The key word in the title is “Continuous”, but you’ll appreciate for the most part, we’re not talking about the process of malting just the ancillary stuff. This time it is a brand-new Packing Line for our 25kgs malt sacks, which take up most of our weekly output.
One of the challenges of operating an old-fashioned process like ours is that the method and design of the buildings were originally designed around ‘man handling’. And when it comes to containers, I am talking about ‘man handling’ of much heavier weights than anything we are allowed to handle today. When I began in the business, a lot of years ago, the barley/malt sack content was 100kgs. Today, it is considerably less, it is only 25kgs. But regardless of this, the officers from ‘Health & Safety’ are never happy about anything that involves physical lifting of any sort.
Our new Packing Line is a serious step up from its predecessor, but quite deliberately not fully automated, because most of our malt deliveries are very bespoke orders, 40x25kgs sacks on a single pallet (1 tonne) but made up of four different malts which have to be individually hand selected and packed. But our new machine picks up empty sacks, feeds them individually to a single malt supply, weighs, stitches and labels the sacks, and drops them onto a short conveyor that feeds the pallet. For most pallets this is in the order of 36x25kgs of a base malt, the other 4x25kgs being different specialist malts, each individually added as the pallet is completed. I should point out that whilst this new kit free’s up one pair of hands to do other things, no-one has been made redundant.
We had planned to shut down the Pack House for just over a week in June, and hoped that with careful management, and the kind co-operation of many of our customers, business would carry on as usual. Largely it did, but installation of the new machine hasn’t been without issue, and we were perhaps a bit too ambitious in expecting that this high tech bit of kit would be fully operational in the timeframe we had set.
However, despite the ‘teething problems’, we have succeeded in maintaining our malt supply. Enormous thanks to our customers for their understanding and support, and to our wonderful maltsters who have gone above and beyond to ensure the malt still went out the door.
This is the opportunity to point out that our latest 25kg sacks are now fully recyclable – they no longer need the plastic liner. This has been a concern of several of our customers for a little while, and our suppliers have now been able to respond. Another small step towards saving our planet, but not the last on our agenda, when circumstances allow.
Teas in the Garden
On June 14th, after a 3-year enforced sabbatical, our garden was once again open to the public for a traditional cream tea, prepared and served by our very own Pat Whitty. The sun shone, and a steady stream of guests stepped through our gate, including, I am delighted to say, a number of our former regulars.
We will continue this offering throughout the summer, on the second Wednesday afternoon of each month, July, August and September. It is our way of trying to share our beautiful Maltings with our neighbours.
For those who would like a tour of the Maltings another day, we will be part of Warminster town’s Heritage Weekend programme on 15th and 16th September. We have provisionally reserved two tours for Friday 15th September, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Further tours on Saturday will depend on the level of demand. Friday will always be the better day, when maltsters will be active across the floors, using our 100 year old implements to perfect their craft. It is a very special and unique experience, which, I’m afraid, you have to travel to Scotland to see anywhere else.
The Crown of Malts
We would, of course, describe our malts as ‘The Crown of all Malts’, but Lisa Conduit, who helps me to compile and mail this Newsletter, created this “Crown of Malts” just in time for the Coronation in May, but too late for my last edition. Lisa did ‘publish’ her Crown on social media, but if you missed that, I reproduce it here.
I am quite certain Lisa has now started something that we might see more of another day. Nothing immediately springs to mind, as I write, but I am sure something or some event will precipitate further examples of malt as art. Watch this space.