Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Base malts now and then

Since the weekend I've been spending the few free moments I have looking through Heineken Rotterdam brewing records. Interesting stuff, once you learn what everything means. I've just about got most of it sussed.

My son Andrew has been a great help. "How can that be?" I hear you ask. Easy. he can read the handwriting much better than me. It's an odd thing, handwriting. British handwriting has changed considerably since even as recently as the 1950's. I know, because I've struggled over documents as recent as that. Dutch handwriting is the same now as in 1911. Andrew can read without any problems. I knew the kids would come in useful eventually.

Fisons and Winter. They're the base malts that come up most often in the Heineken records (1911, 1928 and 1930 I've looked at so far). Is that the name of the supplier or the type of malt? It needs more research.

Lager base malts. Nowadays it's mostly pilsner malt. Darker lagers just have a small quantity of darker malt or sinamar added. In Germany, at least. They have their Reinheitsgebot. Where the rules are less fussy, it's likely to be caramel that's added for colouring. (If you're interested, Heineken used both in its dark lagers 1911-1931.)

I've read conflicting reports of 19th century practice. In the very informative section on Thick Mash Beers in Germany and Austria"American Handy Book of Brewing , Malting and Auxiliary Trades" (Wahl & Henius, Chicago 1902, P.780-792). it says that Vienna lagers were brewed from 100% Vienna malt, Munich lagers from 100% Munich malt. That struck me as odd when I first read it. British brewers had swapped to using pale malt as the base for all beers, no matter what their colour, around 100 years earlier. Their motivation was simple: cost. Yet here were lager brewers still using the uneconomic older method. Why?

More recently I found a much earlier German text, "Lehrbuch der rationellen Praxis der landwirthschaftlichen Gewerbe" (Friedrich Julius Otto, 1838) which says something completely different, but much more logical. That all beers (including lagers) were brewed with a base of pale malt and used small amounts of dark malts for colouring.

Which do you think is correct?


Tandleman said...

Maybe both. Is it not conceivable that the bigger brewers did and the littler ones didn't, or some did and some didn't? Or some such combination.

brendan said...

Sinnamar is only 100 years old, so it came on the scene later. Isn't there also a noticable flavor difference between pale malts like pilsner and munich or vienna? I have always thought Munich malt had a nutty flavor.

Zythophile said...

Fisons were maltsters in Ipswich (interesting that Heineken was using East Anglian malt ...)

A quick Google shows winter malt as a type ...

Ron Pattinson said...

Tandleman, in 1838 there weren't any really large breweries in Germany. But the text is not from Bavaria. So I don't really know the answer. It could be a regional difference. Or maybe I've misunderstood what was meant by Munich and Vienna malt. I was assuming it mmeant dark Munich malt.

Brendan, I agree about Munich malt being nutty. At least that's the word I can come up with for a particular flavour you find in Bavarian Dunkles. Yes, there is a difference in flavour between them.

It would be great to get proper details of Munich brews from before WW I. The only real evidence I have is from Heineken. In 1911 their dark beers were coloured with a small amount of kleur mout (colouring malt) and caramel. Oh, and for the Bok something called bokmout.

I hope to post something properly about Heienken's lagers later this week. Though tomorrow is English night in Wildeman and I know they have Fuller's Porter and Vintage Ale from the cask.Maybe next week.

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, interesting about Fisons. I couldn't help but think of a pesticide manufacturer. Were they the same company?

Bernard is another name that comes up as a malt. Maltster or type?

Many of the malts have weird entries like this:

z. z. 5
Gr. 4 l. 4

I think it might refer to the silo number the malt came from.

Boak said...

I'm probably a long way behind with your beer research and you probably covered this myth while I was away.

But - I was under the impression that properly pale malt was more expensive because you needed to do something to it to make it pale. Could it be that the "Vienna" or "Munich" they talk about here is actually closer to the "natural" malt and therefore as economical, if not more?

I don't know. you're the expert.

Ron Pattinson said...

Pale malt is relatively expensive. But the the extra cost is more than compensated by the increased yield.

Porter was originally brewed from all brown malt because brown malt wwas cheap. It's only when brewers started using hydrometers towards the end of the 18th century that they realised how much more fermentable material pale malt provides than brown.

Loren said...

"it says that Vienna lagers were brewed from 100% Vienna malt, Munich lagers from 100% Munich malt."

I buy this. At least I think the good versions tend to be. US made ones at least. What about Pilsner malt though? Hmm...

Ron Pattinson said...

Loren, I'm not sure any longer that this is true. Looking through Wahl & Henius, I can't find where it says that. I thought that I had read this assertion in there, but now I'm not so sure.

I think today 99.99999% of beers are brewed with either pale or pilsner malt as base.

Loren said...

"I think today 99.99999% of beers are brewed with either pale or pilsner malt as base."

Oh no doubt...but when you run across a real Vienna/Munich made with 100% or near that of the real deal...you sure can tell. BTW, I get almonds from Vienna malts and corn nuts from Munich malts. BJCP standards perhaps?


Lachlan said...

I'm not certain that 100% Vienna or Munich grists are less economical, at least today.

This page (http://www.crosby-baker.com/WeyerSpecs.htm) of specifications from Weyermann gives the same extract from Pils, Vienna, Light Munich and Dark Munich malts. Whether that was the case 100 years ago is obviously debatable.

Ron Pattinson said...

Lachlan, that's an interesting observation. I'm surprised that the dark Munich malt performs the same as pilsner malt. I'd need to dig around in old texts to find out if this was always the case.

Talking of base malts, I've found something in the Heineken Rotterdam records I've been looking at. In 1949 the base malt used for the dark beers - Oud Bruin, Muenchner, Bok - was different from the one used for the pale beers. The entries are pretty cryptic, but I think I can guess what "li." and "do." stand for - licht (light) and donker (dark).