Apr 21, 2018

Beer Break

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.

Tasting notes

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 appetising.

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?

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.

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