Beer malt: types, characteristics and uses in crafting beer
Where does the flavor, aroma, and color of beer come from? A big part of any brew’s specific profile comes from the malt used to make it. Find out here what beer malt is and what it brings to the table.
Malt is the baseline of beer
Oftentimes we hear more about hops than any other ingredient in beer. However, beer would be altogether impossible to brew without malt. So, what is malt and why is it crucial in creating America’s alcoholic drink of choice?
Put simply, beer malt refers to toasted cereal grain used to make beer. It includes barley, wheat, oat, and rye, among others. In order to be brewed, they undergo a certain process:
- Harvested grains are stored, soaked and drained to help them sprout. Germination activates enzymes that begin converting starch into sugars.
- Once the seeds start sprouting, they are dried in a kiln to stop the process until they are brewed.
So, what role does malt play in crafting beer? It carries the sugar that becomes alcohol in the brewing process. Malt also adds aroma, flavor, color, and body to beer. Moreover, it is one of the elements that contributes to forming and retaining a beer head.
So whether you favor traditional beer styles or specialty ones, such as fruit beer, they cannot be without malt.
Types of beer malt
As mentioned, different elements in beer come from malt. Some of your favorite beer flavors may come directly from the type of malt which is used. The roasted taste in Porters comes from dark malt, for example.
Leading American beers also craft their unique profile from malt. Miller Lite takes its deep golden tone from pale and crystal barley malts. Coors Light also gets its bright color from Moravian barley malt.
Some popular general styles also tie their identity to malt. The blonde ale is recognized for its sweetness and bready aroma, both from beer malt.(See also: Beer flavors ) Likewise, the American amber ale’s toasty flavor and sweetness come from its malt.
There are a lot of malt varieties available for brewing. These are the main types of beer malt:
- Base malts. These are the most commonly used in brewing. They are lightly kilned, so they provide high levels of enzymes and fermentable sugars.
- Pale and light malts. They are heated at higher temperatures for a shorter time, so they carry less enzymes than base malts. In return, they imprint a solid aroma and flavor to beer.
- Caramel malts go from light shades to deep browns. They mostly give beer color.
- Dark and roasted malts are kilned the longest out of all beer malt. As a result, they bring very little sugar/alcohol to beer. However, they pack a punch in terms of color and flavor.
- Other malts. These include wheat, oat, and rye. Each one adds its own smell, taste, and sugar content to beer.
It is safe to consider malt as the cornerstone of a good beer. It’s a great help in forming its flavor, aroma, color, and alcohol profile.