Happy New Year!
As we look forward to the next 12 months, it is perhaps worth looking back on the last 12. At Warminster Maltings we have done a little bit better than just keeping the company afloat, we have continued to invest in the longer-term prospects for the business. I would like, in particular, to highlight the following:
Our standout achievement – more flavour, even higher extracts!
This is partly down to something I have referred to before, namely, a study of the ‘floor malting’ process back in the 1920’s, when this discipline was at its peak of production and peak of perfection. We uncovered two or three procedures, long lost, but now incorporated into our own:
Leaving the lights on at night on the germination floors: this stimulates an improved daily rate of modification in the germinating barley. All the floors have been fitted with carefully selected new LED lights which give off minimal heat. The lack of heat is most important, particularly in the summer months.
‘Folding the floors’ on Day 5: we do this during the winter months only, when on the fifth night on the germination floors, we double the thickness of the ‘green malt’ by shovelling one half on top of the other. It helps to make absolutely sure of the last two per cent of modification (maximum extract).
Spraying the ‘green malt’ onto the kiln: our new kiln spinner delivers a whole new dimension to the curing process of our malts. When loading the kiln, instead of 3 maltsters tramping all over the ‘green malt’ (compressing it) in order to create a level bed on the wedge wire floor, our new kiln spinner, with its variable speed motor, does it for us. It now only requires one maltster to trim the corners of the kiln space at the outset of loading, and the kiln spinner does the rest.
I am so proud of 3.) above. We had no drawings, no photographs, just the requirement for our ‘green malt’ to land gently on the kiln floor and to remain in this almost ‘fluffy’ state.
It involved the fabrication of x3 prototype spinners before we got it right, finally re-fabricating the third prototype in stainless steel prior to fitting. This feature is a great tribute to the ingenuity and skill of our long term engineers, Trevor Nash Installations, who only had my ‘concept’ as a brief to work with. Where would we be without Trevor?
But I must add, along with these additional techniques, undoubtedly the maltsters themselves have also raised their game. I can see that for myself, that they are more protective of each batch of malt, and particularly jubilant when the finished malt delivers an especially high specification.
We have continued to add them to our portfolio.
Because of all the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, from the outset in 2020 we had to forget all about chasing after new business, albeit it we needed to expand our output. So, instead, we had to rely on our website, social media, and advertising, to generate new enquiries. And they did! We are hugely indebted to Jasper Williams of Juice Factory who created and manages all this for us. Where would we be without Jasper?
And the new enquiries continued to come in throughout 2021, and with the same conversion rate. In fact across the last two years we have managed to grow the business by 35%, both customers and volume. Now, with more new projects in the offing, and when ‘hospitality’ returns to its full potential, we could very quickly find ourselves at the limit of our production capacity.
But we are not complacent – I have always had an abiding rule for business: when you think you are ahead, you change up a gear!
Back in the Spring we decided it was time to refurbish our laboratory.
This facility was originally established in early 2004, following our very first restoration project creating our offices and reception. Of course, it has had a lot of use since then, and it started to look very tired. As well as a coat of paint, it needed new work tops, some new equipment, and a new floor. We gave Andy Gardner, our valuable lab technician, an open brief – it is his space, and it needs to be right for him.
The new floor had to be laid first, and it was ordered, to be fitted in August. It arrived in November! Or, at least, four fifths of it did, the last stretch was laid just before Christmas.
We are now all up and running again. We have a brand new ‘mashing in’ bar, which came from Germany, complete with installation instructions all written in German!
Our laboratory is very much on display to our customers, because, despite, our very traditional method of making malt, the process still commands the most sophisticated support. All our malt products have to be underscored by strict specifications set by the brewing, distilling and malting industries, and what is more, many established in the light of all-new technology.
At long last, our final Restoration Project has begun.
It was due to begin in April 2020! Our current Planning Permission is to re-instate the original ‘pyramid roofs’ on Kilns 3 and 4, and, regardless, our final deadline for beginning the work was before December 7th, 2021.
These roofs were originally ‘pyramid’ but were transformed into ordinary pitched roofs following a major fire back in November 1924. The then proprietor, Dr. E.S. Beaven, chose to create his own new design for the replacement kilns. The traditional ‘pyramid’, necessary to establish enough draught for the furnace, was partly replaced by a motorised extractor fan set in the outer wall of each kiln, backed up by a simple slatted vent along the apex of a conventional pitched roof. Perfectly practical, probably more efficient, but architecturally dull.
The spaces under these two kiln roofs are just that, spaces, quite empty spaces. The current work includes a new access to these spaces via an outer staircase, modelled on those staircases which are such a feature of the famous Snape Maltings, in Suffolk.
When we have completed this work, the ‘spaces’ will still be empty, because they offer no practical purpose, as they stand, at least as far as the production of malt is concerned. So, we are currently engaged in a feasibility study to see if we could convert them into a viable Visitor Centre. It is all part of what I continue to see as my responsibility, to try and share this valuable heritage site with a wider public.
No doubt, as this final restoration project progresses, the opportunity it will present to us will become a lot more visible and measurable. Watch this space!
The Warminster team remain the same, undaunted,& even more determined.
Their commitment, determination, dedication, and overall appreciation of our Maltings all combine to underwrite our place in both the U.K. and wider malt markets, our unique position in the UK’s brewing heritage, our contribution to the town, and, most important, our long-term future. I do my best to continuously express my gratitude.
The ‘Maltmen’ are enjoying a spectacular season!
Warminster Town’s footballers, otherwise known as ‘The Maltmen’, are enjoying a spectacular season to date, as I write, unbeaten in the last 12 games. Currently, they are a very strong 2nd in Division 1 of the Toolstation Western League, having steadily closed down an early established lead by Welton Rovers. The gap is now down to just 3 points!
Boxing Day witnessed a very particular local derby, Warminster’s Maltmen away to Devizes (the brewers), a match that is now firmly dubbed “el maltico” (after “el clasico” – e.g. Real Madrid v. Barcelona), not just by the fans, but also by the media. I am reliably informed that “el maltico” was all over Wiltshire Radio in the run up to the match. And Warminster won! And they won again on Saturday (January 3rd).
I have referred to this before, the unforeseen consequences of our sponsorship deal with Warminster Town Football Club. We thought it was enough to create the beer brand ‘Maltings Gold’, precipitating both the badge for the football shirts, and, equally important, a source of refreshment from the clubhouse bar on Weymouth Street.
But to have the fans then label the team “The Maltmen”, and then acclaim the Devizes derby as “el maltico”, has been quite beyond anything we could have ever imagined at the outset.
It has truly turned out to be a marketing triumph (who needs the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi?). And now we have a potential league champion, to boot! I can only hope this is an omen for our fortunes from the production of malt itself.
Onwards and Upwards!
So, we begin 2022 with much more optimism than one year ago. But I will say no more than that, because prediction is a hostage to fortune these days. We will, for the time being, continue to take each day, and each week as it comes, ensuring that, at the very least, here at Warminster Maltings the coming year will be another one of yet further achievement.
Wishing all our Friends a Very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.