Thursday, 20 June 2013

Malting and brewing in Germany in WW I

We're back in WW I again. Can you imagaine what it's going to be like here next year, the anniversary of the outbreak of the war? Unreadable. Sorry, unmissable.

It's a little odd, given the huge degree of animosity in Britain towards the Germans, how Britain's brewing scientists continued to read German technical publications. I wonder how they got hold of them? Probably via some neutral country like Holland.


We publish this month abstracts of two papers (see pp. 411 and 414) one by Professor W. Windisch under the above title, and the other by Professor K. Windisch dealing with "War Beer." The first paper is a very long one, running through, in fact, sixteen numbers of the Wochensehrift für Brauerei for this year. It reviews practically the whole of the author's recent research work in brewing, and shows how the prolongation of the war far beyond its expected limits has adversely affected the German brewing industry through the scarcity of labour and materials, and how these difficulties have been met by the brewing of lighter beers."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 23, Issue 6, November-December 1917, Page 355.

It was the same story everywhere: lack of labour and raw materials. In both participant and neutral countries. Only the extent of these problems varied. Everywhere beer strength and the quantity of beer produced were reduced.

Now here's an interesting point about the malt being used in wartime Germany, given the stipulations of the Reinheitsgebot

"W. Windisch states that in the case of the 1915 barleys the grist used successfully consisted of 20—40 per cent, of imperfectly modified corns, equivalent, therefore, to the so-called "chit" malt, which consists of barley steeped and couched, and as soon as sprouting has commenced loaded on kiln, whilst the remainder was short-grown malt. This latter is malt germinated for a considerably shorter period than a normal one. Naturally in neither of these forms of grain has modification proceeded very far, but the Author states that he has corrected this by the adoption of certain methods in the brewery. We would point out that in pre-war days "chit" malt was condemned by the majority of German brewers as being only raw barley."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 23, Issue 6, November-December 1917, Page 355.

You could argue that neither of those types was "true" malt, having gone through a very abbreviated production process. It's not clear why they took short cuts in the malting process. Was the grain too low quality to be properly malted? Or were they trying to save fuel?

I've not come across anything similar in Britain during WW I. Though in WW II the government encouraged the use of flake barley because it required less fuel to produce.

Now let's read how they mashed this crappy malt-like stuff:

"The recommendations are to grind the malt to a fine grist in a six-roll mill, to soak the grist in cold water overnight, the temperature of which must be below 68—77° F. [20-25º C], and separate into a thick mash and a thin mash. The former is maintained at 122º F. [50º C] for a certain period, and then saccharified at 148—158º F. [64.5-70º C], after which it is heated to boiling. The boiled thick mash is mixed with the cold thin mash, and the mixture held at 122º F. [50º C] for about half-an-hour, then raised to the temperature of saccharification, and finally heated to the mashing-off temperature. It is stated that if this process be adopted using a liquor containing carbonates a nauseous flavour is produced in the resulting beer, this being attributed to the action of carbonates during the cold digestion of the grist. The best liquor to use in these circumstances is said to be a water containing little or no mineral matter, or a gypseous water."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 23, Issue 6, November-December 1917, Page 355.

To my untrained eye, that looks very much like a single decoction, similar to this classic DDR method:

mash in at 50º C
Warm whole mash to 70º C
Draw off mash and bring to the boil
Aufmaischen* at 76º C and mashout

Though Dickscheit** said that this produced a beer that tasted very similar to one from an infusion mash. Why did they mash this way? Probably for a combination of reasons. Pre-war, most German bottom-fermenting breweries would have used some sort of double or triple decoction mash. Which is expensive in terms of the energy it consumes. With just a single boil of the mash, this was bound to use less fuel and be quicker, so use less manpower. Then why not just go for a simple infusion mash? Because the undermodified malt probably wasn't up to it. And for another much simpler reason: their breweries were designed for decoction mashes. They weren't necessarily that suitable for infusion mashing.

I can't comment on the effect of carbonates in the water. Though I will point out that there were other decoction methods, for example the Augsburg one, where after doughing in with cold water the mash was left to stand for several hours. Presumably the same effect would have taken place. I wonder what the composition of Augsburg brewing water is?

* pump the boiled mash back to the remainder of the mash
** "Leitfaden für den Brauer und Mälzer", 1953, pages 64 – 66.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Remember the Germans satisfy the Rheinheitsgebot, then and now, by calling anything that passes through a malthouse "malt", regardless of how long it is there, modification level, even grain type.