Most beer aficionados pay attention to hops that add to the aroma of their favourite glass of ale. However, it is barley, and malt made from it that is the foundation of every good beer.
Beer has existed since time immemorial. Recipe for beer has been found in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Beer, as we know it now, has been made with the same formula for at least 600 years.
Barley is soaked in water so that it can sprout. The sprouted grain is boiled and mashed to make malt. The actual product is called wort, and the process is known as malting.
Good quality malt is the secret to good beer and whiskey. What are the different types of malts – we take a look.
Why Is Belgian Malt The Finest?
Creating malt from barley is more of an art than a science. That is why most modern brewers have outsourced the task to speciality malt makers.
The two Belgian malt masters Malterie de Beloeil and Dingemans, are considered the finest manufacturers.
What sets these manufacturers of Belgian malt apart? It is the careful attention to the malting procedure that turns the barley into what is known as pils malt. The soil of Belgium and France produces grain with high enzyme content that is ideal for beer.
The grain is soaked in water, and its moisture content rises rapidly in a few hours from almost nil to 50%. Also, enzymes get activated due to the soaking and begin breaking down the barley into simple sugars.
The secret to the process lies in understanding when to stop the soaking process.
Green Malt – The Second Stage Of Malting
The barley has at this stage begun to germinate but is not yet dry. This is known as green malt and dried slowly on huge floors in a process known as oasting.
Since green malt contains a lot of water, the seeds continue to ripen and create an enzyme known as beta-amylase. It is the amount of this enzyme that determines the taste and colour of beer.
The green malt is crushed or mashed using giant rollers, and the extract is unfermented beer.
At this stage, hops are added, and the temperature raised to allow the flavour of hops to permeate the mix, much like making tea.
After a few hours, the brew is cooled and yeast is added to ferment it. The duration of fermentation, type of yeast, and the number of fermentations is what determines the variety of beer – stout, lager, pilsner, ale, porter, pale ale, etc.
Malt may also be roasted after drying. This leads to dark malt or caramel malt used for making black ale.
The Growing Popularity Of Organic Malt
Due to the focus on high yield agriculture, even beer is not free from pesticides. As with all plant-based products, there is a rising demand for organic malt made from barley and rye that is free from pesticides.
The use of Genetically Modified Organisms is banned for cultivating organic malts. The field can only be prepared with natural fertilizers such as manure and compost.
Organic malt is at all stages of preparation remains segregated from the conventional batches, and no contamination is allowed. Organic malt extract is sold both as powder and concentrated syrup to those who wish to create craft beer.