The committee was partly the result of agitation by the "Pure Beer" movement. People who were unhappy with the Free Mash Tun Act and wanted to return to all-malt beers.
The argument centred around whether adjuncts were needed when the growing season in the UK had been poor and the barley wasn't up to scratch. Quoting German brewing scientists, some claimed that it was possible to use malt from such barley on its own, if it was malted the right way. The trick was to have a higher temperature on the malting floor.
Moritz, a UK brewing scientist who gave evidence to the committee thought this was total rubbish and wrote to various brewers and maltsters asking their opinion.
Here's the letter:
"72, Chancery Lane, London, W.C.,Of course, most brewers had a vested interest in the use of adjuncts and sugar as it made their life easier and, in the case of adjuncts, saved them money. You might expect malsters to be keener on a retun to all-malt beers. But that wasn't necessarily the case.
April 2, 1898.
I have undertaken to give evidence shortly before the Beer Materials Committee, and I wish todeal as thoroughly as possible with certain statements respecting barleys and malts which have been at forward by the experts of the "Pure" Beer party. These statements I regard as misleading, and for their refutation I should be glad to have the corroboration of a few of the leading brewers and maltsters of this country. It‘, therefore, you agree substantially with my opinion of these statements, I should be obliged if you would write to me to that effect and authorise me to put in your letter in my evidence.
The statements to which I refer were brought forward by Dr. Schidrowitz, and were quotations from communications made to him by Professor Aubry of Munich, and by Dr. Doemens of the same town. Substantially they amount to this: that the defects of an inferior barley can be adequately met by alterations in the malting process, and that when the process is skilfully adjusted the malt produced from an inferior-grade barley is a quite satisfactory brewing material. It is further stated that the recipe for securing this rather amazing result is the promotion of an extra growth of rootlet, and it is implied that it is because we in England are ignorant of this procedure that we have regarded malt from low-grade stubborn barleys as not comparable with those made from fine; and it is further suggested that now we are enlightened on this head the use for admixing malt made from inferior barley in the brewhouse with foreign malt or a little brewing sugar will entirely disappear.
To these statements there is much to be said in reply, but I may content myself with the following:—
1. That malt made from inferior barley, however well malted, is of necessity inferior to malt made from fine barley. That such is the case is known to every English maltster and brewer of experience, and is proved by the enormously divergent prices obtained for high-grade and low-grade barley respectively. If the defects of low-grade barley were adjustable by an alteration in malting the rices of all barley would in any season tend towards a fixed mean point. There is no such tendency.
2. That it is no news to English maltsters that stubborn inferior barleys require different handling to fine kindly barleys, but that it is absurd to suppose that the extension of the root by higher flooring temperatures (as recommended by the German authorities) will put the resulting malts on a level with each other.
4. That when inferior barleys have to be dealt with, many points other than and apart from extended rootlet growth haveto be attended to, and that the mere extension of rootlet growth would form a very poor way of getting the best results out of a low-grade barley.
I think your experience would probably sustain my contentious, and you will probably agree that the doctrines put forward by Doctors Aubry and Doemens for our enlightenment suggest that in this country we have nothing particular to learn from these gentlemen on the subject of malting.
(Signed) E. R. Moritz."
"The Brewers' Journal, 1898", page 424.
Here's the reply from a prominent Newark maltster:
On a side note, the first ever primary research I did was in Newark's Gilstrap Library, in the castle grounds. And the secondary school I attended was on Earp Avenue. The town is full of references to the malting and brewing industries.
72, Chancery Lane,
April 4, 1898.
We are in receipt of your letter, and we presume you want our opinion from a commercial and practical, rather than a chemical, point of view. We at once say we consider your contentions as against the German statements are correct. Although modifications in the process of manufacture of malt from common sorts of barley may contribute to their better conversion, this is only an illustration of the necessity of resorting to expedients to over come as far as possible the difficulty of making the best of an inferior raw material; but the inferiority of such malt, as compared with that made from best barleys, is as evident to the practical maltster as it is always admitted to be by the scientific brewer. By extended floor growth, a barley of stubborn character, say, arising from its being the produce of strong land, may be made more convertible than if short grown, but we find that the brewer prefers a normal treatment of such barley, and relies on his own expedients in the blending of a kinder malt, or sugar, by which means he better avoids loss of extract value, and thus the value of such barley to the grower is in the long run better sustained. The market value of barley is determined by quality, and subsequently the market and brewing value of the malt made from it is so determined.
The visitation of cold sunless summers, which we continuously experienced some time ago, placed English barley at a great disadvantage compared with better grown and better harvested foreign, howsoever we modified the treat ment, or forced the floor growth, and all the best malts were then made from foreign barleys, whereas during the last four seasons climatic advantages have been with us, and best English barleys grown in best barley counties have displaced foreign altogether for making best malts - thus rendering brewers much more independent of sugar, or qualifying malt-grists produced from foreign barley.
From an agricultural point of view, it has always been our opinion that under the free mash-tun system there are many seasons in which the brewers’ opportunity of using malt made from ripe and easily convertible foreign barleys has tended to make a larger use of English malts possible than would have been the case had such foreign malts not been available, and an inferior English crop has had its value sustained by the blending resorted to.
Yours faithfully, GILSTRAP, EARP, & Co."
"The Brewers' Journal, 1898", page 424.
Susprisingly, the maltster agrees with Moritz and even claims that the Free Mash Tun Act increased the use of English malt. Mmm. Not sure about that one. but why would a maltster claim that if it weren't true? They had no vested interst in promoting the use of adjuncts.