Thursday, 6 June 2013

Roasted malt or roasted barley

I remember when I first looked at Barclay Perkins Porter records being confused by the appearance of "roasted" in the grists. I assumed it stood for roasted barley. How little I knew back then.

The records in question were from before 1880 which meant it couldn't possibly have been roasted barley, as that was illegal before the Free Mash Tun Act. A kind reader helpfully pointed out that it must have been roasted malt, another way of describing black malt. Or patent malt. I've just stumbled upon something that means I might have been right after all. Sort of.

I've been spending the last couple of days ripping the statistical tables out of "A Practical Treatise on Malting and Brewing" by William Ford. It's got some great number on malt and hops. Just what I needed for my collection of beer-related statistics. I'm very proud of my tables of numbers. Every so often I open them up, just to admire them. I should really mould a second volume of "Numbers!" from them.

When I'd finished extracted and dusting off the numbers, I thought I'd run my eyes over the wordy parts of the book. May as well, while I was in the neighbourhood. Which is when I found this fascinating passage about roasted malt:

"This may be considered the proper place to introduce a few words on an interesting and prominent article in brewing, namely, Roasted Malt.

Being of comparative modern invention, and most valuable to the porter brewery, it has, in a great degree, superseded the Blown, or Brown Malt, which had constituted a very important branch of the malting business. It has likewise, to some extent, interfered with Amber Malt.

Both Brown and Amber Malt are used for giving colour and flavour, but principally flavour, to porter. But this misnamed malt, roasted, has displaced above two-thirds of the Brown and Amber. One peck of roasted is equal, in giving colour, to eight bushels of brown. Formerly the grist for porter was constituted of one-third pale, one-third brown, and one-third amber."
 "A Practical Treatise on Malting and Brewing" by William Ford, 1862, pages 68
Black malt interfering with amber malt? Surely it should be locked up for such behaviour. Being more serious, I'm sure that black malt did reduce the usage of brown malt. In the years before its invention in 1817, Porter grists were 30-40% brown malt. Not sure that equal parts of pale amber and brown is one that I've seen.

This is what happened to Whitbread Porter and Stout grists during the 19th century:

Whitbread Porter grists 1805 - 1900
Year pale malt brown malt black malt amber malt crystal malt sugar
1805 79.08% 20.92%
1808 56.95% 28.70% 14.35%
1816 54.76% 25.99% 19.25%
1817 88.00% 11.64% 0.36%
1821 94.98% 3.86% 1.16%
1830 98.28% 1.72%
1840 85.62% 11.99% 2.40%
1850 76.41% 20.34% 3.25%
1860 75.97% 20.36% 3.67%
1870 79.19% 5.99% 14.83%
1880 85.77% 8.70% 5.53%
1888 79.93% 4.08% 7.35% 8.64%
1891 77.49% 9.67% 6.82% 6.02%
1895 85.54% 6.81% 7.66%
1900 85.77% 7.12% 7.12%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/09/001, LMA/4453/D/09/003, LMA/4453/D/09/010, LMA/4453/D/09/011, LMA/4453/D/09/014, LMA/4453/D/09/023, LMA/4453/D/09/034, LMA/4453/D/09/043, LMA/4453/D/09/054, LMA/4453/D/09/064, LMA/4453/D/09/075, LMA/4453/D/09/082, LMA/4453/D/09/085, LMA/4453/D/09/090, LMA/4453/D/09/094.

It's clear that the introduction of black malt had an immediate impact on Whitbread's use of brown and amber malt. But the use of brown malt increased again between 1840 and 1860, before falling again at the end of the century.
"The word malt is greatly libelled in these roasting-houses. The corn is steeped only forty hours, being the shortest time the law allows, consequently pays at least 5 per cent. less duty than ordinary malt, and is usually thrown upon the kiln from four to seven days after being emptied from the cistern. Corn perfectly malted will not give out so much of colour, or so standing a colour, as that merely partially malted; and on the other hand, barley, unmalted or not steeped, gives still less colour, and the colour is not permanent. This corn is not so perfectly dried on the malt kiln as pale or other malts; and the process of roasting is conducted by law, as it respects the premises, not less than one mile from the malt-house; the business of roasting is similar to that of roasting coffee. The best quality is that which is of a dark coffee-brown colour, nearly black, and close roasted, that is to say, none of the corns burst.
"A Practical Treatise on Malting and Brewing" by William Ford, 1862, pages 68 - 69.
Now isn't that fascinating? Black malt wasn't properly malted, but just enough to pass the legal definition. It doesn't shock me that maltsters would try to skip as much of the process as they could get away with. I am surprised that the colouring properties of partially malted grains were better than either fully malted or unmalted ones. Especially that unmalted grains performed the worst.

"There is a special Act of Parliament for regulating the proceedings of the malt-roaster, which I have reason to believe was concocted mainly by a few of the London roasters, ostensibly to protect the trade and revenue against the fraud of roasting barley not paying the malt duty. But the effect of its provisions are to create a very nice little monopoly; the trade is in very few hands, all is sent out by certificate."
"A Practical Treatise on Malting and Brewing" by William Ford, 1862, page 69.
There was a reason for this legislation: the government didn't trust the roasters, suspected them of roasting unmalted grains. They limited the number of them so they could keep a better eye on them.
"I was sent for by the Excise to examine a sample of corn called Patent, or Black Malt, for my opinion whether it was ever malted. I found that about one-tenth—not more—had partially vegetated; my answer was,  'As part had vegetated, it was possible all might have been steeped and paid duty, consequently it was malt according to law, but never was the malt of commerce, inasmuch as the law, as now construed, constituted all grain to be malt that had been steeped forty hours, and had remained in couch thirty hours, without reference to its being malted.'

But by a late Act, all malt found upon the premises of a malt-roaster, or roasted malt found on the premises of a brewer, that has more than five per cent. of unmalted grain, or if grain have more than five per cent. of which the acrospire has not passed at least half over the grain, the same is liable to seizure.

The principal makers of Black or Roasted Malt are Mr. Walmsley, New Boad, Whitechapel; Mrs. Backhouse, Spital Square; Messrs. Bandall, Lambeth; and Mr. Swonnell, London; and Messrs. Plunkett, Dublin."
"A Practical Treatise on Malting and Brewing" by William Ford, 1862, pages 69 - 70.

So black malt was malt as defined by law, but not really malt in the sense of having been completely malted. If you see what I mean. Nor would it have qualified as malt according to an older legal definition. The latest legal definition seemed to be more concerned that it had been through the process where it was measured for tax purposes (i.e. the malt tax had been paid on the grains) rather that it actually having been malted fully.

As usual. it was all about money. As long as the government got their tax, they really didn't give a toss what the maltster did.

So what was it - roasted malt or roasted barley? Seems like roasted half-malt is the answer. I wonder if anyone still makes something similar?


Alex said...

Ron, one of the tables mentions crystal malt being used in 18-something. I wasnt aware this was used that early on.

When was Crystal malt first used commercially, or at least when did become popular commercially?


Ron Pattinson said...


I've not seen much crystal malt in the 1880's. When it does appear, it's usually in Porter or Mild.

dave said...

With the micro maltsters popping up, you could probably get one of them to make a "roasted half-malt".

Anonymous said...

Joe White Maltings here in Australia make a "choc-chit" malt, "Choc-chit malt is a roasted malt product produced from partially germinated chit malt. It is
roasted over a longer period to produce sweeter flavoured chocolate malt. The result is
chocolate, caramel and burnt flavours with roasted coffee aromas. Small quantities will add a
deep ruby red colour to beer. Larger quantities add a black colour and smooth roast flavour.
This malt is used in sweet stouts and dark beers. About 800° EBC." Apparently it's not available to the home-brewer any longer, although it is rumoured to be the only spec malt in Tooheys old, an Australian Old Ale (which is a kind of Brown Ale...perhaps?)