When James Fawcett ’ 88 came to UNC as a British Morehead Scholar, he double-majored in history and political science. But his focus was studying
America, picking up on the culture and breaking
through the barriers of a supposedly common language.
“It helped open my eyes to what America is all
about,” Fawcett said.
He rode a motorcycle to and from class every day
(except once when it snowed). He developed a love of
basketball, burgers and chicken wings. He learned that
what he had called a loo is known here as a restroom,
and while the British queue up, Americans stand in line.
Years later, Fawcett’s experience on this side of the
Atlantic helped his family’s two-centuries-old-and-
counting malt-making business in Yorkshire benefit
from America’s craft beer boom.
“It was a huge benefit, those four years in Chapel
Hill,” Fawcett said. “I speak in North American. You
down a barrier.”
& Sons was opened
by Fawcett’s great-
1809, the year that
ended his presidency
and Edgar Allen
Poe and Abraham
Lincoln were born.
The company is
known for producing small-batch malts, which provide
the sugary fuel for fermentation to create beer. While
wheat, rye, oats, millet, sorghum, rice and even corn
have been used for brewing, barley is preferred. To
create malted barley, the grain is soaked, allowed to
germinate and then heated to stop germination. Malts
add both color and flavor to beer.
Thomas Fawcett & Sons is one of only two maltsters
in Yorkshire, and it’s one of only a handful left in
England that do traditional floor malting. That method,
which predates the Industrial Revolution, spreads the
grain in about a 5-inch layer on the stone floor of a
malt house to germinate. The grain is turned by hand
twice a day, seven days a week.
A return, and a return on investment
When he was growing up, Fawcett wasn’t encouraged to go into the family business. In the early 1980s,
the brewing industry was struggling. Fawcett said his
father resented having to take over the company at age
23 after Fawcett’s grandfather died unexpectedly. “He
ran it for 49 years,” Fawcett said of his father. “I think
he would have preferred to be a politician.”
COURTESY OF JAMES FAWCETT
James Fawcett ’ 88 runs his family’s
business in Yorkshire, England.