Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 42
Beyond malted barley
June 21, 2001
The last two weeks we've examined malted barley, also known as the "soul" of
beer. Barley is not the only grain used in brewing, and those other grains
may or may not be malted. Also, brewers use still other sugars to provide
food (fermentables) for yeast, thus boosting alcohol production.
Here's a quick look at some of those alternatives:
Wheat malt - Wheat beers may be up to 65% wheat (few go higher because barley
malt is easier for brewers to work with). Contributes to the refreshing
nature and spiciness (thought yeast is also a factor) of traditional German
weizen beers. Makes the head of all beers creamier.
Unmalted wheat - Often used in Belgian witbiers, more intensely wheat
flavored than malted wheat.
Oats - Used most often in British stouts and Belgian witbiers. Adds
creaminess and smoothness, sometimes a touch of toastiness. Both malted and
unmalted oats may be used.
Rye - Even more so than wheat in wheat beers, most of the grain in a rye beer
will be barley malt. Rye adds a crispness and dryness to any beer; and in
larger quantities a grainy quality and subtle spiciness.
Corn - Adds alcohol to beer while contributing little flavor or body. It's
popular with American and Canadian lager brewers because it is cheap.
(An aside: DMS, or Dimethyl sulfide, is a flavor that belongs in few styles
of beer. It tastes and smells like cooked corn. It does not result from using
corn as an ingredient -- but it is a result of problems with traditional
ingredients or poor brewing practices.)
Rice - Like corn, adds alcohol and little else. More expensive than corn, but
produces crisper, lighter tasting beer.
Honey - Has been used as an ingredient in beer since Sumerian times. Adds
both (honey) flavor and aroma to a beer, and sometimes sweetness.
Belgian candi sugar - Adds a smooth taste. Boosts the gravity (and therefore
the alcohol content) of a beer without that being apparent. Available in
different colors, influencing the appearance of a beer. Darker candi sugar
may add a rummy character to stronger Belgian styles.
Brown sugar - Popular with British brewers, adding a rich, sweet flavor.
Found most often in strong ales, old ales and some holiday beers.
Maple syrup - Used judiciously, adds a dry, woodsy, smoky flavor. In larger
amounts can be strongly sweet.
Lactose - A sugar extracted from milk. Sometimes used in brewing stout,
adding smoothness and sweetness.
Brewed by the Gulpener brewery in The Netherlands
Michael Jackson writes:
Tasting note: Aromatic, with a flowery, earthy, perfume. Big, fruity, attack.
Full of flavor. For a beer that is primarily intended to refresh, Korenwolf
is distinctive and quite complex. It contrives also to be both satisfying and
Food pairings: A refreshing, summery, aperitif. Or try it with a grainy,
nutty, salad -- especially if there are also fruity flavors in the dressing
or garnish. Or with a fruity, creamy dessert. A fruit fool?
BELL'S EXPEDITION STOUT
Brewed by Kalamazoo Brewing Co. in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Fred Eckhardt writes:
What a treat! Completely opaque-bottle-conditioned, who can argue with that?
... what taste there is here. Rich. Thick and strong, so thick it's almost
chewy. A true Imperial stout, not one of those wimpy Ducal or P'rincely
stouts labeled Imperial, this is a stout fit for an Empress or even Caesar
himself. Weak-willed wimps and wusses need not apply.