GALLERY: Malt, 1955–1969

"Stripping the Kiln" -- men with wheelbarrows.
The Other Fellow’s Job No. 10: The Maltster’ by Richard HiltonHouse of Whitbread, Spring 1955, with photographs by P.M. Goodchild.

In these mod­ern times, when machin­ery has large­ly replaced the hands of the crafts­man, one might think that the ingre­di­ents of beer are large­ly sub­ject­ed to numer­ous mechan­i­cal process­es in the course of their evo­lu­tion. And many of them are – but the malt­ing process is one that has stood the test of time, and remains the secret of the crafts­man who trans­forms the corns of bar­ley into that most valu­able ingre­di­ent of all – malt.”

A man with a specially designed wheelbarrow.
“C. McCabe car­ries the bar­ley in a spe­cial­ly designed malt bar­row.”

When a new load of bar­ley arrives at the malt­ings, the first men to han­dle it are the gra­nary hands. It is their job to dry the bar­ley to about 12 per cent of mois­ture so that it can be kept in bulk with­out dete­rio­r­i­a­tion; next, they clean and ‘screen’ it to extract the small or bro­ken grains… Typ­i­cal of the gra­nary hand at the Whit­bread malt­ings in East Dere­ham in Nor­folk is Chris McCabe. An Irish­man, 64-year-old McCabe start­ed with Whit­bread­’s eleven years ago, and takes great pride in his work.… Before he came to East Dere­ham he worked in large malt­ings in Ire­land.”

A man in flat cap and overalls.
“As fore­man of the East side of the Dere­ham malt­ings, Wal­ter Lam­bert has many respon­si­bil­i­ties. Here, he is adjust­ing the oil burn­er on one of the bar­ley kilns.”

The job of the malt­ster begins where the gra­nary hand leaves off, with a process known as ‘steep­ing’. This sim­ply means that the grain is soaked in water in a spe­cial cis­tern or steep for forty-eight hours. Dur­ing this time the water is changed and aer­a­tion may take place. Then the bar­ley is allowed to drain in the steep for anoth­er few hours, after which it is gen­er­al­ly ‘couched’ in a frame – to enable heat to accu­mu­late quick­ly.… Some­times the couch­ing is dis­pensed with, and the grain is laid direct­ly out on the malt­ing floor, where the process of ger­mi­na­tion begins.”

A man with a huge rake.
“‘Young Ted’ Brun­ton ‘ploughs the piece’ with a skill born o f 20 years’ expe­ri­ence in the East Dere­ham malt­ings.”
A man with a big spade.
“At 59, S. Guymer has served 35 years with Whit­bread­’s.”

To begin with, the ‘piece’, as it is called, is laid out about nine inch­es thick in order to accu­mu­late heat and start ger­mi­na­tion. As soon as this hap­pens, the pieces is thinned out and spread over more floor. At the same time it is turned dai­ly to pre­vent undue root growth, and, from time to time, ploughed, or loos­ened by means of a large rake.… The fore­man works exact­ly accord­ing to his own judge­ment based on long expe­ri­ence.”

A man in a beret shovels coal.
“Mak­ing up the kiln fires is an inte­gral part of the malt­ster’s job. C. Size­land is here seen tak­ing a turn with the shov­el.”
The Other Man’s Job: The Maltster’ by A.R. McPherson, The Deerstalker, Mitchells & Butlers, December 1958, photographer uncredited.
A factory setting.
“The re-dry­ing drum at Ken­nett.”

No doubt meth­ods of malt­ing in ancient days were very prim­i­tive, and even up till about fifty years ago, there has been very lit­tle change in the process, and much of the malt for brew­ing pur­pos­es is still hand-turned.… How­ev­er, in more recent years improve­ments have been effect­ed, such as the replace­ment of flat-bot­tomed cis­terns by hop­per-shaped ones, which are self-emp­ty­ing, by the intro­duc­tion of ele­va­tors and con­vey­ors for han­dling grain, by the use of mechan­i­cal hoists instead of hand-oper­at­ed winch­es for rais­ing sacks or skips, and the mechan­i­cal turn­ing of the grain on the kilns.”

A man in a trough of malt with shovel.
“Steep dis­charge.”

[In the last decade] the intake of the har­vest has become a major prob­lem owing to the ever-increas­ing use of com­bined har­vesters, which cut and thresh the [barley]corn in one oper­a­tion, so that the major­i­ty of the grain floods on to the mar­ket as soon as it has been har­vest­ed.… This means our buy­ing peri­od has been reduced from about six months to about two months, which has neces­si­tat­ed pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al stor­age and ‘seat­ing’ facil­i­ties to cope with the influx of bar­ley at approx­i­mate­ly three times the for­mer rate.”


Our Automatic Bulk Malt Handling System’, anon., The Magnet, John Smith’s, April 1969, photographer uncredited.
A truck beneath a silo.
“At our South Mil­ford Malt­ings the bulk trans­port vehi­cle is loaded with eighty quar­ters of dressed malt which has been pre­pared the day before and stored in one of three new silos.”

Whit­sun 1968 marked the end of yet anoth­er era for John Smith’s when the last sack of malt was deliv­ered from our Malt­ings at South Mil­ford to the brew­ery at Tad­cast­er… Hav­ing installed bulk malt han­dling facil­i­ties at the Malt­ings and at both our brew­eries the trans­port­ing of malt now fol­lows the pat­tern of mod­erni­sa­tion seen through­out the Group.”

A man empties a lorry into a hole in the ground.
“At the brew­ery at Tad­cast­er the lor­ry unloads into a small under­ground hop­per from where it is con­veyed and ele­vat­ed into the stor­age build­ing where it is held in silos hold­ings two hun­dred quar­ters each.”
A big machine.
“Under­neath the stor­age silos where the flow of malt from above is con­trolled by pneu­mat­ic slides and air seals as it falls into the ‘blow line’ in which it is trans­ferred to the mill room at the top of the brew­ery.”
A big old computer with an operator in overalls.
“The cen­tral con­trol pan­el.…”
Malt mills -- big machines!
“The two new 45 quar­ter per hour malt mills which are con­trolled from the cen­tral pan­el.”