Tuckers Maltings which has been making malt in Devon for almost 190 years is to close at the end of September.
The company which is one of the few traditional floor maltings left in the country is set to close when its current stocks of barley are used.
In a letter to its customers the company said: “After producing malt in Newton Abbot for 118 years the directors of Tuckers have had to make the sad decision to close the Maltings in the autumn of 2018.”
In continued: “We have always been proud to be the smallest maltsters in the country producing malt in the old traditional way.
“Operating on this scale has finally proven to be uncompetitive in the modern world and increasing capacity within the old traditional building would be very difficult while not jeopardising the quality of the product.
“After consultation and professional advice, it was decided it would be wise to make this decision while the business was financially sound, and closure could be achieved in an organised and efficient way.
“Production will finish in September when all the 2017 crop has been malted and it is anticipated supplies to customers will finish by the end of October.”
It is understood the maltings required a more than £1 million upgrade, which the directors decided could never be profitable.
Tuckers Maltings opened its purpose-built malthouses, next to the railway in Newton Abbot, in 1898, completing the building in 1903. It was originally based in nearby Ashburton.
The company thanked its customers and stressed it has enough top-quality barley to cover supplies until the autumn.
It is advising customers to switch to Warminster Maltings, Warminster, Wiltshire after its Newton Abbot site shuts, saying that firm also uses “the same traditional floor method but on a larger scale” but sources barley from the same area of the South West and in some cases the same growers.
Exe Valley brewery owner Guy Shephard said he was “gutted” by the news as Tuckers had been supplying his malt since Exe opened in 1984.
He said the closure would be a big loss to the brewing industry as it is one of the very few floor maltings left.
Shephard said: “The loss of one of the few floor maltings still operating in the UK will be hard felt by the brewing industry especially in the West country
He said the decision must have been difficult to make.
In addition to supplying the brewing industry, Tuckers since 1991 has operated as tourist attraction and was home to the successful annual Tuckers Maltings Beer Festival.
The 20 barrel Teignworthy brewery, which opened in 1994 brewery and the Maltings Taphouse and Bottleshop which are both based at the site will continue to operate.
So, what is a floor malting?
Floor malting was the traditional way of producing malt for brewing before the Industrial Revolution. It was largely a manual process.
In floor malting, the incoming grain, usually barely, is first steeped in large vats, in an alternating series of “wet” and “dry” cycles. Once properly hydrated, the malt is spread to a depth of about 15 centimetres and allowed to germinate on a large stone floor. Germinating the grains releases the sugars needed for the fermentation to make beer.
While on the floor, the germinating grain must be turned by hand twice a day, seven days a week, to keep it properly oxygenated, to dissipate heat, and to keep rootlets from tangling the malt into an unmanageable mat. The traditional tools for this hard labour are a wooden malt shovel and a special, iron-wrought rake that often weighs up to 30 kg. Once germinated the grain is put in to a kiln to be dried.
Advocates of floor malting say it produces an intense, rich aromatic malt, which cannot be achieved in a more modern industrial maltings.
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