Medieval malting oven at Northampton

Fancy a pint? Northampton’s first malting kiln

MOLA team
08.10.2015

In 2014 our team in Northampton were excavating an unassuming car park belonging to Northamptonshire County Council. Amongst the Norman and later medieval remains was a 13th century brewery, including a particularly well preserved malting kiln. Its discovery has informed a new display on brewing in Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Whose Round is it? Open until 31 January 2016 the free display celebrates 800 years of brewing in the town.

Malting kilns were used in the second stage of beer production. Cereal grains that had been soaked in water and allowed to germinate were dried in a low temperature kiln, modifying the starch into sugar. The sprouting grains were spread across a drying floor, probably a cloth-covered frame, set above the stone-lined kiln chamber. The grain would dry slowly over several days, as it was important to avoid roasting, which would have destroyed the enzymes before brewing began.

Above ground, the kiln would have had a squat, thick-walled shaft, with a broad vent in the roof, but only the sunken chamber and stoking pit survived.  The walls of the narrow stone-lined flue, linking the stoking pit to the chamber, where the fire was built, showed scorch marks from years of usage.  Smouldering charcoal from the fire was probably pushed further into the chamber to provide the heat for drying.

After the kiln was excavated Northamptonshire County Council gave permission for the structure to be donated to NBC Brewery, and they have reconstructed the floor of the chamber in their new bar, as a base for a wood burning stove. Images from the excavation of the kiln are included in the Whose Round is it? display at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery’. For more information on the exhibition, visit the Northampton Borough Council website.

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