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Beer for Noobs: WTF is Malt?

Beer for Noobs: WTF is Malt?

If you’re a home-brewer, or are knowledgeable in beer and the process of brewing, then this blog is probably not meant for you, because IYKYK and this Beer for Noobs. Because this blog is mainly a collection of some of the common questions that we get here in AMLT, we thought it would be a good idea to write about it. Since beer is made up of four amazing ingredients, it also saves us some brain juice for the upcoming few blog posts.


Other than water, the other three ingredients can be quite a mystery to most people considering that not many know exactly what they are and how they contribute to making beer. When we talk about brewing beers, it is basically the process of extracting sugar from grains which feeds the yeast that releases carbon dioxide for carbonation and alcohol for your head splitting hangover the next day.


So what the flying fish is malt then? The malts that brewers talk about are the specific types of malted barley that are processed to yield a wide range of fermentable maltose sugars. These include Lager Malts, Pale Malts, Vienna Malts, Munich Malts, Toasted, Roasted and Chocolate Malts. More often than not, most brewers use barley or wheat but there are many other grains such as spelt, rye, oats and many others that can be used as malts. Before these malts can be used effectively, they have to go through the process of malting to extract the nutrients as well as to add flavour, sometimes through roasting. 


Kilning or roasting is one of the important aspects in the malting process. Typical base malt is usually gently kilned for a pale colour. However, there are several other categories of malts such as crystal malt, caramel malt, chocolate, roasted malts and more. These malts are added in smaller amounts than the base malt to vary the colour, flavour, aroma and texture of the brew. 


To put it simply, grains are filled with starch which are energy meant for the seed to grow into a beautiful plant. So malting “tricks” the seed into germination, changing its chemical composition to convert the starch into sugars and amino acids. The germination process of the grains are then halted at a specific point by heating and drying for later use.


When the time has come for these grains to fulfil their destiny, the brewer crushes the malted barley and soaks it in hot water to reactivate and accelerate the enzyme activity, converting the barley's starch reserves into sugars. The result is a slurry of sugary water known as wort and it’s then made into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the yeast, but that’s another story for another time. 


So there you have it Beer Noobs, this is what malt is all about. If you enjoy malty beers, something that is easy going and don't like getting punched in the face by hops, Fresh Squeezed IPA by Deschutes is a good choice.

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