We continue to read in the press, or on our phones, the fragile state of our hospitality industry. Pub closures making the headlines, and industry bodies relentlessly plead with government to intervene.
However, data released in mid-April by SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) underlined the resilience of the U.K. Craft Brewing sector. In the first quarter of 2023 (Jan-Mar), there was a net loss of just four breweries, out of a total of 1,824 recorded U.K. brewing companies. To put this into proper context, we are talking about no more than 13 Craft Brewery closures, counterbalanced by 9 openings. In the face of a reported loss of 150 pubs in the same period, this says a lot about the appeal of Craft Beer compared to the bland brands of the multinationals!
At Warminster, we can endorse these findings. All of our ‘active’ accounts on our database are ordering malt from us, but perhaps not quite as much as we would expect, or quite as often. But all our customers are continuing to forge ahead.
However, against our current shortfall, we continue to open new accounts, and it is helping to make up the difference. We are talking about new accounts with established breweries who have formerly bought their malt elsewhere, as well as a number of ‘renewed’ accounts for breweries who have decided to come back to us. In all these cases, the motivation for originally by-passing us, or leaving us, was the price of the malt. We know this because they have told us so. But I think I can confidently claim in all these cases, the motivation for turning to us, or returning to us, now, is the quality of the malt!
How satisfying this all is. I have been “banging on” about the importance of the quality of malt forever! Malt is not widgets! Malt is not a very standard product from a very standard production line. It is far, far more sophisticated than that!
Malt is the most important brewing ingredient, and the malting process is just as magical as any other part of the brewing cycle. The finest malting barleys in the world are grown on our own doorstep, and therein perhaps lies the problem. Both the barleys, and dare I say the malt, are sometimes taken far too much for granted. But surely, the last 14 months have probably warned us, if we are to protect our resilience, perhaps we all need to be a little more focused on safeguarding our most valuable raw material?
The biggest beer festival in the south-west returned to Osborne Park, Newton Abbott, Devon for the 20th – 23rd April, with Warminster Maltings as the main sponsor. And our brewing customers were not only out in force, but they were also proving themselves to be a force to be reckoned with!
In the beer competition which preceded the festival proper, Warminster Maltings’ customers scooped all of 40 of the 89 gongs awarded (gold, silver and bronze medals), with the biggest individual haul going to Padstow Brewery in Cornwall, who collected no less than 7 medals; followed, in second place, by Utopian Brewery in Devon, collecting a total of 5. Although we like to think our malt has something to do with this, we would like to congratulate those two brewing teams in particular for completing the process we started so distinctively well.
Our very own Leam Moulder presenting Padstow Brewing Co
Teas in the Garden
Our garden has looked spectacular throughout the second half of April, with an amazing display of tulips in particular. Not only that, ceanothus shrubs are now bursting with buds, the roses are looking very promising, and our lawn has come through the winter in very fine fettle.
We agonised over it last year but were still nervous about proceeding with gatherings at the Maltings. But this year we said “enough is enough” we are going to try and go ahead and re-establish our ‘Teas in the Garden’ events for the months of June to September.
We will continue as we left off, the second Wednesday afternoon of each month, 2-4pm.
Homemade scones and cakes, all made by our very own Pat Whitty, served on bone china, to create that old fashioned feel when an afternoon tea was one of the three main meals a day.
If you live locally, or are visiting Warminster, do come along. As long as it’s not raining, we will do everything we can to make the experience well worth your while.