In this latest instalment of our series about beer ingredients, we’re exploring the less glamorous, but all-important malt.
Malt is the base ingredient in beer, and, without these grains, your favourite beverage wouldn’t exist.
What is it?
Malt comes from grains such as barley and is used at the start of the brewing process, long before the hops and yeast are added. The vast majority of beers use malted barley as the grain source, because of its high content of amylase, a digestive enzyme used in the conversion of starch into sugar.
To create malt, barley is harvested and milled, then soaked in water to allow the grain to absorb moisture and begin to sprout. It is then laid out in a germination room to dry out – and becomes ‘green malt’. This green malt is then kiln-dried until it is ready to be used in the beer brewing process.
Once delivered to a brewery, the malt is mashed and mixed with hot water. Adding the hot water extracts the sugar from the grain and creates the wort. The next step is to boil the wort and mix in the hops – eventually adding the yeast to create beer in its most basic form.
Why is it important?
Malt forms the base of beer itself and is the material that is ultimately turned into alcohol.
Malt also plays a large part in determining the flavour and strength of the beer. There are many different kinds, including pale malt, amber malt and even chocolate malt, and each one has a big impact on the ultimate flavour and aroma of a beer. It also contributes to the colour – the darker the malt, the darker the beer.
Curious about the rest of the beer brewing process? Take a look at our video showing just how St. Stefanus is brewed.