in our national culture. If I can draw an analogy with Watermills, for example, which appear everywhere. From George Eliot’s literary masterpiece, “The Mill on the Floss; to John Constable’s iconic paintings of mills, from Flatford Mill (Suffolk) to Parham Mill (Dorset); and Ronald Binge’s delightful musical composition “The Watermill”. But where are the Maltings?

The best that I have come across is Thomas Hardy’s fleeting inclusion of Warren’s Malthouse in “Far from the Madding Crowd”.

Yes, I suppose Benjamin Britten’s conversion of Snape Maltings, on the east Suffolk coast, into an outstanding concert hall, acts as some sort of beacon, but I doubt it raises many question about the Maltings former life.

But on the other hand, barley, and occasionally malt, pops up all over the place. From A E Houseman’s

“…and malt does more than Milton can,
to justify God’s ways to man.”

to Sting’s evocative song “Among the Fields of Barley”. So, forgive me for reproducing the following poem from a recent multi award winning book “All Among the Barley” by Melissa Harrison. It conjures up some of the enormous stature that barley (and malt) should command, in my view. It is why I am so disappointed that Maltings, and/or the malting process itself, as far as I am aware, has not captured more attention in the past.

“The Spring she is a young maid who does not know her mind,
The Summer is a tyrant of a most ungracious kind.
But the Autumn is an old friend that does the best he can
to reap the golden barley, and cheer the heart of man.

All among the barley, oh who would not be blithe,
when the free and happy barley is smiling on the scythe!
The wheat, he’s like a rich man, all sleek and well to do,
the oats, they are a pack of girls, all lithe and dancing too;
the rye is like a miser, he’s sulky, lean and small,
but the free and golden barley is the monarch of them all.

All among the barley, oh who would not be blithe,
when the free and happy barley is smiling on the scythe.”

Well, at least, “the free and happy barley” is pouring through our Maltings again, and with pubs about to open properly once more, even, if we are lucky, without ‘safe distancing’ marring the experience. Perhaps then, we, too, will all be smiling.

Stay safe and enjoy this lovely summer.

Robin Appel