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.”