Dry January? Rain Free Summer!

At Warminster Maltings we have had an amazing start to the year. Despite the widely reported 8% drop in “drinks sales” in January, our malt sales have been off the chart! I want to say it is a great credit to our customers that they are continuing to sell their products, when others around apparently cannot!

It is not just our home market, either. According to our Agents in Ohio, our sales across North America were up by 8% in January, and this is in the face of a continuing decline across the US Craft Beer sector as a whole!

So what is going on? I suggest, it is what we read about all the time. People are becoming more demanding of the quality of their food and drink. The “ultra processed” horror story of so much of our food offerings, in particular, is, at last, starting to get through. A distrust of global brands, based on the sheer scale of production, and the constant drive to contain prices, by whatever means, particularly at the moment, is no longer beyond a lot of peoples’ suspicions! Rightly so. A pint of fresh beer from a local Craft Brewery knocks the spots off the ‘brewing giants’ lager taps. Even at our annual village quiz the other night, I was impressed by the number of ladies who opted for our local ale (Warminster Malt), rather than a glass of cheap merlot.

With Easter early this year (29th March), which typically kick starts home tourism, and, let’s hope, an end to the continuous rains that have been falling since last August (law of averages), perhaps we can look forward to an early and very long, warm and sunny summer. A long summer of busy pub gardens, and flourishing beer sales. From every point of view, it will do us all the world of good!

Warminster Maltings - Traditional English Floor Malt

Changing Landmark

Very shortly, people driving down Pound Street, the home of our maltings, might suddenly think they are on the wrong road. The substantial plastic coated scaffolding tower that has encompassed one end of our complex, for more than 2 years, is about to be dismantled. At last, the Restoration Project of our Grade 2* Listed malthouses is almost complete!

The unveiling begins…

Over the last 20 years, our maltings has undergone a prolonged and comprehensive programme of repairs, rebuilds and renewals. The objective, as well as preserving our ancient buildings, has been to return the complex back to as close as possible what it looked like when it opened in 1855.

The overall project, which began in earnest in 2003, has taken more than two decades to complete. It has involved the authentic replacement of eleven separate roofs, each an individual project in themselves. As well as this, 66 windows, including more than 60 mullioned windows, have had to be re fabricated and repaired, along with the refurbishment, or renewal, of 8 external doors and doorframes. All services, gas, electrics, and plumbing have been renewed, along with the installation of an all new engineering infrastructure, which has been ‘tailor made’ to discreetly squeeze into unsuitable buildings, and yet meet 21st century standards of product quality, manufacturing efficiency, and staff welfare.

The final instalment of the Restoration Project has taken more than 2 years to complete and has probably been the most ambitious of all. It has involved the re-establishment of two of the original four ‘pyramid’ kiln roofs. These two roofs were burnt down in a devastating fire in 1924, on the night of November 5th. They were originally replaced with conventional ‘hipped’ roofs converted to accommodate a revised kiln superstructure.

So, Warminster Town has not seen these kiln roofs for 100 years. The fire in 1924 was a typical catastrophe suffered by many ‘traditional maltings’ at the time. The juxtaposition of fiercely hot coals in the four kilns, and dry barley and malt grains, was always a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, the then custodian, Dr. Beaven, was unphased, and immediately set about rebuilding his malthouses.

But, unlike the present custodian, Dr Beaven did not regard the signature architecture of a traditional maltings as important. However, now that most of these maltings have disappeared from Britain’s landscape, this very unusual example of a survivor, and what is more, a working survivor, persuaded us, and the planning authorities, including Historic England, that this was a unique and exciting opportunity to remind everybody that one of the staples of our food and drinks supply, was once very much more visible, and considerably more attractive, than anything that has replaced it today.

We will make much of this achievement across this year’s Newsletters, as we complete the ‘cosmetics’ of this final project. Let us know what you think.

MaltingsFest 2024

We are pleased to be the main sponsor for this event, again this year. The Festival opens on Thursday 18th April, and runs to Saturday 20th.

Our visual support takes on a different dimension this time. In the past, our advertising has targeted brewers, but it has been our perception that, for the most part, they no longer attend the Festival like they used to. This is all quite understandable, they are very busy people, and they cannot afford the time away from the brewery.

So instead, this year we have designed our graphics for the Festival goers themselves. We have designed a trio of posters, sets of which will be placed all around the walls of the two main tents where the beers are served and enjoyed. It is our attempt to get the message across that “The Best of the West” beers come from “The Best of the West” barleys, which in turn produce the only malt production in the West!

We are repeatedly told that food and drink consumers want to know more about where their sustenance comes from, but it is my sad experience that not too many people understand what malt really is, anymore. Once upon a time everyone would have known about malt, but, today, despite it being a lot more widely spread across the food and drinks spectrum, and our enjoyment even more pronounced than ever before, malt is largely unseen. That is its problem, and if it is seen only as a flavour, it’s true value is seriously undermined. Of course, it is something of a challenge to make malt more visible, so at MaltingsFest (where else?), we are attempting to do just that. By “talking malt” to the public at large, we hope perhaps this might help. See what you think.

Robin Appel & Lisa Conduit