Tuckers Maltings in Newton Abbot, UK, one of only four remaining traditional malt houses in the UK, has closed its doors forever after 118 years of being in business. Richard Wheeler, 76, malt house director, who has worked his whole working life in the malting since he was 17, said that the traditional floor malting method used on a small scale is no longer competitive. “We are too small and do things the old fashioned way which pushes the prices up and it is difficult for our customers to pay such a premium for their raw ingredients,” says Wheeler.
The resurgence of craft beer breweries has kept the malting alive during the last 20 years but big-scale economics has been the winner in the end. “It’s like shopping at Amazon instead of the small independent shops, we are all guilty of it,” regrets the director of the malting.
As a consequence of the closure, eight members of staff will lose their jobs and the 30 breweries in the South West of the UK, which have been supplied by Tuckers, have to look now for a new supplier.
The traditional way to make malt was in a floor malting. After the grain had been soaked in water sufficiently to start germination, the growing grain was spread out on large floor areas. The depth of grain on the floor was thickened or thinned to control the temperature of the growing grain.
Today floor malting is considered a niche artisanal practice. A few specialty maltsters in the UK, Germany, and the Czech Republic continue to make floor malts available to brewers, who prize them for the deep, rich flavors.
Even if the malting is closed now the name Tuckers Maltings will remain. In 1991 the company has initiated a beer festival and opened its premises as a popular tourist attraction. The annual Tuckers Maltings Beer Festival will also go on in the coming years under the old name but from 2019 onwards the festival will be held in a new location because the Grade II listed building will be put on the market and probably renovated for housing.