Thursday 8 August 2019

Malt in WW I

Though malting was always performed in the UK, before the war barley was imported from every corner of the globe. The most important sources were California, Chile and the Middle East.

Brewers, especially those using a large proportion of adjuncts, liked malt made from Californian six-row barley because of its high diastatic power. In a typical grist, between a quarter and a third of the pale malt was made from foreign six-row barley, the rest being UK 2-row.

Most beers were brewed from a pale malt base with no coloured malts at all. The only exceptions to this were Porter and Stout, which could contain brown, black and Amber malt, and Mild Ale, which often contained crystal malt. The use of crystal malt in Pale Ales was pretty much unknown before WW I.

Supplies of foreign barley gradually dried up during the war, forcing brewers to use all malt from UK barley. Fortunately, as the availability of adjuncts was also reduced, this didn’t have as much impact as it might have.

I’ve seen wild claims that the roasting of malt was forbidden during WW I. This is totally untrue. Not only were there no restrictions on roasting in the Food Control Manual, brewers continued to use brown malt, black malt and roasted barley right through the war years.

There was a big increase in the price of mat during the war. Not surprising, really, given that it was in short supply.

When war broke out, pale malt cost around 40s. a quarter. By 1920, it was around triple that price. What’s also fascinating is that the specialist types of pale malt – PA malt, SA malt (Strong Ale) malt and mild malt all disappeared for a while towards the end of the war. It looks like maltsters were trimming their range of products just as brewers did.

Price of malt used by Barclay Perkins 1914 - 1917 (in shillings per quarter)
1914 1915 1916 1917
Mar Oct Jun Oct Jan Apr Oct Jan  Apr
English pale malt 41.67 39.5 40.1 51.8 61 63.2 63.67 70.5 79
English PA malt 42 42.5 42 41.5 67 67 70 79 83.25
American pale malt 39 38.67 41.88 42.38 50 52.67 61.63 64 64
Indian pale malt 35.5 50 53.5 67.25 67.38
Spanish pale malt 53.5 59.5 69 75.5
English mild malt 39 40 41 41 60 60 60 60 60
English SA malt 42.5 43 43 43 67 90
Crystal malt 31 31.5 32.5 46 46 46 58
Amber malt 37.5 38.5 39.75 44 48 48 70 70 67
Brown malt 30 63
Roasted malt
 Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Price of malt used by Barclay Perkins 1917 - 1920 (in shillings per quarter) 
1917 1918 1919 1920
Oct Jan Apr Oct Jan Apr Oct Jan Apr
English pale malt 81 85.5 89.3 91.83 95.25 97.4 93.65 90.25 127
English PA malt 84.25 89 132 132
American pale malt 64 64 80.75 101.2 108 108 99.5 92 117.5
English mild malt 132
English SA malt 132 132
Crystal malt 75 85 86 89 89 87.5 85.5 125.5
Amber malt 67 86 89 95 98 98 96 94 132
Brown malt 60 60 62 66 68 68 87.5
Roasted malt 80 84 84 84
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives

In February 1917 the government enacted a total ban on the malting of barley and the selling of malt. Which must have had huge financial impact on the industry.

After the war’s end, brewers were delighted to have Californian barley again to malt and again used a mixture of UK two-row and US six-row pale malt in their grists.

Presumably in attempt to compensate for the drop in gravity, crystal malt occasionally started to feature in Pale Ale grists. Though this was the exception rather than the rule.

The above is once again taken from my book on WW I, Armistice!

 Buy this wonderful book.


qq said...

My guess is that the use of crystal was at least in part connected to the switch from Chevallier to new barleys like Plumage Archer which are not as sweet and rich. Might be worth looking out for evidence of when breweries switched away from Chevallier?

Anonymous said...

Wait, a total ban on the production and sale of malt? How did anyone brew beer once their inventory ran out? Surely brewers didn't keep 1.5 years' worth of malt on hand?

StuartP said...

'Middle East' is a bit harsh. More Eastern Mediterranean.