It’s November…

…And so it is the beginning of the new malting season, & a step change at Warminster Maltings on different fronts. First of all The Good News: as we say farewell to the 2021 crop barleys, we set about the fresh 2022 crop. And what a crop we have from this latest harvest – the quality is so good, I struggle to recall when we last had barleys as good as these.

We are talking about bold and heavy barley grains, less than 12% moisture (very safe in store), grain nitrogen at the perfect mid point, 1.50 – 1.60%, and bursting with germinative energy. These barleys are absolutely designed to make ‘tip top’ quality malt!

But we have to be careful. Our maltsters describe these barleys as almost ‘wild’, they have so much “get up and go”. But, of course, this is where our hand made process comes into its own. Each batch of barley-to-malt, individually and skillfully managed, to achieve optimum performance.

Then, The Not So Good News: we have to recalculate our Price List.

The outset of the War in Ukraine had an immediate and direct impact on the world’s grain markets, very quickly pushing up prices by over £150.00 per tonne. Markets have eased back a little since, 43 but they sit poised on a knife edge, dependant on the ‘safe corridor for shipping’ into the Black Sea. Every week there is debate about whether Mr Putin will prevent this, and at the time of writing, he is ‘suspending’ shipments, although they continue to sail.

So, even at £100.00 per tonne more for barley than last year, malt prices have to go up by £125.00 per tonne, and that is before the cost of energy, transport and wages are taken into consideration. It appears to be no secret that some maltsters are facing a five fold increase in their energy costs, which, if they seek to pass all of that on, will equate to an additional substantial increase in the price of their malt. This is all very heady stuff!

But we should try and put this all into context. For every £100.00 per tonne on the malt price, that is only approximately 1p on a pint of beer. That is nothing compared to the increase in beer prices much talked about – 50p per pint, or even the £7.00 pint! I am sure the latter can all be justified, but all I want to say is: don’t blame the maltster! Our contribution to this inflation is only a small fraction of the total. And don’t blame the farmer either, in this country he has absolutely no influence over world grain prices. We are all victims of globalisation, a great concept, that is until events/someone puts a spoke in the wheel!

Mentioned in Dispatches

Our Brewer customers are regularly and deservedly picking up Awards for their beers, both from regional competitions and those held on the international stage. If we rarely choose to record these in this Newsletter, it is not because we do not acknowledge their achievements, we do, and we are proud of them. But it would become an endless list, month after month, which is not the intention of this editorial.

Even so, and we are not complaining, we rarely, if ever, get a mention, let alone any credit, in the publicity that surrounds these Awards. So when we do, that has to be a very good reason for singling the achievement.

However, the occasion I refer to, is not an Award for beer, but a particularly prestigious Award, for a loaf of bread!

The Lovingly Artisan Bakery in Kendal, Cumbria, has just won the ‘Best Speciality Bread Product’ in the Baking Industry Awards. They scooped this trophy with their Malted Barley Sourdough Tin Loaf (you can order it online).

Their press release states

“…we’re so proud of our Malted Barley loaf. It’s made using malted brewers’ barley from Warminster Maltings, the oldest traditional Maltings in England – a super ingredient that takes the flavour, texture and goodness of this hard-working hero bread up to 11”.

“A super ingredient” indeed! Thank-you Aidan Monks and Catherine Connor at Lovingly Artisan Bakery for those generous words. I am quoting their words in the hope that they may transmit
across to some in the brewing sector.

Warminster Town F.C.

“The Malt-Men” have new strip this year, although this photograph only shows one change, the pale blue ‘away’ shirts. On the backs of each shirt, across their shoulders, the words “Malt-Stars’ has been added, but too small to easily read from the touch line. That is not what I envisaged when I requested this, but perhaps it is as well. The press quote “The Malt-Men”, an unexpected consequence of our sponsorship deal with the club, and we are delighted with that.

The first team had an inauspicious start to the season, having lost several of last season’s star players in “the transfer season”! However, they have now regrouped, and are back into winning form again, winning 19 points from 10 matches, David Parry, chairman, advises me. They are now 13th in the league, with two games in hand against most of those teams ahead of them. So, there is a very good chance they will be chasing the top spots by the New Year.

Even more special, on 22nd October, the Ladies Team won their FA Cup tie against Bristol Rovers. That’s special! It occurs to me we need to somehow persuade the local Press to dub the Ladies as “The Malt-Stars”, then I would know exactly how to redesign next year’s strip.

Meanwhile, if you live locally, and you are into football, do try and wend your way up Weymouth Street on a Saturday afternoon, and support our footballers. They are doing a great job in putting our town on the map, a great success story, particularly amid what appears to be so much failure elsewhere in the world.

Robin Appel