Malt: The Soul of Craft Beer
Without malt, beer is boring. 🤢 Unless you're a brewer, or someone in the food industry, maybe you're asking what "malt" really is. Is it a process? Is it a grain? And why brewers look at the quality of malted barley? And what is malting? Malt is a fundamental ingredient, and the soul of craft beer.
WHAT IS MALT? 🌾
Over the years, barley was recognized as the grain of choice for beer production because of multiple advantages such as flavor combination, high enzyme potential, and proper relationship between sugar and protein. The use of barley for brewing widely spread, and malt became synonymous with malted barley.
Malt will provide the brewer with the primary source of sugars. Why sugar? It's a feast for the yeast that we ferment the beer with - and the fermentation creates alcohol, carbonation and flavors. All fermented beverages need sugar to make it ~alcoholy~, and it's not different with beer.
WHAT IS MALTING? ⛏
Malt can be any grain that has gone through the malting process. Brewers use barley primarily, wheat occasionally, and seldom oats, rye, and others. Malting transforms the plant to a brewing resource.
There are three fundamental steps in malting - steep, germinate, kiln. The objective is to make it easier for brewers to get the sugar from the grain (yay, progress!). A consequence of this malting process is that it adds flavor and color to the beer, particularly through kilning.
The kilning process of malt develops its typical flavor, and color. This leads to different malt profiles from pale to dark. A base malt provides most of the sugars, but also provides a bready, and light grain flavor. A crystal or caramel malt provides an array of colors, and roasted flavors, while darker malts provide darkest colors with chocolate flavors. "Specialty" malts add layers of flavor, color, aroma, and texture to the beer.
SOUL OF BEER? 👻
Two key contributions of malt - sugar, and flavor. Without these, there will be no alcohol in our beer, and will be bland. Malt is the soul of craft beer.
Now, find out which malts we use in our beers. 👆🏻