Burum Collective Column Magic of Malt
Authored by Helen Anne Smith
Beer is made up of four ingredients; malt, water, hops and yeast.
Within each of these four ingredients are hundreds of variables as to how the final product might look, smell, or taste. Each ingredient is treated with careful consideration in order to make fantastic beer. With this in mind however, it is interesting that hops have stood centre stage in the beer scene for many years, often leaving it’s fellow ingredients in the shadows.
In this short I’d like to ask you to pop down your hop forward beverage of choice, for just a brief moment, and join me in exploring the wonderful world of malt.
What is malt?
Malt is short for “malted barley” and mixed with water, malt makes up the main base and also decides the colour of your lovely pint. Once the malt is combined with hot water, you get something brewers call “wort”. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see a beer being brewed, then I would liken it to a big vat of porridge. It’s very sweet and actually quite tasty!
From here you can just add your hops, let it ferment, make it fizzy and then boom! You have a beer.
Okay well it’s actually not as simple as all that, there are many processes involved that we won’t get into today, because today is about malt. Before there is malt, there is barley.
Barley is a cereal grain that gets harvested down to kernel form, as small as grains of rice. The maltsters then lay out the grains, soak them with warm water and wait for them to start sprouting. As soon as the sprouting begins, the germination process is then stopped super quickly by applying heat to the grains and drying them out. This is when barley becomes malt!
The malt is then either roasted, stewed or kilned. The decision to either stew, roast or kiln, all comes down to what kind of appearance and flavours brewers are looking to gain from the malt.
As mentioned earlier, there are a range of different colours when it comes to beer styles, and that all comes down to choice of malt. The colours range from pale straw all the way up to pitch black, and are scaled in the Standard Reference Method. The flavour profiles of malt can range from light toast, biscuits, graham cracker, and caramel to nuts, dark fruit, coffee, or burnt toast.
Illustration by Em Sauter of Pints and Panels
At the very top of the list of reasons why barley is perfect for brewers malt, is that locked inside those unassuming looking kernels, are both starches and enzymes, which when milled and mixed with water, you will get sugar. Sugar is necessary for alcohol production because that’s what the yeast will eat to create alcohol and CO2!
If you’re looking for some malt forward beer choices you’d be looking for styles like best bitters, amber ales, stouts, porters, darker lagers such as dunkel or vienna—even lighter lagers can showcase the best of pale malt such as helles or pilsner. If you’re unsure then next time you’re in Two Belly, have a chat with the team and they’ll point you in the right direction.