Why Malt is the Backbone of Any Beer
What are the four ingredients used to brew beer?
Hops are a key ingredient that people tend to associate with beer, but there are three other vital ingredients that make up the body of beer: water, yeast and malt.
Ask your friends what are the staple ingredients in a pint of beer and unless they have a particular penchant for beer, there’s a good chance they might be stumped. There’s no doubt that beer is woven into the fabric of British history, and yet it always comes as a surprise how little we as a beer loving nation know about its make up.
What exactly is malt?
Malted cereal grains, or just ‘malt’ for short, provide the backbone to any beer. The malt acts as the source of starch to the brewer who will use it to create fermentable sugars during the mashing process. The sugar is in turn consumed by the yeast during fermentation and turned into alcohol. However, the job of malt doesn’t just stop there. It also provides a whole range of flavours, body and mouthfeel and is responsible for the colour, from the lightest straw yellow to the deepest pitch black. Don’t forget the thick frothy head on your pint, malt plays a part there too.
What is malting?
Malting involves wetting dried grain to induce germination. As the grain germinates, it develops the enzymes which in turn allow the brewer to convert the starchy mass inside the grain into fermentable sugars for brewing. At a crucial point in the germination process, the maltster kilns the grain to prevent it from growing into a cereal grass. By adjusting the temperature, duration and moisture content of the kilning process, the maltster can produce a wide range of flavours, colours and other attributes in the resulting malt.
Photo courtesy of Warminster Maltings Ltd.
The process of malting is fairly straightforward in theory, but slight changes in the incoming grain and in the malting process can have a resplendent effect on flavour. Just like brewing, malting is both an art and a science and takes a great deal of skill, care and dedication.
There’s an entire industry of often overlooked maltings working day and night to prepare cereal crops - predominantly barley but also wheat, rye, oats amongst others - for brewing and distilling.
Why do we use the best malt available in Small Beer?
At Small Beer, we source only the best possible ingredients for our brewing, by partnering with traditional maltsters Warminster Maltings, who haven’t changed their floor-malting techniques since 1855 and hand select each and every brewery they supply.
Our range of four beers is tailored to cover the entire malt spectrum, from delicate pale, through toasted biscuity crystal malts, to the more kilned, darker malts that give notes of chocolate and coffee. There’s a little something for everyone and all below 2.8% ABV.
We’ve added boundless character to our classic Pilsner-style Lager by using the very finest Maris Otter malted barley, complemented by a light Crystal malt to accentuate the sweet biscuit notes.
A generous helping of oats and wheat help to create a sumptuous velvety texture and robust white head which balance the fruity hop aroma of our Session Pale.
A complex mash bill of rye, wheat, oats and barley combine to create a bold, chewy mouthfeel with warming spicy notes. Roasted rye malt produces a deep ruby red beer with a dense, creamy head.
The very darkest roasted barley malt is responsible for our Dark Lager’s striking black appearance and coffee-chocolate aroma, while oats provide a silky smooth texture to balance this otherwise crisp lager style.