I would like to begin on behalf of all the team at Warminster Maltings, by sending you our Very Best Wishes for the New Year!
In particular to all our customers, because, based on all the most recent reports published and broadcast, we are facing a particularly difficult start to the next 12 months. But, at Warminster Maltings, we will not be fazed by this, and we most sincerely hope neither will you.
However, if there is anything we can do to help along the way, please do not hesitate to ask. Of course, we are not bankers, but if you would like to bring your team, or even customers, to visit our Maltings, we will be more than happy to oblige. Or if we can help with editorial, or website material/graphics, you only have to ask. Or any other ideas that you might have, just pick up the telephone.
Together, we can overcome the ‘headwinds’ we keep being reminded of, and perhaps more easily than it may at first seem.
Quite the Best Value Malt that Money Can Buy!
At the end of November we introduced our 2023 Price List to all of our customers. For the second year in a row this was all about a significant price increase, once again caused by the inflation in world grain markets, this time triggered by the war in Ukraine.
It amounted to a price increase for most of our customers of 10-12%. But it seems this increase is quite modest when compared to the increases broadcast by our very much bigger competitors, who have announced price rises that appear to range from 28-40%! These more substantial price increases are a direct result of huge rises in the cost of energy, something that so far has had only a minimal impact at Warminster Maltings. What this all adds up to is, we, whose prices are normally a bit more expensive than our competitors, now appear to compete directly ‘head to head’ with the giants of the industry!
So this is a message to all those brewers who would prefer, but think they cannot afford, ‘floor made’ malt. All of a sudden, now you can.
There is no question, ‘floor made’ malt is better than pneumatic production. ‘Floor made’ stretches back centuries, and the new technology which has succeeded it was never about an improvement in quality, it was really all about, and just about, the economics.
Back at the end of the 19th century when the malting industry first began experimenting with alternative methods to ‘floor malting’, both revolving drums and air conditioned boxes, the then leading maltsters concluded the alternative methods “could not produce the high quality malt demanded by brewers”. So they subsequently went back to building even larger and more spectacular ‘floor’ Maltings. Witness Robert Free’s grand Malthouse on the quayside at Mistley in Essex (one of seven in the town, now converted to flats), and Bass, the brewer, whose ‘floor Maltings’ at Sleaford, Lincolnshire, completed in 1906, was in a class of its own – eight blocks of Malt floors, each six stories high, with a 1000 ft frontage. Testimony to all this, the last floor Maltings to be built in Britain was as late as 1952, in Grantham, almost 100 years after Warminster Maltings.
The beginning of the end of large scale ‘floor made’ malt was the early 1960’s, led by Associated British Maltsters (ABM) who began building their cathedral-like pneumatic Maltings across the southern half of England. This, of course, all coincided with the industrialisation of food and drink and the arrival of the supermarket. Need I say more?
Leading U.K. ‘Floor Maltster’, 1961 advertising campaign.
Will anyone build a new floor Maltings today? I very much doubt it. Warminster is one of only three still operating in England, and there are six more in Scotland, all of those north of the border being part of long established distilleries, producing some of the finest ‘single malts’!
So there you have it. Warminster Malt is not only a very exclusive product, it is also a unique opportunity to experience probably “the best brewing malt that money can buy”!
The Changing Face of the High Street
Analysis revealed by the BBC at the beginning of December, has highlighted that over the two years of Covid lockdowns, there were marked changes to the face of the British High Street.
As we have all witnessed, banks and department stores have all but disappeared, but instead beauty salons and tattoo parlours, along with more places to eat and drink, have quietly crept in. What it amounts to is the High Street is transforming itself from a place to buy things into a place to, how shall I put it, to entertain or be entertained?
But what stands out in this report for me, based on data from the Ordnance Survey, post Covid there are now “700 more pubs and bars” on our High Streets than there were before, along with cafes, tea rooms and fast-food outlets. The evidence to support this in Warminster is the reopening of two pubs in the town centre, both of which had been shut for most of the last 3 years.
All we ever read about is the pubs that are closing; a lot of this publicity deliberately highlighted and targeted at the government by industry bodies lobbying for support. So it is refreshing to see another side of the story. Of course, this news may be of little consolation to the village pub which is struggling, but on the other hand, perhaps therein there lies a message.
But this report should be good news for our Brewer customers. Invariably, as one door closes another one opens!
Work on our final restoration project is painfully slow, simply because the small team of carpenters and joiners we require at the present stage are only able to give us 2-3 days work each week. This team has come to our rescue when the original contractors walked out after just two days – they either decided they had ‘bitten off more than they could chew’, or they were lured away by more lucrative rewards elsewhere. So our present team kindly shoe-horned us into other existing commitments, and we are extremely grateful to them.
More than that, studying the workmanship going into our kiln structures, I believe that, once again, fate has served us particularly well. This woodwork is quite magnificent, and a true replica of what we believe was the original structure, so as authentic as we can make it.
There is no intention of firing up these kilns another day, we do not have the infrastructure to load, or unload them, or the personnel to operate them. Besides, anthracite fired Malt kilns pose a fire risk to the whole Maltings structure. It was back in 1924 when more than half the Maltings complex was destroyed by a fire that was almost certainly precipitated by one of these kilns malfunctioning. It was a common occurrence across the whole of the industry at the time. Our then proprietor, Dr Beaven, was unfazed by events, and immediately set about rebuilding. A similar setback today would probably have a very different outcome imposed upon us, sat, as we are now, right in the middle of a residential area!
…a great picture taken just before Christmas by one of our customers, Corinium Ales at Cirencester. The sledge is their own, I am not aware our hauliers are carrying them, yet.
A Very Happy New Year to You All.