Covid 19 Update Find Out More

The History of The Maltsters Association of Great Britain.

by Raymond. A. Anderson.

Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain The MAGB is the trade association of the malting industry in the UK. Close connection with the brewing and distilling industries has meant that malting has long suffered government attention both directly and indirectly. The Association came into existence in the 19th century with the specific aim of ameliorating the restrictive regulations then applied to malting practice and it continues to promote and defend the industry.

Taxation of malt became a major source of public revenue in 18th century Britain. Measures to avoid fraud and evasion by maltsters led to legislation that prescribed every step in malt production. These regulations hindered the technological development of malting and became a considerable nuisance even to the most law-abiding maltster. Matters came to a head in 1827 with the introduction of a new Malt Act that not only listed 101 penalties for transgressors but also further complicated already labyrinthine regulations. On 3rd December 1827 about thirty maltsters met in London to form an “Association of Maltsters of the United Kingdom”. Soon the new body had about eighteen hundred members and a joint committee comprising Association members and Surveyor’s-General of Excise was established to negotiate reform of taxation. By 1830 nearly two-thirds of regulations and penalties were repealed with further reform following to minimise vexation to the maltsters. The Association had proved its worth. Apart from this early success no record of the Association’s activities remains and it is believed to have been wound-up in 1880 following repeal of the malt tax.

The need for a malting industry voice was again recognised during the First World War. Fears of the repercussions of proposed state purchase of the drinks industry by Lloyd George’s government and prohibitive wartime restrictions on malting led to resuscitation of the Association as the MAGB in 1917. Within a year the Association had 226 members with all but a handful of the smallest malting companies joining. Nationalisation was avoided but the malting industry mirrored the brewing industry in shedding companies in the difficult trading conditions of the inter-war years. Membership of the MAGB had dropped to 91 by 1939. The Association’s developed as a progressive force in malting during and after the 2nd World War. Its primary role remained as a protector of its member company’s interests but it also promoted change in the industry, backing mechanisation and the improvement in working conditions of a notoriously poorly paid labour force. Routine activities embraced non-competitive aspects of barley quality and supply, scrutiny of legislation, food safety, liaison with government and trade bodies and, from 1981, vocational examinations. Until 1968 membership of the Association was restricted to sales maltsters, it was then opened to brewer and distiller maltsters who malted exclusively for their own use, but this could not prevent long term decline in membership as the drinks industry became increasingly concentrated. By 2002 the MAGB represented the producers of over 98 percent of the malt made in the UK, the world’s third largest malting nation that exports around 30 percent of its production, but had only fourteen members.


Clark, Christine. The British Malting Industry Since 1830. London: Hambledon Press, 1998.

Anon. “Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain” in The Brewers’ Guardian Centenary Edition , 1971: 151-152.

Murrell, Ivor. “The role of the MAGB with the UK and European Malting Industry” in R H B Beach (ed), Brewing Room Book, 2001-2003. Ipswich: Pauls Malt, 2001: 34-37.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author and ABC-Clio.

From: Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopaedia. Blocker, J. Fahey, D. and Tyrrell, I. (eds) ABC-Clio, pp. Fall 2003.