Sunday, 3 October 2010

Coloured malts (part two)

Here's the first part of the article on coloured malts. The introduction. It makes a few intriguing points.

"Every brewer who produces black beer uses some form of coloured malt. It is true that of late years caramel has in some districts partially superseded these, but even the most enthusiastic advocate of caramel will hardly claim to produce a satisfactory black beer without, at least, some proportion of coloured malt. And whilst much has been written and said of pale malts, comparatively little attention appears to have been paid to the small yet quite important matter of the character of coloured malt. Ever since black beers have been produced, coloured malts have been made and used. Indeed the name " Patent Malt," which is still often applied to black malt, is derived from the fact that consequent upon the passing of an Act of Parliament* over 60 years ago, a licence or patent was required for its manufacture. The coloured malts employed are respectively black, brown, amber, and crystal.

Brown and amber malts have of late years fallen somewhat into disfavour, black being relied upon for colour, crystal for flavour. There is. however, latterly a tendency to employ an increased proportion of brown and amber malt, and without doubt such malt if really well made gives a characteristic flavour not possessed by either black or crystal. It is, indeed, by a skillful blending of the several types of coloured malt that some of the most successful black beers are produced. It is true that in such grists the total proportion of the coloured malts will often be large and the cost price of the beer as a consequence high, but the result of the adoption of such grists generally fully justifies the expenditure."
"Journal of the Institute of Brewers vol. 13, 1907", pages 486-487.

I think the author is wrong about the origin of the term patent malt. I'm sure it was used long before 1842 and refers to the patent Wheeler obtained for his malt roasting process in 1817.

He's right about a decline in the use of brown and amber malt and an increase in the use of crystal. Though London brewers did stick with brown malt for their Porters and Stouts. They also used it in K Ales sometimes. Amber malt became rarer and rarer in the 20th century and by WW II had just about disappeared from London beers.


Gary Gillman said...

I think he means that Parliament passed a law which permitted the legal (monopoly) enforcement of patents in general, a Patent Act, if it was so-called.

His comments are very interesting and raise the question, is beer based on pale malt and roasted (un-malted) barley, which is a very typical modern stout recipe, in any real sense similar to historical porter? The answer surely is no - not that such a drink can't be good, but it would not have the full deep roasty/malty (caramelized) sugar quality a traditional porter would have. Tizard's poorest quality porter used only black malt and pale malt, and even that would trump the modern porters I speak of. And yet again, many of these stouts seem good. I guess it is all relative.

In NYC recently, I found after a long search, Guinness FES. It has a slight sweetness, from the pale malt surely, a good roasty and Marmite quality (a little smoky) and a lactic tang which might come from an aged element or some other addition. This was brewed in Ireland, so is the best presumably of FES. It was good, but trumped by two other porters I had on this trip: Ridgeway's Bad King John, admittedly on cask, whose hop quality was superior in my opinion, from England, and an awesome, silky-and-bitter Tournai Black from Belgium. The latter in particular seemed to use a roasted malt(s) of some kind and had a true deep flavour. I enjoyed the FES and will take some home but still wonder how close it is to Guinness's 1800's extra stout.


Graham Wheeler said...

I don't think that the author is incorrect about the origin of the term 'patent malt'. I said much the same thing in January here:

The assumption that the term had anything to do with Wheeler's patent is one of those historical inaccuracies that has been propagated to the extent that it has become almost set in stone.

The fact that the term refers to a government-issued license explains how 'Patent Malt' survived into the twentieth century, long after Wheeler's patent expired (about 1830). It would have been called 'Wheeler's patent malt' otherwise.

The expiry of Wheeler's patent probably caused a plethora of malt roasters to set up shop, and hence forced the government to legislate and licence its production, although I cannot believe that there was no legislation at all prior to 1842.

I suspect that all the rules were to prevent the roasters surreptitiously roasting raw barley or any other grain. I cannot imagine that there would have been a draw-back on the malt tax, which would have been another reason for the rules.

Muddy Mo said...

I have been influenced greatly by the the research on this blog and the Session Beer Project.

I just brewed an all grain Dark Mild with zero crystal malt. Just MO, amber malt, roasted barley and dark belgian candi syrup.

It has a fantastic and complex roasted coffee and biscuit flavor like nothing I have ever experienced in a commercial beer.

All that and under 5% ABV!

Gary Gillman said...

Details of Wheeler's patent with some interesting background, hot off the press:

Oblivious said...

Gary FES is one of the few beers that still has a simlary gravity to its victorian counterpart

But the grist would be differ, they droped amber malt, there last beer to use it in the 1940's and there hop rate are much lower

The 1883 grist is listed as 85% pale, 10% amber an 5% rosted malt, hops 6.2 pounds/barrel

Gary Gillman said...

That would make the beer different I think to what I drank. The hops were noticeable but not particularly heavy. There was a burned, roasty taste but it would not have been based on roasted malt of any kind but rather on charred unmalted barley and unflaked barley I believe. Also, there was a tangy taste similar to what is in the other forms of Guinness, not a sourness but a "lactic" note of some kind. I wonder if this is imparted through some chemical addition as opposed to using a well-aged beer, it had a "citric" taste that I thought might denote that, but maybe a "stale" beer is still used.

Anyway, it was good as far as it went, but other beers have something it lacks IMO including Guinness's own Special Export. The other beers include Sinebrychoff's porter, the Tournai Black I mentioned earlier (not sure who makes that, Dubuisson maybe?), Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout (still one of the best) and numerous U.S. strong or Imperial stouts.