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Everyone must surely now be aware of the impact that the weather has on farming, and just how challenging farming can be. That’s even in Britain, which is (or was formerly!) known for its temperate climate.

Barley harvest near our maltings in North Norfolk was completed 2/3 weeks earlier than usual. We work with around 200 farmers in the area, and they were all working flat out to get the crops in at precisely the right moment in the life cycle of the grain. Quite difficult when that moment comes early and all at once, for every field. Plus, there was more of an overlap than ever between the readiness of winter and spring varieties to be harvested. Those combine harvesters were sure put through their paces.

Rainfall is clearly most important during the growth stages of the crops and the time during which the seeds are plumping. They can stand lack of moisture in the ripening stages. This year at least, the long period of hot, dry weather – now officially a drought – began late enough for reasonable results for East Anglian barley.

Nitrogen levels in the grain are generally low and the quality is generally very decent. We can be thankful for small mercies.

Testing, Testing…

All over our region, lorries and trailers are loaded with high quality barley – probably some of the best in the world – and travel to Gt Ryburgh. Here they enter the gates of our maltings and go to the first port of call: the weighbridge.

Illustration of a Crisp Lorry

The intake team is like a combination of Passport Control and a welcoming party – for grain, we subject the grain to rigorous checks, rejecting any load that doesn’t meet the spec. This is quite rare given that we have close relations with the growers, and they know what is expected and will of course have carried out their own assessments before dispatching to the maltings. And, of course, we welcome and manage every load arriving on site that does meet the strict criteria. There’s quite a lot of logistics involved in all that – and we obviously work very closely with the logistics and operations teams.

Toby Mitchell, Team Manager

Crisp Lorry Testing

The weighbridge is akin to a set of bathroom scales – for trucks. It takes account of the weight of thevehicle and calculates the weight of the grain.

Some quality tests take place even before the vehicles arrive on site. But they are not enough. A probe is lowered into the grains to take a sample from bottom, middle and top of the load. Different areas of a field and different fields might yield seeds of different sizes and specifications – and we need to be aware of any variations.

At this stage, we also detect any contaminants, those pesky seeds from weeds or other cereal crops for example. Hence this level of testing – before the grain gets any further from the front gates on to the site.

Storing Loads of PotentialCrisp Storing Potential

Once it has the green light, the grain makes its way to our No.5 barley area for malt storage. Here, operators are on hand to tip the loads into the towering silos which adorn the site. Generally, it is then dried it to prevent mould growth and premature germination – and to ensure best possible conditions for storage. As you can imagine, for the 2022 harvest, not a lot of drying was needed.

At Gt Ryburgh, we have enough storage to house 60,000 tonnes of grain. That’s 715 million pints’ worth of barley.

Welcoming Party

Dee and Paula at Intake

Toby’s most excellent team of operators comprises Paula Maddocks and Dee Hagger on the Weighbridge, and Peter Temple, Terry Hall, Duncan Jonas, and Phil Rowland covering No.5 area.

They honour the fine work done by the barley growers by giving the grain the very best start to the malting journey. They are in charge of welcoming the grain on to the site; preparing it for storage; monitoring it over time; and running up the grain to the malting team in pristine condition so it can go through the first step of the malting process: Steeping (soaking).

That may sound straightforward, but the variables mean that it isn’t. There are the different varieties of barley, and indeed other cereals including rye, wheat, and oats , to take into account. There are the distinctions brought about by the location of the fields, the soil, the weather, the harvest conditions. And there are the maltsters’ requirements and expectations from each different variety.

A4592_Dee-at-Intake_2The team get to know the farmers and seed merchants and there is little they don’t know about barley and other cereal grains.

Actually, we don’t just specialise in this particular part of the supply chain, I think I’m speaking for all the team members in saying we are equally as interested in the other end. That is sampling of craft beers and whiskies. That’s purely for professional purposes, you understand.

Toby Mitchell, Team Manager

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