Master brewers and distillers know that the best beer and whiskey starts with the best barley and there’s certainly no shortage of that around here. The rich farmlands of Kildare and the surrounding counties of Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow, Laois and Kilkenny have been recognised for centuries as providing ideal growing conditions for barley, which is arguably the best in Ireland. Athy, which is ideally situated near a ford over the river Barrow, with its fertile, well-drained soil, has long enjoyed a reputation as the “malting capital of Ireland”.
Originally the barley grown here was used for feeding animals and people. Malting barley became popular when beer and bread became the staple foods of medieval folk (not much has changed there then).
A GODLY TRADITION
Medieval monks appreciated the use of barley for making beer. In fact, Kildare’s local monks and monasteries were among the earliest brewers, as far back as the 13th century. When the monasteries were dissolved in the 1540s, malting and brewing became cottage industries, which were later replaced by large scale malting firms.
THE ORIGINS OF MINCH MALT
The Minch name has been synonymous with County Kildare and also with malting since the mid-19th century. It all began when Matthew Minch, a tenant farmer from Portersize, Ballitore, opened his first malting business in Athy in around 1845. Although he didn’t come from a wealthy background, Minch proved that hard work, passion and dedication go a long way. Within 2 years he had acquired two further small malting premises located in Stanhope Street and Offaly Street in Athy. In 1921 Minch merged his malting business with that of P.R. Norton, a maltster with premises in the adjoining counties of Carlow, Laois and Kilkenny and the new company was called Minch Norton. Today, Minch Malt is registered in Ireland as Minch Malt Ltd and is owned by parent company Boortmalt whose headquarters is in Antwerp, Belgium.
Almost two centuries later, while much has changed, many things remain the same. The barley in this neck of the woods is still every bit as good and the Minch name maintains its excellent reputation. We are still located at the same site beside the Grand Canal, which was used as the main gateway for transporting barley throughout Ireland in those days. Although fortunately for us, the malting process is now much more sophisticated, with highly technical state of the art equipment and processes, which enable us to continue to produce the same great quality malt, and with transport now by road, it gets to you that bit quicker.