Friday, 8 April 2011

Coloured malts in the 1920's (part one)

Where was I? WW II, the 1920's or the Edwardian Age? I'm beginning to lose track, I've so many threads going at once. I remember. Malt in the 1920's. Courtesy of our good friend JR.

But enough of my failing mental capacities and on with a plump, juicy quote, as ripe as a golden grain of barley. Here you go:

"Brown or Blown Malt is made by subjecting well-vegetated barley — after the moisture has been duly got rid of — to a sudden blast of intense heat generated by heaping up the kiln fire with oak or beechen faggots or billets. The result is an increase of bulk averaging 25%, if all the conditions are favourable. Owing to the risk and tho high rates of insurance demanded in consequence, this malt is generally made at certain centres by maltsters, the large London breweries being alone able to profitably make for themselves.

Amber Malt is manufactured from ordinary malt which, however, is subjected on the kiln to the colouring and flavouring influences obtained from high temperatures maintained for a relatively long period in the presence of a fairly heavy moisture content. These temperatures range from 160 to 180; or even higher, and with careful preparation the diastase should not be completely destroyed, leaving a D.P. of from 8 to 10 Lintner. Amber malt is valuable in the direction of contributing a "malty" flavour and aroma to stouts, but its employment has been found useful for the same reasons in beer production when using large proportions of maize and rice flakes. Amber malt yields an extract of exceptional brilliancy, and it assists the clarification of other worts by increasing coagulation or "break" due to the degree of caramelisation the malt receives in the special kiln treatment to which it is submitted on the kiln.

Crystal Malt is prepared as follows: after undergoing normal germination on the floors the grain is soaked in a somewhat dilute sugar solution, or any weak solution of saccharine substances. The malt is then cured in the ordinary manner on the kiln and its manufacture completed by methods similar to that adopted — although in a modified form — for roasted or so-called patent malt. Crystal malt yields an intensely malty flavour and aroma peculiar to itself. It is valuable for colouring mild ale, to which it confers improved flavour, an enhanced palate-fulness and an attractive rich colour."
"Brewing and Malting" by John Ross Mackenzie, 1927 , pages 254 - 255.

I collect descriptions of brown malt and its manufacture. "You need hobbies to keep yourself sane." The reverse is true in my case. Ross Mackenzie describes the dangerous method of manufacture used in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. Where the temperature of the kiln is suddenly raised by throwing on wooden faggots.

I've quickly checked his claim that the large London brewers made their own brown malt. Unfortunately, there's nothing conclusive. Whitbread in this period were buying their brown malt in. Courage and Barclay Perkins don't specify any source in their brewing records. All, of course, continued to include brown malt in all their Porter and Stout grists.

So amber malt aids clarification. I'm not exactly sure I understand why caramelisation should help clarification. Barclay Perkins were very keen on amber malt in the 1920's. It was in all their Stouts and Milds. Whitbread, on the other hand, didn't use it at all. Their stronger Stouts - SS and SSS - had contained amber malt, but these beers had been discontinued during WW I. Courage didn't use it either.

Crystal malt has been used in different ways over the years. Initially it was mostly used in Mild Ales. In the 1920's, Courage included it in the grist of all their Mild and Strong Ales, but not in their Porter or Stout. Truman used no crystal malt in their Burton brewery until after WW II. Lees were the same, only introducing it to their grists in the 1940's. Whitbread occasionally used it in their Porter and Stout, and always in their Milds. Their Pale Ales contained none until 1927, after which it was a constant in their grists. Barclay Perkins confined the use of crystal malt to its Mild Ales and Strong Ales.

It's funny. I always thought of crystal malt as a typical ingredient in Bitter. But that only really became true after WW II.


Ed said...

They still had blown brown malt in the 1920s? I thought it was long gone by then. I wonder when it became un-blown.

Matt said...

"I always though of crystal malt as a typical ingredient in Bitter. But that only really became true after WW II."

Better not tell Mr Protz that. As he reckons crystal malt is what separates pale ale and bitter, he would probably conclude that there were no genuine bitters until after WWII.

Graham Wheeler said...

One has to question the reliability of Mr Mackenzie. His description of how crystal malt is made is pure cloud-cuckoo: Compare it with the description given on page 156 of E. J. Jeffery's Brewing.

The descriptions of the other malts appear to be well out of date for 1927. Although some old-fashioned, smoked brown malt was still made up until the 1950s, I would have expected the majority of brown to be drum-brown by 1927.

The description of amber malt is pretty good inasmuch as it mentions the high moisture content. However the high moisture content while the kiln temperature was at about mashing temperature, was true for all old-time malts. This produced reducing sugars in the grain which then reacted with amino acids at the higher finishing temperature, once the grain had dried out, to produce rich malty flavours, courtesy of the Maillard reaction. These flavours would have been particularly apparent in Amber and Brown.

Modern British base malts do not display those flavours to the same extent. Modern brown and amber are drum roasted - no stewing or pseudo-mashing.

The later adoption of crystal malts was probably to restore a similar malty flavour to those beers that came from the brown-beer lineage; milds and bitters being an example.

The paler ales have a different lineage, so Roger Protz is probably on the right track.

The problem is that old-time pale, amber and brown coexisted with modern pale, amber and brown, at various periods during thier history, perhaps for generations, and it is near impossible to determine which one was used when you come across, say, a Victorian recipe.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, I agree 100% about how hard it is to pin down amber and brown malt. So many sources mention the variation in them. And naturally the large brewers could get them made exactly as they wanted.

It's much more complicated than just old-time and modern malt. Different maltsters, different production methods, different local tastes, different specs from brewers.

Having compared brewing manuals with brewing records of the same period, I couldn't help but notice that the former were usually 10 to 15 years out of date.

"The later adoption of crystal malts was probably to restore a similar malty flavour to those beers that came from the brown-beer lineage; milds and bitters being an example."

Interesting claim. Mild and Bitter both brown beer. But, brushing aside how crazy a claim that is, if that's the case, why did they start using crystal malt in Mild 60 years before they did in Bitter? While there was often crystal malt in Porter and Stout.

Pale Ale. Bitter. They're used interchangeably in so many sources. Then there's the brewing records. Pale Ale and Bitter are the same thing.

Where's the evidence for them being different?

Graham Wheeler said...

"Pale Ale. Bitter. They're used interchangeably in so many sources. Then there's the brewing records. Pale Ale and Bitter are the same thing.

Where's the evidence for them being different?

By "paler ales", I meant ales in general. I have this fixation that all British beers have evolved from just two roots; the 'ale' line and the 'brown beer' line; with a fair deal of mongrelisation by the mid-twentieth century. Pale Ale is a bit of a misnomer. It does not pass either of the two commonly asserted tests that might qualify it as an ale. I have heard it suggested that an IPA is not particularly strong and it is not lightly hopped either. With both tests failed it must be a beer, apparently.

The commonly held view that ales are lightly hopped and that beers are more heavily hopped does not really withstand scrutiny too well when one examines old recipes. In the old literature there are many examples of stuff called ale that is heavily hopped, twelve pounds of hops per quarter of malt or more; likewise many examples of stuff called beer that is lightly hopped, as low as four pounds of hops per quarter.

The only significant correlation seems to be that these beverages are hopped in proportion to the length of time that they are meant to be stored, with little difference in hop rate whether they happen to be called ale or beer. This goes right back to Ellis of 1736, which is about as far back as my resources allow.

John Tuck, in The Private Brewer, 1822, gives a recipe for an ale in which he suggests 6 lbs of hops per quarter if the ale is going to consumed at about a month, 8 lbs per quarter for moderate storage, and 12 lbs per quarter for a stock ale. There are other examples, some with even higher hop rates, but the Tuck example at least shows the relationship between time and hop rate for an ale.

If the distinction between ale and beer is not directly related to hop rate, we need to look for something else that defines an ale. One thing that stands out is the number of times that an ale is specified as being ready for tapping at about a month; you do not see this with old-time beers. Apart from the John Tuck example, given above, William Ellis's ales in 1736 were meant to tapped at three weeks to a month. George Watkins in The Complete English Brewer, 1773, wrote: “The liquor called ale in distinction from beer is usually of less strength; and is less tinctured with the hop: being intended for drinking soon after it was brewed; not for keeping years as the other.”

For an ale of that period to be ready in just a month, it must be free from any harshness; no harshness from roasted malts, smokiness, or the hops. All these things would take a longer maturation time to mellow out. Time and time again we see the finest, palest malt and the best, palest hops specified for ales; all these, and a low hop rate, would reduce the time to consumption. Perhaps an ale is brewed for quick consumption, but the low hop rate is a consequence of being ready in a month, not a definition of style. No matter what definition one comes up with, there is always something somewhere that contradicts it.

Dunno what all this has to do with coloured malts though.