Thursday, 10 November 2016

Malted wheat and oats

Sorry about this. I never quite finished everything in "Brewing Theory and Practice" about grains. Just got distracted, as usual.

Though in a way it’s a good thing that I was delayed. Because I’ve since got my hands on more brewing records from the 1950’s. Where malts other than from barley do show up.

But I’ll let Jeffery talk first.

Malted Wheat and Oats
In addition to malt made from various types of barley, both wheat and oats can be malted. The former is difficult to put through the process because the acrospire grows outside the skin of the grain, and thus has no protection. Consequently, the malting of wheat is not a proposition favoured by maltsters. But when properly malted and used in mild ales, it imparts a fullness of flavour to the beer and also provides valuable feeding properties for yeast.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 132 - 133.

OK, I think I get that. Wheat is difficult to malt, but it fills out Mild Ales nicely. Let’s take a look at actual practice. Flowers, a later Whitbread victim, used wheat in some of their beers. In 1955 they brewed nine different beers of which four received some wheat. But it wasn’t in the Mild Ale or Brown Ale. It was in their bottled Pale Ales. The percentage was pretty small, just 3% or 4% of the grist.

Let’s try another brewery. Shepherd Neame, they also dabbled in wheat. And in 1956 they also brewed nine beers, four of which contained malt. Once again, Mild wasn’t one of them. The four were Abbey Ale (a Strong Ale), Double Brown, Brown Ale and Light Dinner Ale. Interestingly, all bottled beers again. The proportion in the grist was again below 5%.

In the 1960’s, Eldridge Pope had malt in pretty well all their grists: Bitter, Old Ale, Mild Ale, Brown Ale and Strong Ale. Only Lager and Stout received none. And when they first brewed Hardy Ale in 1967, that too contained wheat malt. Quite a lot of it, at over 10% of the grist.

I can’t make any sense out of that. Two breweries seem to have used it just for bottled beers, the third for just about everything. In the case of the first two, my guess is that the main purose of using wheat, especially given the small quantities, was head retention. At Eldridge Pope the amounts are too large for that to be the reason. In the case of Hardy Ale it may be to keep the colour pale.

Will malted oats make any more sense?

“Malted oats are used as a minor blend in the production of stout, whence comes the name 'oatmeal stout'. They certainly provide and add to the nourishing value of stout, and supply useful nutrition for yeast. Such nutrition is much needed when roasted and black malts are in use, as the latter are practically devoid of nutriment. Oat malts have an extremely low diastase, but as the proportion used is very small, this is of no great importance.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 133.

Let’s see if Jeffery is any more accurate in the use of malted oats. Shepherd Neame did, indeed, use it in an Oatmeal Stout. Though, because of the way they parti-gyled, that meant it also ended up in some of the PA, a Bitter. Again, it was about 4% of the grist.

When Maclay brought back their Oat Malt Stout in 1966, obviously the grist included malted oats. Maclay were pioneers of the style in the 1890’s and, just like the early versions, the grist in the 1960’s had a high percentage of oats, around 30%. Which was even more than in 1909, when it was 25%.

Whitbread brewed an Oatmeal Stout until 1950. In contained a tiny amount of malted oats, less than 1% of the grist. This was typical of London brewers who would use just a token amount of oats.

A little earlier than Jeffery, large quantities of malted oats were consumed by British brewers. But that was during WW II when they were forced to by the government after a bumper crop of oats one year. Brewers hated it and dropped it again as soon as they could.


Martyn Cornell said...

Using oat malt was massive in the pre-hop Middle Ages - the St Paul's Cathedral brewhouse in 1286 was using more than half oats by weight, against 26% wheat and 20% barley.

It's never struck me before, but the Eldridge Pope/Tetley huntsman looks like Donald Trump …

Tom Shepherd said...

What's the meaning of the holes punched in some of the labels you show? It looks like the Dorset Brown Ale label has "18 + 3" and the Drybrough's Starbright has "298" punched in them.

Anonymous said...

A small amount of wheat gives a floral je ne sais quoi to a pale ale's aroma.

David Boshko said...

Remember seeing information about medieval Dutch beers that had 50% oat malt. Oats is also trendy these days for New England-style IPAs.

This: "Such nutrition is much needed when roasted and black malts are in use, as the latter are practically devoid of nutriment." Doesn't seem to make much sense. There aren't enough dark malts in a stout to make much of a difference to the yeast.

Ron Pattinson said...

Tom Shepherd,

pretty sure those are some sort of batch number. It's quite common on labels that have been used.

Tom Shepherd said...

Thanks. Seems strange that they would punch holes instead of printing on them. Hole punching tends to be messier with all of the paper bits and more prone to jammed up machinery and failed punches than stamping or printing.