Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – foreign barley (part two)

Let’s see, where was I with this series? Getting distracted and ending up writing about something else. Back to the main thread. Barley in the 1950’s.

We’re looking at foreign barley, starting with the most popular, Californian.

“Other foreign malting barleys were usually of the six-rowed type. Although, in general, they are not at present available here, some details are given of their characteristics.

Foreign Malts, Six-rowed
Of malt made from the six-rowed type of barley there is not a very wide selection. Prior to the war pride of place would undoubtedly be given to Californian, which formed the bulk of the barley selected . . . by brewers to replace our more sunless malt and to make good some of its defects. This preference was not at all surprising since considerable care was taken in the preparation of Californian barley. The malt prepared from it was graded into three definite standards, Superior to No. 1, No. 1 Standard, Californian.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 131.

Doesn't that make you want to whip out your wozzle and give it a toggle? (Maybe better not.) About the different grades of malt from Californian barley. I’ve seen No.1 (and No. 2, for that matter) malts, but the only ones I could find quickly looking in some brewing records were PA (pale ale) or MA (mild ale) malt made from English barley. I’m pretty sure I have seen No.1 Californian somewhere. But I can’t be arsed to look through several thousand brewing records.

Californian barley was certainly popular with London brewers. In the 1930’s it was 20-30% of the malt in most of Barclay Perkins beers. Same over at Whitbread. One a sign it was considered high quality: there’s more of it in Pale Ales than in Mild Ales. As much as 33%. While Milds had no more than 20%.

Now I think about it, the absence of American barley and hops is one of the biggest difference between British beer from before and after WW II. It's a bit like all the GI's buggering off back home.

Here’s some more detail about the posher types:

“The first grade was made from plump and well-grown grains, bright in appearance and nicely graded. It was free from half-grown corns. It was tender to the bite, and, if well malted, had a nice biscuit flavour. Its diastatic capacity was usually high, so that it was suitable to blend to restore a deficiency of that power in some English malt. No. 1 Standard had not the boldness nor the brightness of the first-named sample, and usually had a darkish and somewhat flinty appearance. It was tougher to bite, with occasional hard ends. Nevertheless, the corns were generally satisfactory, and the sample formed a useful brewing material.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 131.

"Biscuit flavour" is what I usually associate with malt from British barley. Sounds like they considered the best Californian close in quality to British. High praise, indeed.

Now the rubbish stuff:

“The last-named grade was a mixture of good, poor and indifferent corns, rather uneven in size and development, many of a flinty nature. It gave a low extract compared with the other samples, somewhere in the region of 86, or even 85. It was used more for drainage purposes in the mash tun than for its actual brewing value. Californian barleys, when specially malted to develop to the utmost their high diastatic capacity, were largely used in the preparation of 'diastatic malt syrups'.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 131.

To put that extract figure into context, good-quality pale malt had an extract in the mid 90’s. They’re talking here in brewers’ pounds per quarter, in case you’re wondering.

They’ve reminded me of another difference between pre- and post-war brewing: diastatic malt extract or syrup. Much more common after the war. Perhaps to compensate for using all British malt with its lower diastatic power. And a stack of sugar, naturally.

Malt from the rest of the world next time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At the time the article was written, Californian malt seemed to be preferred over British yet these days UK malt is thought by many brewers to be the best there is.
Two factors I can think of may have brought about the improvement in British malt (and by inference the barley from which it is made) since the article.One is more sunshine ,I mentioned a couple of days ago that cleaner air resulting from the 1956 Nabarro Act has significantly increased measured hours of sunshine. The other is plant breeding which gave us strains like Maris Otter and Golden Promise.
It would be interesting to find out when British malting barley became regarded as world class.