Tuesday 5 September 2023

Malt production in the 1970s

As I've finished recounting my last holiday, I cab crack on with boring you about the 1970s. This time, it's the turn of malt.

"Keg!" is coming along nicely. I've over 40,000 words and I've hardly even started on the personal memories and recipes. Of which there will be more than I expected. I'll have recipes from 12 breweries, in total. Somewhere around 50 or 60 recipes in all.

Let's get on with the extract.

On average, around a fifth of the UK barley harvest was used for malting. Even that wasn’t all dedicated to beer, as considerable quantities were also used for distilling. As we can see in table below.

Much malting was still being performed by brewers and distillers. A lot more than I would have expected. A massive 44% in 1971 and, despite declining a little, it was still 37% in 1979. And in absolute terms had actually increased.

I’m quite surprised to see just how much malt was used in distilling. In some years, such as 1973 and 1974, it was only slightly less than that used in brewing.

My guess is that the malt imports were almost all in the form of lager malt or other continental malt types. I can’t see UK brewers using foreign-made pale malt in their beer.

I’d love to know what the destination of the malt exports were. Presumably to countries which were brewing British-style beers.

What else was malt used for other than brewing and distilling? Well, an obvious one is malt vinegar. A fair bit must have been for that. And there are some foods – such as biscuits – which can contain malt. 

Malt production and usage (thousand tonnes)
Year 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Malt Production:
Brewer-Maltsters 230 247 271 247 250 265 263 257 301
Distiller-Maltsters 270 284 291 300 225 245 256 321 291
Sale-Maltsters 640 745 810 915 912 885 877 984 1,019
Total 1,140 1,276 1,372 1,462 1,387 1,395 1,396 1,562 1,611
Malt Imports  31 27 49 78 35 30 46 42 61
Malt Exports  94 94 141 138 119 175 130 164 189
Malt Requirements:
For Brewing 610 623 661 689 712 720 727 735 752
For Distilling 521 561 631 692 566 520 559 536 651
Other purposes 53 52 57 59 61 80 79 70 69
Total 1,184 1,236 1,349 1,440 1,339 1,320 1,365 1,341 1,472
The Brewers' Society UK Statistical Handbook 1980, page 26.


Rob Sterowski said...

As well as for vinegar, Horlicks and digestive biscuits, malt is very heavily used in the baking industry as a dough improver. It aids fermentation and gives the finished bread a more attractive colour.

Iain said...

Was the standard barrel system for tax purposes (36 imp. gallons at 1.055°) still applicable in the 1970s? Just wondering how the gross tonnage ‘For Brewing’ roughly translates into an amount of beer.

Ron Pattinson said...


yes, standard barrels were still in use in the 1970s.

Anonymous said...

I assume most of the barley was for livestock feed, which must say something about how the demand for beer was due to all of those loww gravity beers. The profit margin on livestock feed is about as low as you can get. In year of bumper crops, farmers are practically giving it away. I'm sure if farmers could sell more for malt they would.

Anonymous said...

I don’t know of any brewery in these islands who still does their own malt with the exception of Guinness.

Ron Pattinson said...


some barley was also for human consumption in the form of pearl barley. My mun used to put it in soup and stew.

Anonymous said...

Pearl barley lamb stew is delicious.

Rob Sterowski said...

Pearl barley is the signature ingredient in Scotch broth. I bet the number of people regularly making their own soup in the 70s was vastly greater than it is today.

Thom Farrell said...

Barley for cordials such as Robinson's barley water and Vimto.

Anonymous said...

Hovis proprietary Granary flour seems to have included malted barley flour. I'm not sure if your regular 70's Hovis bread was made using Granary but since it was pretty much the only brown bread in the 70's would be interesting to know, if so, how much barley was used by the Hovis folks.

Anonymous said...

We still make most of our own soups.

Bribie G said...

We are the Ovalteenies, happy girls and boys......