Take a nice long drive in the country and look at all the different crops growing in the farmers’ fields —wheat, oats, rye, sorghum, corn and even rice. It is possible to make beer from any of these. However, the grain most frequently used in the beer brewing process is barley. Barley is highly productive and consistent, there are also some very nice varieties to choose from. But no barley is ready for prime time when it is initially harvested.
Barley needs to be malted before it joins the rest of the brewing team — water, yeast and hops. What does malted mean? You start the malting process by soaking your barley seeds in water, and soon they all start to germinate, or sprout. Wait until the exact perfect second, and then put the brakes on germination, do this by heating up all that damp barley. Then scrape away all the tiny roots and the initial sprout. Whew, that’s a lot of work!
But wait… We all love science. Give us more science!
OK, scientists figured out that when barley germinates, the starch stored in the seed changes to sugar. Forcing the germination and then quickly stopping it with heat locks in the maximum amount of fermentable sugar, which can eventually be converted to alcohol in the brewing process. But that’s not all… Somebody in a dreamy white lab coat, or flannel, discovered if you heat the malted barley just a little bit, the color of the resulting brewed beer will be pale in color. If you heat, or roast, the malted barley longer, the color of the brewed beer will be more golden. Keeping the malted barley in the roaster for just short of too long, and you can use it to brew a dark brown or almost black beer. It also turns out that as roasting times increase, even more complicated science happens, resulting in beers that can get sweeter and acquire new tastes like fruit or chocolate or coffee. Delish! The final brews gain even more texture and body, making them feel more substantial and less watery in your mouth.
Science is awesome!
Roasted, malted barley is definitely the utility player on the brewing ingredients team. It can be used to brew an incredible variety of styles of beer, like ales or lagers. So, the beautiful hues you see and the richness you feel in your beers come from that carefully roasted, malted barley.
(c) Copyright, Creston Brewery, 2016