There are only a handful of people left in Britain who still extract malt from Barley using the 'floor-made' method – and today, people are beginning to value their efforts more than ever. Tessa Waugh explains.

Extracting malt from barley, which is the first stage of the brewing and distilling process, has occurred in Britain for thousands of years, but there are only four companies in England that still do it the traditional way.

The oldest, Warminster Maltings in Wiltshire, has been housed in the same premises since 1855.

Warminster Maltings, Britain's oldest malting. Ploughing and turning and levelling the barley. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

Warminster Maltings, Britain’s oldest malting. Ploughing and turning and levelling the barley. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

‘The building is Grade-II* listed, so it had to be restored sympathetically,’ explains Robin Appel, who describes himself as the ‘custodian’ of the business that he acquired 12 years ago.

“‘Floor-made’ malt is gaining recognition worldwide for enhancing the character and flavour of a variety of products”

The malting process is still carried out in much the same way as it ever was. Raw barley arrives from farms and is steeped in water to precipitate the germination process before being transferred to the germination floors.

‘This is where the maltster’s great skill comes into its own,’ enthuses Mr Appel.

‘His job is to slow down and manage the germination process, with the objective of providing exactly the right environment for converting starch into sugar.’

Warminster Maltings, Britain's oldest malting. Ploughing and turning and levelling the barley. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

The grain is raked up to four times a day, as demonstrated above by maltster Peter Chinnock. If the room gets too hot, it’s naturally cooled by opening the windows.

After five days, when the conversion of the starch is complete, the green malt is transferred to the kiln for curing and drying.

It’s an intensive process that bears dividends and ‘floor-made’ malt is gaining recognition worldwide for enhancing the character and flavour of a variety of end products, including artisanal beer, whisky and vinegar.

Find out more about the maltings at www.warminster-malt.co.uk