Sunday, 13 November 2011

Small Beer brewed from unmalted barley

Something new. That's what I learn every day. Unfortunately, I usually forget a couple of other things. Is my balance of learning positive? I hope so.

This is a weird one. It's taken from an encyclopedia article about brewing. For some reason, it starts discussing the use of raw grain in brewing. An odd thing to do because at the time it was published, 1839, brewing from anything other than malt and hops was strictly forbidden.

'The writer of this article,' says Dr. Thomson, in the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 'has several times tried the experiment of making ale from unmalted barley, and found it perfectly practicable. Several precautions, however, are necessary in order to succeed. The water let upon the ground barley in the mash-tun must be considerably below the boiling temperature. For barley meal is much more apt to set than malt, that is, to form a stiff paste, from which no wort will separate. The addition of a portion of the chaff of oats serves very much to prevent this setting of the goods, and facilitates considerably the separation of the wort. Care must likewise be taken to prevent the heat from escaping during the mashing, and the mashing must be continued longer than usual. For it is during the mashing that the starch of the barley is converted into a saccharine matter. This change seems to be owing merely to the chemical combination of a portion of water with the starch of the barley; just as happens when common starch is converted into sugar, by boiling it with very dilute sulphuric acid, or any other acid. This method of brewing from raw grain answers admirably for small beer. In our trials, he adds, the raw barley did not answer so well for making strong ale as for small beer. The ale was perfectly transparent, and we kept it for several years without its running into acidity. But it had a peculiar flavor by no means agreeable. Probably a little practice might have enabled us to get rid of this flavor, in which case, raw grain would answer, in every respect, as well for brewing as malt does.' He further states, that some years ago it was used to a considerable extent by several brewers of small beer in Edinburgh, and their beer was considered as greatly preferable to small beer brewed in the usual manner. But the practice was stopped by a decision of the Court of Exchequer.
"The London encyclopaedia, vol. IV Benedict to Cadiz" edited by Thomas Curtis, 1839, pages 523 - 524.
You've probably guessed why I've posted this text. It's the final few sentences. The bit about Small Beer brewers in Edinburgh brewing from raw grain. I'm sceptical as to whether the Small Beer brewed from unmalted barley was better than that brewed from malt. I can believe that it was cheaper: the malting process was skipped and the malt tax avoided. A double whammy. Of course tax-dodging is exactly why the practice was forbidden.


I'd love to find out more about this. . . . . . Been doing a quick search and came across this:

"In Germany, and many parts of Belgium, where a light colour is desiderated for beer, the above-mentioned chemical principle is taken advantage of. The white beer of Louvain is made from a wort, formed of a little malt, added to a large quantity of wheat flour; and, in the manufacture of the celebrated Bavarian pale beer, a large quantity of unmalted barley is employed."
"Journal of horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Country Gentleman, Volume 3", 1862, page 143.

Surely it can't be true that unmalted barley was used in Bavaria? Then again, the orginal Reinheitsgebot doesn't mention malt. I just says beer can only be made from barley, hops and water.

Ah, this is more like what I was looking for.

"3752. Do you apprehend if raw grain was well ground and infused with a due proportion of sugar or molasses, so as in that way to obtain the saccharine matter, that you would be likely, from those materials, to produce a good and wholesome beer ?—You can produce excellent beer from raw grain alone, without anything else.

3753- What reason is there, except the question of revenue, which ought to prevent the State from permitting beer made of raw grain to be manufactured by brewers ?—In the year 1805 we had three brewers, and it struck me, during the time of my experiments, to try whether we could not make beer from raw grain; I made each of those brewers in succession try it; they were extremely unwilling to do it; they said it was absurd and ridiculous; but however they tried it, and found, to their great astonishment, that they not only made beer, but better beer from raw grain than had been done from malt; and after we had done, they set up as brewers, brewed from raw grain, and got all the business of Edinburgh; the consequence was, that the licensed brewers, who brewed from malt, lodged a complaint, an Exchequer trial took place, and the barons of the Exchequer prohibited it, though there was no law."
"Report from the Select Committee on the Use Of Molasses in Breweries and Distilleries", 1836, page 245.

This looks like one of the sources of that encyclopedia article. It appears that some brewers in Edinburgh did indeed try to brew from raw grain. The bastards.

13 comments:

Rod said...

This is just something I've never thought of. Raw grain would be cheaper, but what would the yield be like? Surely nothing like as good, even if you mashed for a longer time? How much diastase does raw grain contain, compared to malted barley, do you know?

You can see how raw grain would have given a paler beer though - in those days any kilned malt would presumably have taken a bit of colour.

I can sort of see domestic brewing with raw grain, but the assertion that it was done on a commercial scale is very interesting. As is the idea that some Belgian Wit was brewed with raw grain - some Belgian brewers use raw wheat even today.

Ron Pattinson said...

Rod, I know it's possible. And it's no surprise that Scots brewers might be tempted to use raw grain. Whisky distillers often used a combination of malt and raw grain in their wash. And there were Scottish breweries that also owned distilleries.

I'd have thought flavour might have been a problem. Barley doesn't have the same flavour as malted barley.

I've only been able to track a very small number of references to the Scottish raw grain Table Beer. I'd love to know more.

marquis said...

You can be sure that if it was possible to evade malt tax some people would do it! There are plenty of cases in our local history of people being fined for not paying the tax.Which of course shows that the law was being enforced with some vigour.Parts of Scotland were perhaps remote enough to make the risk worth while.
However, the malt tax is only part of it.If you're going to spend some hours brewing with its attendant hard work it's false economy to end up with a tasteless brew which is what would be the result.And you've only got to chew raw barley to realise just how bland it is relative to malt.

Oblivious said...

"even if you mashed for a longer time? How much diastase does raw grain contain, compared to malted barley, do you know?"

very little to none, the germination/malting process will allow expression of α/β amylase and other enzymes.

The authors talks of "This change seems to be owing merely to the chemical combination of a portion of water with the starch of the barley; just as happens when common starch is converted into sugar, by boiling it with very dilute sulphuric acid, or any other acid."

What there are doing is using acid to cleave the glycosidic bonds (acid hydrolysis of starch) between the starch, release free glucose and avoiding the need for malting

Rod said...

I'm still not sure I'm getting this.

"For it is during the mashing that the starch of the barley is converted into a saccharine matter. This change seems to be owing merely to the chemical combination of a portion of water with the starch of the barley"

I don't read this as him saying that they are adding acid to the mash, but that there is some chemical (presumably an acid?)found in the water which is causing saccrification.
Similar to -

"when common starch is converted into sugar, by boiling it with very dilute sulphuric acid, or any other acid"

Or am I completely confused here?

Ron Pattinson said...

Rod, you're confused. I'm totally lost.

Rod said...

Right, here we go - this is my Horst explanation, which, brilliantly, incorporates the Scottish peatiness myth!

ROD
AAAAAAAhh - AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!
Makes it up as he goes along!

The always-accurate Wikipedia says -

"Acid sulfate soils are naturally occurring soils, sediments or organic substrates (e.g. peat) that are formed under waterlogged conditions. These soils contain iron sulfide minerals (predominantly as the mineral pyrite) or their oxidation products. In an undisturbed state below the water table, acid sulfate soils are benign. However if the soils are drained, excavated or exposed to air by a lowering of the water table, the sulfides react with oxygen to form sulfuric acid."

There we have it! Peat-laden Scottish water is full of naturally-ocurring sulphuric acid, which cleaves the glycosidic bonds (acid hydrolysis of starch) between the starch, release free glucose and avoiding the need for malting!
Horrah!

That's every bit as good as any of Horst's.......

Rod said...

This from the Oxford Companion to Beer, by Herr Doktor Professor Horst Graf von Dornbusch - Scottish domestic ales in the 19th Century.
Due the harsh Scottish environment, where nobody had anything but oats to eat, every Scottish home brewed its own beer, since money had not been invented. Most bothies and crofts used the recipe that Robert the Bruce gave Bonny Prince Charlie.
Scottish domestic beer, which is usually known in North America as Heavy Wee, was brewed from unmalted barley, which was in plentiful supply, as Scotland, despite its apallingly cold climate is, in fact, the bread basket of the United Kingdom. It was not neccessary to malt the barley in Scotland because the peat in the water, especially in Alloa, the foremost brewing town, created sulphuric acid in the mashing liquor which made malting unneccesary.
Using unmalted barley was a huge double whammy for the canny, not to say stingy, Scots - it was cheaper because it hadn't gone through the 4 year malting process, but most importantly to the fiercly independant Scots, as fiery as their red hair, it meant that they didn't have to pay the despised Sassenachs the tax imposed upon malt, which was just as tyrannical in its way as the tax imposed upon the American colonialists' tea, which lead to the American Revolution, the birth of this great nation. By which I mean America, obviously, not Germany. Thank God that America was spared the Stainist terror which means that even today all Czeh breweries grind grain by horse power and run enirely with staem engines, not electricity. God bless this great country of ours - well, yours.... Still I digress -
The resultant Scottish home-brewed ale, or Little Wee, was exceptionally pale, due to the use of unmalted barley, and therefore much superior to English Pale Ale in every regard, except the fact that it didn't really taste of anything very much, especially since it was barely shown any hops. These, of course, perish immediately they enter Scottish territorial waters, due to the extreme cold.
These Scottish domestic, or "Bothy" ales are the direct forerunner of the unique Scotch Ales, such as Kwak, which are still popular in Belgium today. The Belgian Scotch Ales are stonger, of course, because they used to regularly freeze on the arduous sea journey to Belgium - the greatly inceased ABV prevented this from happening.

Barm said...

Brilliant, Rod. You should do an entire website of this stuff. It would be just as accurate as the German Beer Institute, but much more amusing.

Barm said...

I am sure I saw a reference to brewing with unmalted grain somewhere. Let me look it up...

Rod said...

"You should do an entire website of this stuff."

Well, you know, I'd like to, but then big players in the brewing industry and major publishing houses would keep bombarding me with commissions, and I just haven't got the time - I've got beer to brew.......

William Riley-Land said...

A book on traditional Veneto cooking includes what it says is a "popular" beer recipe made from ~70% non-malted barley and ~20% sugar. It suggests that this style of beer was brought to the Veneto when it was under Austrian control.

The recipe is to boil 750g/300g respectively in 15L water with two handfuls of hops for 2 hours.

Gene Poole said...

"Spared the Stalinist terror"? Yeah, but the problem is all the things we haven't been spared.