The best malt starts with the best grain. Barley, wheat, rye and any other varieties are the building blocks of any beer. To turn a humble kernel into liquid gold is quite a process, but it all starts with the art of farming.
Since 2001 our malt house in Kloosterzande connects with local top growers in Zeelandic Flanders. The aim of this cooperation is the improvement of barley crop and creating an optimal chain structure. From this collaboration evolved Growing The Swaen, that focuses on sustainable agriculture.
High and consistent quality raw materials will provide the best beer. Currently 30 to 40 farmers are growing for The Swaen on 200 to 300 hectare per year with an average yield of 8 ton per hectare.
The partnership enables us to trace the quality in every production stage, and to store all barley separately: per variety, per region, per supplier. This guarantees the constant availability of high quality malting barley.
At the end of the growing cycle – after the crop is ripe – the barley is harvested. It will then be transported to The Swaen. Here it is stored in huge silos, waiting for its time to shine. The malting process is now ready to begin. But that is a story for another time…
Rye, scientifically known as secale cereale, is a type of grain that has been used for centuries in baking, cooking, and even brewing. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at rye in brewing, and explore some of the unique flavours and characteristics it can bring to beer.
Rye has been cultivated for over 13,000 years. It’s a close relative of wheat and barley, two of the most common grains used in brewing. While rye is not used as widely as those grains, it has a distinct flavour and aroma that can add complexity and depth to beer. Rye can also contribute to a beer’s mouthfeel, head retention, and overall body.
In addition to its unique flavour profile, rye also has some nutritional benefits. It’s a good source of soluble fiber, protein, and minerals such as iron and magnesium. At the same time, it contains less gluten than wheat.
One of the reasons that rye is not used as commonly in brewing, is that it can be difficult to work with. Rye malt can be sticky and hard to mill, which can cause problems during the brewing process. It also tends to absorb more water than other grains, which can make it harder to get a consistent mash. However, with the right techniques and equipment, brewers can overcome these challenges to create delicious rye beers.
Rye wort is thicker and more viscous than wort made from other grains, which gives beer brewed with rye a fuller body and a spicy flavour. It is often used in red ales due to its darker colour. Rye should be used in moderation, with 60% being the upper limit for a heavy rye flavour, and 10-20% recommended for those new to brewing with rye. Filtering can be challenging when using rye, but adding rice hulls can help without affecting taste or colour.
One of the most common types of beer that features rye is the Rye IPA. This style of beer typically uses a combination of rye and barley malt to create a hoppy, spicy, and slightly sweet flavour profile. The rye malt can help to balance the bitterness of the hops and provide a unique twist on the classic IPA style.
Other beers where rye is prominent, are Brown Ale, Porter, and Stout. Furthermore, it’s used in historical styles like the Finnish Shati and the German Roggenbier, as well as in the distillation of whiskey and gin.
In conclusion, rye can be a great addition to beer recipes for brewers looking to create unique and flavourful brews. While it can be challenging to work with, rye malt can add complexity, balance, and nutrition to beer. So why not try brewing with rye on your next batch and see what delicious results you can create!
What was once a local custom, has grown to become a global phenomenon. We are talking about Saint Patrick’s Day, one of the biggest beer related festivities in the world.
Saint Patrick’s Day started in the fifth century as a religious memorial of Ireland’s most recognized patron saint. But even then, beer was a big part of the celebrations. Normally 17 March would be part of the Lent, a period of fasting. These restrictions would be lifted for the day however, so people could enjoy food and alcohol. And since beer was the most common, it became intertwined with this day.
During colonization the Irish people spread out across the globe. To keep in touch with their homeland, they introduced Saint Patrick’s Day to these new lands. That is why it’s not only celebrated in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but also in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In recent years Saint Patrick’s Day has popped up all around the world. And beyond – in 2011 and 2013 it was even celebrated in the International Space Station!
From religious to cultural
Through the years, Saint Patrick’s Day changed from a religious to a cultural celebration that was more about Irish heritage. That is why nowadays you mainly see green attires, leprechauns, and shamrocks in the parades. While some take pride in these representations (that are mostly seen in North America), others say these negative stereotypes are a disgrace.
One of the more recent additions to Saint Patrick’s Day is green beer. While some Craft brewers really create a special recipe, the majority is made by simply adding some drops of food colouring agents to beer. To each his or her own, but we prefer a nice Irish Stout or Red Ale.
Most beer lovers know what wheat brings to your beer: a somewhat creamy – sometimes even wee – taste with a subtle sour edge. Although barley is now the dominant brewing grain, this was not always the case. The history of wheat beers is in fact the history of beer itself.
Through Sumerian records we know that more than 8000 years ago people brewed beer with spelt. This is a variety of wheat, so you could say they earliest known beers were Wheat Beers. The next couple of millennia are a little clouded, but we know it was a popular beer in Europe around the 14th century.
Having one of the richest beer histories in the world, it may come as no surprise that Belgium made Wheat Beer its own. Brewing with all types of grain since at least the 6th century, recipes were bound to certain regions. In the 16th century Witbier became an important style across the country, when brewers started experimenting with more wheat.
Almost impossible to believe, Witbier was nearly declared dead 300 years later. We can thank dairyman Pierre Celis for its revival. Finding it harder and harder to drink his favorite beer, he just started his own brewery. The now legendary Hoegaarden brewery to this day makes one of the most beloved Witbiers in the world.
Wheat beers were immensely popular in Bavaria in the Middle Ages. In the 15th century however, war and crop failures were responsible for a huge decline in raw material. As bread was more important than beer, it led to the Reinheitsgebot which forbade the use of wheat in beer. Some exceptions were made, but it made sure barley became much more popular. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that wheat beers became popular again.
Nowadays beer is always brewed with barley, even the Wheat Beers. Only part of the recipe consists of wheat malt, because this has insufficient enzymes. There are many different styles, but they have some things in common. They often have a cloudy appearance, and prominent yeast flavours. The presence of hops is low to non at all.
Also known as Blanche, Witbier is one of the most famous beers of Belgium. The biggest difference with its German counterpart Weizen is that Belgian brewers are allowed to add herbs. Therefor Witbier often has coriander and lemon peel among its ingredients. This may sound like a minor adjustment, but the outcome is totally different.
Many of the “normal” Wheat Beers can be attributed to an entire country at least. Sour Wheat Beers are often much more locally made. Take Lambic for example. This can officially only be found in the Belgian Zennevallei or Pajottenland. It is made by putting wheat, malted barley and hops into an oak barrel. Then it is spontaneously fermented by the outside air.
Weissbier / Weizen
This typically German beer style is top-fermented and has a yeasty character, with notes of banana in the aroma. The original cloudy variant is called Hefeweizen, while the filtered type is known as Kristallweizen. The third main variety is Dunkelweizen, which uses roasted malt – like Black Swaen Chocolate Wheat – to add more character to the beer. A stronger version that combines two of the most popular German beer styles is called Weizenbock. There are some other distinctions like Hopfenweisse (more hop-forward) and Hefeweizen Leicht, but these take up only a fraction of the market.
While related to Weissbier, Berliner Weisse deserves their own chapter. It has dry and sour flavours, so present it will make your mouth pucker. It was originally created by brewers in Berlin to have their own beer style, like Cologne had its Kölsch.
Often forgotten, the German town of Goslar also created their own Wheat Beer. What made this sour beer stand out, is the addition of a little salt – and sometimes herbs – to the recipe. It is therefore one of the few German beers that is not made according to the Reinheitsgebot.
American Pale Wheat
Always looking to make global beer styles their own, American brewers came up with American Pale Wheat. You could call it their version of a German Hefeweizen. The big difference is that the flavour profile is moved from banana and clove to orange and lemon.
As the popularity of IPA grew in the last decades, so did the range. One of the things brewers tried, was to brew with other grains. It didn’t take long before White IPA was born, with a combination of hoppy and floral flavours. Some say this beer takes the best of both worlds. All we can say is that it tastes like summer!
Don’t worry, you didn’t change websites. This is still very much about beer. When high alcohol beers started to pop up, they were called Barley Wines. This was merely a way to tell these were stronger than the regular beers. Of course, this was transferred to other grains. That is why wheat beers with a lot of alcohol – sometimes up to more than 17% – are known as Wheat Wines.
Another very local Wheat Beer is the Polish Grodziskie, also known as Grätzer. This historical beer style is made with smoked wheat malt, which is very prominent in the flavours. Another contributor to its unique taste is the high mineral content of the water.
Brewing with wheat
The many proteins ensure that the beer is often cloudy. Because wheat has no hull, it has no natural filter bed. This isn’t a big problem, because you can add rice hulls when you are brewing. These have no flavour, so they act as a natural filter system without changing your beer.
If you want to brew with wheat, you can choose our base malts Swaen Wheat Classic and Wheat Dark. Adding a little colour and caramel flavour can be done with Gold Swaen Wheat Light and Dark. Darker beers can be made with Black Swaen Coffee Light Wheat, Black Wheat and Chocolate Wheat. Going green? Then you might want to check out Green Swaen Wheat Classic, a completely biological malt. Check out the realm of possibilities here.
Christmas beer… The name alone reminds one of warming, herbal flavours. Yet Christmas beer is far from a defined style. The recipes are simply too diverse. And there is a reason for that!
The spirit of Christmas Past
At the end of the nineteenth century, Christmas beer didn’t exist. At that time – believe it or not – Belgian beer was not as popular as today. They even imported a lot of beer themselves. One of the more beloved styles was Scotch Ale. During the winter season they simply relabeled them with a nice Christmas label, and a “new” drink was born.
Soon, local breweries tried to jump on the bandwagon, and they presented their own variants. While some Belgian breweries have stayed true to the English ideas, there was no official definition. That is why your Christmas beer could just as well be a lighter Tripel.
In Scandinavia the tradition goes back even further. In the tenth century they celebrated their winter solstice Jul with a strong beer-like beverage, also called Jul. As they were known to roam around the world, these rituals found their way into England and many other countries.
The spirit of Christmas Present
Most agree that a Christmas beer should be a strong dark beer, with some seasonal spices. Typically, this means a Strong Dark or Scotch Ale that is flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove. In recent years, pine needles are also a popular ingredient.
In recent years Stouts and Porters have also moved into Christmas property. The heavy, but often sweet drinks fit the feeling of winter days and they pair wonderfully with herbs and spices. Or even Christmas cookies, for that matter, if you look at Pastry Stouts.
The spirit of Christmas Yet to Come
But as we said earlier, there is no such thing as a standard Christmas beer. In recent years there were even Christmas IPA’s, Wits and Sours, beer styles that are often linked to hot summer days.
And what to think of a Gluhbeer? This beverage is heated before consumption and is based on the popular German Gluhwein. Although mainly a gimmick, this totally changes the perception of drinking beer.
Therefore, Christmas beer should be seen as marketing tool first and foremost.
24 Days of Christmas beer
Quite new is the Beer Advent Calendar, a craft beer answer to the commercial phenomenon once reserved for children. It is a big box with 24 beers, that are hidden behind a closed door. From December 1st until Christmas Eve, you can discover – and drink – one beer every day. Isn’t that a nice Christmas experience?
Have yourself a malty Christmas!
Team The Swaen
Since the rise of craft brewing, a lot of historical, nearly forgotten beer styles have been resurrected from oblivion. Today, we will take a look at our “own” Kuit, also known as Koyt, Kuyt, Koite or Dutch Kuit.
In the thirteenth century, beers were very different from what we drink now. It was a very light beverage, mainly made from oat and sometimes a little wheat. Also, people didn’t know about hop yet. Instead, they used a variable herb collection known as Gruyt.
The introduction of hop
The Dutch government decided to monopolize and start taxing Gruyt. So when hop was introduced in the fourteenth century, brewers gladly experimented with this cheaper alternative. Of course, the government included hop in their taxing list soon after, but brewing was forever changed.
Around the end of the century, brewers in Hamburg replaced the oats with barley. These “white” beers became very popular. The Netherlands responded with its own variant with 3 parts of oat, 2 parts of barley and 1 part of wheat, that became known as Kuit. Historians claim the beer would have had around 4 to 6 % ABV.
Kuit quickly became the standard beer in the country. Cities like Delft, Gouda and Haarlem produced it on a large scale. The beer was exported through the entire northern Europe. It remained quite popular until the seventeenth century, when Lagers started to dominate the Dutch market. By that time, the quality of Kuit was reduced a thin Table Beer, because of rising grain prices.
The only official Dutch beer style
Since The Netherlands is heavily influenced by neighboring countries Belgium (through Wit, Blonde, Dubbel and Tripel) and Germany (with Pilsner and Weizen) there aren’t a lot of explicitly Dutch beer styles. In fact, it is the only Dutch style that the renowned Brewers Association has acknowledged.
Therefore, it is nice to see modern breweries reinvent Kuit. It is good to know that the original recipe cannot be matched. The oat races that were used back then no longer exist. Although the new variant is still mainly made in the Netherlands, examples can be found in as far as Russia and the United States.
For those who want to try their hand at brewing a Kuit, we recommend using Swaen™ Oat, Swaen™ Dutch Pale Ale and Swaen™ Wheat Classic. To keep it as close as possible to the original recipes, you should use noble hop varieties and neutral yeast strains. You can find our recipe here.