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It’s tough. It’s physical. It’s highly skilled. And without it, many champion beers and outstanding whiskies would not exist.

It is, of course, the art and the science of floor malting.

Very few places practise floor malting: the ancient, time-honoured way of processing raw grain into malt. Just 3 working floor maltings remain in England.

The rest of the country’s malt production is carried out using enormous bits of kit – huge round metal vessels capable of holding up to 400 tonnes of grain – or huge box type vessels.  At Crisp’s historic site in Gt Ryburgh, North Norfolk, we have all the equipment needed to handle that large-scale production. Such is the demand for our malt, we sure need it.

But we also have one of the rare floor maltings. You might have heard us mention it before. Some of us go on about it. On and on. You’d probably expect that – as to be honest, it’s our prized possession. Among many worthy contenders.

With the relatively small number of tonnes that can be processed over the course of a few days, it can be a challenge to keep up with demand for floor malt. We are fortunate. We have a secret weapon to make sure we do keep up. That weapon is…

Secret – no longer

As a brewer or distiller, you’ll know a bit – or a lot – about grain. You’ll know the three-step process of malting. Steeping, germinating, kilning. You’ll also know that society has often underestimated the skill of jobs in production. Then all of a sudden, they discover it again as though it were a new found thing, with people queuing up to ‘meet the distiller’ or ‘taste beer with the brewer’.

Hmm, well, now we think about it, we may have been guilty of keeping our skilled team of maltsters somewhat secret and hidden from view. And yet without them, the rest of us – whether in packaging, transport, sales, marketing, finance, export – would have no job.

So, high time you were introduced to our top men. That is, our team members who look after the floor maltings.

It is they who create the malts that have brought the concept of ancient grains and heritage varieties fairly and squarely into the worlds of beer and whisky. It is they who create our celebrated floor-malted Maris Otter – and the other highly sought after, small batch, floor-malted heritage malts such as Chevallier, Hana and Plumage Archer.

It is they who help you to make champions.

Our championsFloor-Malthing-Blog_Glen

Glen

How long have you been at Crisp?
1989-2005
2008-today
How did you get into Floor Malting?
My father knew somebody who worked at Crisp and they offered me a job! I was in my early 20s and thought ‘why not?’
I Started in saladin plant, then No5, then VATS and I loved the manual aspect of it.
Favourite part of the job?
The people, the ‘originals’ and doing the floors.
Hardest part of the job?
The Power Shovel – there’s a technique to it, that takes a while to master! It’s also very manual and a lot of hard work.

 

Ben

How long have you been at Crisp?
5 years
How did you get into Floor Malting?
Started at the weighbridge because it was super local for me! I then was looking for progression, so found the perfect opportunity on the floors.
Favourite part of the job?
It’s really local for me and the I like the people I work with.
Hardest part of the job?
Loading the floor kiln – The Power Shovel. It’s such hard work.

 

 

 

LukasFloor-Malting_Lukas

How long have you been at Crisp?
8 months
How did you get into Floor Malting?
I was really interested in gaining knowledge about something new, having worked in completely different jobs before. I was genuinely interested in the malting process.
Favourite part of the job?
I like the combination of desk work and manual, more laborious tasks. I really enjoy the exercise and I think loading the kiln is the best part for that reason!
Hardest part of the job?
Sometimes the physicality of the job can be really hard work.

 

 

Floor-Malting_Stuart_2Stuart

How long have you been at Crisp?
6 months
How did you get into Floor Malting?
I used to work in printing, so a lot of laborious work and a very busy day! I then decided to teach printing. After this, I was a primary school teacher for 18 years and decided to step away from it. I wasn’t ready to retire though! I had a keen desire to learn something new and was interested in getting back into some sort of production. Crisp was ideal, as I was interested to learn about malting and it put me back into production. I also loved the heritage of the place.
Favourite part of the job?
Like-minded people. People with expertise and a lifetime of knowledge that I can learn from – I find them interesting. Love the heritage of the company, the history, and the stories behind the walls.
Hardest part of the job?
There’s just so much going on, it’s very busy, there’s plenty of work to do, and it can be quite physical.

 

NevilleNeville_Floor-Maltings

How long have you worked at Crisp?
48 years
How did you get into Floor Malting and working at Crisp?
I liked the look of the building and was interested in the heritage of it. Rob Snowdon then offered me a job – I had to take it!
Favourite part of the job?
Using the old tools – it’s the best way to do the job. As well as the tradition of the floors. People are always so interested in the job.
Hardest part of the job?
Loading the kiln – not necessarily for the physical aspect, but predominantly for the technical expertise it requires. There’s a technique to it.

Tools for the Job

Power ShovelFloor-Malting_Power-Shovel

What is it?
Take a JCB shovel type of contraption; attach it to a steel cable and a winch – and you are getting close.
What’s it used for?
Well, it’s how we get the malt from A to B: from one end of the floor maltings where the grain germinates, into the kiln, where it is dried. Operating this beast is definitely an art.

Rake

What is it?
It is exactly that – a rake – but not any old rake. This one is specially designed for the job and is larger and heavier than your usual garden implement.
What’s it used for?
It is used several times a day to separate the germinating grains, preventing the rootlets from getting matted; encouraging air flow through the batch; and keeping the grain in tip top condition. It plays an important part in the traditional floor malting process.

Spreader

What is it?
A constant stream of germinated grain, rootlets and all, is fed into this machine.
What’s it used for?
The maltster then uses it to spray the grain onto the floor of the traditional kiln, creating an even bed.
It may not sound it, but it is one of the most skilled aspects of the maltsters’ tasks. Taking 22 tonnes of germinating barley and creating a level bed of around 12” deep takes a keen eye, a steady hand and a huge amount of concentration. The level bed is important to ensure even air flow during kilning.

Rotavator

What is it?
This is the up-to-date take on the traditional rake. It’s more like an electric bike than a purely pedal-powered bike. So, it helps the operator to get on with the job a little faster, but it still involves the same actions and skills, and it’s still demanding manual work. Our rotavator is around 30 years old, but with our 150 years floor malting and raking by hand, it’s pretty modern to us.

Dousey

What is it?
Think of a wooden broom handle with a solid piece of wood instead of a brush head.
What’s it used for?
It used to level off the freshly cast steeped grain once it has been laid out on the floors. This is used on the germination floors, where 22 tonnes of grain need to be smoothed out. That is no small quantity to be done manually.

Glossary

Rub the grain out: this is to see what stage the grain is at in the process of modification. It involves taking a single grain and squeezing it between thumb and index finger and then rubbing it out. This should leave a white chalky residue – often referred to as the “maltsters chalk”. It indicates to the maltster that the starch has been well modified and is ready for kilning. If the grain rolls and does not rub out, the modification process is incomplete.

Maltculms: rootlets from the grain in the kilning stage – the roots come off the grains and are usually added to pellets. These make for nutritious animal feed.

Chit: after steeping, the grain starts to germinate, and the rootlets starts to form. This is identified by the white tip that emerges from the grain – a process typically known as “chitting”. During germination the rootlets will grow to approximately 1.5 x the length of the grain. Signs of “chitting” on casting of the steep is a sign that the grain is in good condition and is beginning the important germination stage.

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