Thursday, 25 September 2008

Patent malt in the early 19th century

Back to malt again. It's fun this, isn't it? This time it's turn of the controversial black or patent malt.

Not all brewers were convinced about black malt. Nor everyone keen in the change it made to the colour and flavour of Porter. I love the description of "nappy brown stout". Doesn't that make it sound yummy? (For my American readers nappy = diaper.)

Patent malt
When all forms of colouring were made illegal in 1816, Porter brewers had a big problem. How could they brew a beer of the right colour when using mostly pale malt? The answer was provided by Daniel Wheeler, who, by roasting malt in a way similar to coffee beans, created a malt capable of colouring a large quantity of wort. Pale malt was roasted at 360 to 400º F in metal cylinders, which revolved over a furnace. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 90.) Wheeler acquired a patent for the process, hence the name patent malt. It was also known as black malt, porter malt or roast malt.

Not everyone was a fan of black malt. Tizard wrote "Allusion has been made in former pages to the improvement which has of late years been made in the metropolitan ales, while on the other hand their beers have, in too many instances, declined in virtue and beauty, which circumstance is not wholly, as we have seen, though in part attributable to the introduction of Wheeler's patent malt, or such as is roasted in imitation of it; the "nappy brown stout" produced from amber malt, having fallen off, and in many houses a black sulky beverage being substituted in its stead, on the taste of which the stranger experiences a shake, as sudden and electrical as that which seizes a spaniel when quitting water." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 495.)

Because of problems it could cause in the mash tun, black malt was sometimes added in the copper, though that wasn't trouble-free, either. Insoluble parts of the malt could stick to the bottom of the copper and burn or even cause the metal to overheat and crack. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 495-496.) As late as 1933, Barclay Perkins were still boiling some black malt in the copper when brewing their IBSt (Russian Stout).

Black malt varied greatly in quality and colour. Cheaper versions were made from poor-quality barley or had not been properly malted before roasting. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 496.) "The colour is often so black that it resembles merer cinders, and the whole corn is puffed up to an enormous size . . . and it adheres together in bunches, through the bursting of the shells and the exudation and fixation of the gummy matter when in the roasting cylinders." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 496-497.) Such malt, beacause it was charred into insolubility, yielded poor colour and flavour. Porter brewed from it would lose much of its colour after a couple of months as the colouring matter precipitated out. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 497.)

Properly made black malt had an even chocolate brown colour and its grains did not clump together. Because it had been properly malted, it contained myuch more sugar than the cheap kind. "it contains a much larger quantity of colouring matter of a superior kind, consisting chiefly of caromel, similar to the colouring matter of former times: being burnt saccharum and mucilage, which impart an agreeable odour to the beer, and maintains its colour with tenacity. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 497.) Tizard went on to add that all the major London and Dublin breweries used good quality black malt in moderate quantities. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 498.)

Due to the problems it could cause in the mash tun, Tizard advised mashing black malt by itself in a special vessel. It could then be mixed with the rest of the wort in the underback. It was mashed repeatedly until all the colour had been extracted. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 498.)


Kristen England said...

As for boiling black malt I thought it was complete bullocks. What a stupid idea I thought. Then I made the barclay perkins IBSt that Ron was talking about. I boiled half alone adn then half with the black malt boil addition. Wow does it ever make a difference. It adds a whole different level of flavor to the beer. A robust dark fruit, deep roast, nearly treacley (thats a word!) character. The IBSt is very bitter but sweet also and the black malt really cuts through all of that and plays extremely well with others.

Andrew Elliott said...

Very interesting about the boiling of the black malt -- and more interesting to hear your actual results, Kristen. I may have to give it a shot one day.

"Tizard advised mashing black malt by itself in a special vessel." Any more description of the special vessel or how the mashing was conducted? Was the vessel special because it was specially designed, or just because it was a smaller tun dedicated to mashing the black malt?

Good stuff as always, Ron!

Kristen England said...

It had to be quite a small tun. The amount of black malt varies over many beers I've seen.

However, Im not sure why one would want to mash black malt when it doesn't need to be. The only thing I can think about is its effect on mash pH (makes it go down).

Anonymous said...


What about the negative notion that boiling grains extract astringent off-tasting tannins? Perhaps this is not an issue with roasted malt, or perhaps the quantity is small enough that it doesn't matter?

Did you boil all the black malt or just a portion? For the entire boil? British or American sourced black malt?

Also, I do wonder if today's roasted malts are either lighter or darker than the original patent malt. Here is a quick smattering of chocolate and black malts from various malting companies based on information found on the Internet (Lovibond format):

Castle 340 Chocolate
Briess 350 Chocolate
Fawcett 363 Chocolate
Munton 385 Chocolate
Simpsons 413 Chocolate
Briess 420 Dark Chocolate
Fawcett 455 Black
Baird 475 Chocolate
Munton 478 Black
Briess 525 2-row Black
Castle 550 De-Bittered Black
Simpsons 550 Black
Baird 550 Black
Crisp 630 Chocolate
Crisp 680 Black

The numbers shown are the average of the range listed for each malt. What I find interesting is that some of the chocolate malts are darker than some of the black malts.

Ultimately I suppose it comes down to taste testing. If the malt tastes like charcoal, large quantities (eg. 5-10% of grist) probably won’t make your beer taste good.

Ron Pattinson said...

kristen, they didn't want black malt in the main mash because it clogged the false bottom. It wasn't likely to contribute much extract. Don't the Truman's logs exclude it from the extract calculation?

As it wouldn't have any diastase, either, black malt by itself wasn't going to mash. I guess you repeatedly doused it with hot water until you stopped getting any colour out.

The boiling in the kettle bit is a great one. I've not seen that mentioned anywhere else. But, you know, with a beer like IBSt, that they had brewed for so long, they'd have to be putting the black malt into the kettle for a reason, wouldn't they? I need to look and see if I can find other references to it.

So would you recommend boiling some of the black malt, purely for flavour reasons? Does it influence the colour, too? My guess is that Barclay Perkins would have had a rouser in the copper, which would have stopped anything sticking to the bottom and burning or caramelising.

andrew, I suppose a small copper. Or something like that. Some of the breweries did have multiple mash tuns. You realise that when you see a brew that was split over more than one.

Having said that, I've not seen any evidence of the malts being mashed separately in brewing logs I've seen. Could have happened, but I haven't seen it.

Ron Pattinson said...

adrian, I think dark malts have always varied a great deal between maltsters. I haven't quite got to posting those bits about malt yet.

Black and amber malt varied bags in colour. Sometimes you see amber and brown malt divided into two subdivisions. One source specifically said: if you don't make your own malt, you can ask your maltster to make your malt the colour you want. I have another source that says ales were different colours in different towns. I suppose brewers got malt the colour they needed.

It's a fascinating topic, malt. I've read a couple of very lengthy descriptions of malting today. Annoyingly, neither mentioned bugger all about the different types of malt and how you made them. Even the wonderfully-titled "Malt and Malting" seems to have bugger all on specific types of malt.

Zythophile said...

Loath though I am to disagree with you on anything, Ron, but I don't believe porter malt was a synonym for patent or roast malt - instead it was a synonym for "blown" or "high dried" malt, the stuff that had been heated quickly over a fierce fire until it darkened, swelled and popped like popcorn.

Kristen England said...

Thats torrified malt you are talking about which isnt porter malt. Ive seen many places were porter malt and brown malt are used interchangeably.

Zythophile said...

That's torrified malt you are talking about which isn't porter malt. I've seen many places where porter malt and brown malt are used interchangeably.

Well, yes, Henry Stopes does in Malt and Malting (1885), where he makes it clear that "brown, blown, snap or porter malt" are all synonyms for malt treated with sudden heat so that it swells up (p156), and also that "brown, blown or porter malt" are different from black or patent malt (p129). Although I was wrong to call porter malt the same as high dried malt, which Stopes says sits between pale and amber in colour. But anyway, Stopes says porter malt was the same as blown malt and was not the same as patent malt.

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, you are, of course, correct. Porter malt = brown malt. I would argue that brown is not exactly the same as blown.

I've also seen high-fried used as a general term to describe all coloured malts, from amber through to brown.

Andrew Elliott said...

I dug up some interesting information today regarding malting techniques for colour malts. "The Brewer's Analyst" by R. Douglas Bailey, 1907 (available on Google Books) pp. 310-311:

"In the manufacture of amber malt the green malt is taken from the floor at the withering stage, and is loaded on the kiln at a depth of about 4 inches. The fuel used at the early stages of drying is the same as in ordinary malting ; but when the malt is hand-dry, the heat is augmented and very dry beech-wood is thrown upon the fire, the products of combustion imparting the desired flavour."

And then further down:

"Crystal, brown, and black malts are manufactured by taking malt at the withering stage, earlier than when manufacturing amber, and roasting in a perforated cylinder enclosed in a cast-iron casing and which can be freely turned.
A low coke fire is employed, and during heating the malt is cautiously and slowly turned.
As the steam passes off, the fire is made up and the heat increased. In 30 minutes a fine rich aroma is evolved from the malt. Having imparted the desired colour and flavour, the malt is then removed from the cylinder and placed on a floor to mellow and cool.
If brown malt is desired, the heating is continued, and in 5 or 10 minutes a good brown or chocolate colour is imparted ; whilst if black malt is wanted, the heating is further continued, and in 40 minutes or so the operation for this class of malt is complete."

And finally, perhaps the most interesting blurb:

"This is performed by sprinkling the grain with a sugar solution a few minutes before finishing off: the glaze so imparted darkens the colour of the husk.
In place of sugar solution, glycerine, either alone or with water or steam, is sometimes employed for the same purpose, it being claimed for this mode of treatment that the malt, unlike other varieties, is free from acrid or bitter flavour, and that it possesses a higher colouring power."

I'm not sure how much the process would have changed since the early 19th century (I'm sure quite a bit), and also as was previously mentioned, different maltsters probably did things differently.

Ron Pattinson said...

Andrew, thanks for that. Interesting stuff.

That's definitely a different way of making the darker malts. They were just spread over the kiln in the older methods. Only black malt was roasted in a cylinder.

I must take a look at that book. Hey! I've found a reprint for under 30 dollars.

Andrew Elliott said...

Check it out if you'd like to preview it... Still.. there's nothing like having a real book in hand. That said, i've given a digital alternative, so Dolores will hopefully not come after me for you purchasing yet another book!

Andrew Elliott

Barm said...

"Nappy" is an obsolete term meaning foaming, according to this: . It was even used in a rhyme about the Anchor Brewery: The nappy strong ale of Southwirke
Keeps many a gossip from the kirke.

mentaldental said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mentaldental said...

Porter malt = Brown malt = blown malt. True.

Although later some brewing books, such as Tizard in 1857 refer to Black malt as "porter malt".

I guess as the grist composition changed over the years it became redundant to call brown malt porter malt since the characteristic grain in porter became black malt.

15 January 2009 01:52