Porter goes back to the early 1700’s when it started to be popular in pubs for the “common” drinker. Someone’s claim it would have been made by blending 3 different beers, also partially for tax reasons. Thanks to its increasing popularity the Porter was made somewhat later as one beer out of mainly brown malt. During its whole history the grist bill composition of Porter has been changed tremendously: using 60 to 100% “diastatic” (popped/blown) brown malt to the use of non-diastatic malt at smaller percentages in the grist bill with even colours between 130 up to 900 EBC and with addition of Chocolate malt(800-1000EBC and Chrystal malt (some 170-200EBC). For the second types one needed a base malt for conversion of the sugars. In the beginning that was Ale malt, much later Lager and partially Munich and Ale malt. At last extra use of sirops (molasses) and other ingredients as roasted barley and malted rye. This variation in production has created obviously a variation of porters today.

It is not clear when exactly the Stout made its entrance in the brewing world. Generally Stout is seen as a kind of porter with in the early days a 1-2% higher alcohol content. Porters are generally lighter in colour and alcohol than Stouts with a range of chocolate, coffee and caramel flavours, but without the burnt, roasty qualities usually reserved for Stouts. Just see that as a general comment: there are many Porters using some dark roasted malts and the biggest Stout producer uses a lot of roasted barley.

Stay tuned for the next blog about brown malt…

Throughout history, beers that have higher alcohol content and richness has been enjoyed during the winter holidays. Many breweries produce unique seasonal drinks – they may be darker, stronger, spiced and more complex than their normal beers. Spiced versions came from America and Belgium, as English or German breweries traditionally do not use any spices in their recipes.

Winter Seasonal Beers assume cold weather and the Christmas holiday time. What makes them special? They usually include seasonal spices, special sugars and any other ingredient that reminds you of holiday confections. From brewing aspect these kind of beers are generally stronger and darker, they also have a rich body and warming finish to heat you up in the cold winter season. For appearance, taste and aroma many interpretations are possible, therefore the style has no certain specifications. But one for sure, Christmas beers are clear, sweet and complex, and coming from the darker side.

Grain bill: The majority of your grist should be an Ale style malt, with a possilbe addition of a darker base, e.g. Munich malt for some extra body. In this style I like to have the sweetness of our Melany malt, complemented by a darker crystal malt, but feel free to use a mid-dark crystal malt instead of them. For the color and roasty taste I usually add some roasted barley. A single step mash at the higher end (70⁰C / 178⁰F) what I recommend in order to have some residual sugars. Many brewers add flavorful sugars as well – you have various choices, like honey, molasses, candy sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup…

Hops and spices: Hops are primarily for bittering, you can skip aroma addition. I would use traditional English varieties or noble ones. There is no Christmas beer without seasonal spices, most often allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger or orange peels, but any mixture is possible. Feel free to experiment as per your taste. Addition is recommended before 5-10 minutes of flame out.

Yeast: Although some dark strong lagers exist in this style, the fruity, sweet aromas and spices are much stronger enhanced by an ale yeast. We would recommend to use a Belgian style yeast, but you can take your base recipe as a guideline, when choosing the proper strain. In order to increase estery fruitiness, keep temperature above 22°C / 72°F. Stronger beers may need to be aged for months or even years.

Batch size: 19 l (5 gallon)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1,072
FG: 1,015
ABV: 7,5%
Bitterness: 26 IBU
Colour: 26 SRM
Carbonation: 2,4
pH: 5,1

Appearance: Deep brown colour, creamy foam
Taste: Sweet maltiness, seasonal spices
Food pairing: desserts or spicy meals

I was surprised to find out that a quick scan on internet could not tell us how (single/malt)whisky is produced. As a malt producer it is important to understand the details of that process in order to deliver the best suitable quality. I only discuss single malt distilling as the preparation of the wort for grain distilling is somewhat more complex as the starch of the used grains is not modified by malting. Furthermore only a small amount of malt (7-15%) is used for conversion in grain distilling.

1. Traditional single malt whisky production

This is of course the main production in Scotland where it is obvious that the local ingredients were responsible for the way whisky was and still made: local barley (it is the cereal which can bare the difficult growing conditions in Scotland), local peat (the fuel for heating and kilning) and the alembic or pot stills (a distilling device coming from the Irish neighbours).

The classic wort production uses very well modified distilling malt with low protein level (max 10%). Two reasons: lower protein deliver higher extract and proteins are contaminating the burner coils in the stills . Crusted malt is mixed with hot water entering the mash tun to achieve a mashing temperature of 63°C. The ideal maximum activity of ß-amylasis. A rake is mixing the mash and after half an hour one start draining off by decantation. To wash out the rest extract hot water is added in 3 sparges, the last one at 90°C. The wort is cooled down to below 30°C and collected in the wash tun for fermentation.

Because the first (main)wort runs off at 63°C and the wort is not cooked as in the beer process but only cooled down, amylase activity continues in the wash tun (fermentation). During a couple of days a wash of aprox 10 to 15% alcohol is obtained. Tanks to the still limited activity of the amylase enzymes almost all amylose and amylo-pectine has been converted to fermentable sugars. Yeast used for fermentation is often a mix of own raised specific yeast mixed with yeast used for brewing and even baking.

As in the picture below, the concentration of alcohol happens in minimal 2 distillations.

Main goal is to reduce volume and contrate alcohol. The heavy boiling gets beside alcohol and water also heavy fusel oils.

Purification of the low wines happens in the next step and in the spirit still. According to British law all piping and pot stills have to be padlocked. This makes it impossible to check organoleptic control on flavours and alcohol by the stillmen. Therefore a lot of measuring is happening in the spirit safe, no tasting is possible. There is only a certain window in the distilling process suitable for further spirit collection (the middle cut). The first condensate in the beginning of the distillation (foreshots) contain a lot of aldehydes. The middle cut is what the distiller wants as crude spirit. At the end of the distillation the fusel oils evaporate. Both fusel oils and foreshots are lead back to the low wines receiver in order to re-process and recuperate the alcohol.

The distillation of the middle cut must happen very carefully and slowly in order not to transfer the fusel oils. Once the distillation is finished the raw spirit is maturing in wooden cask. To called it whiskey the spirit has to stay at least 3 years on barrel (red label – 12 years black label). The whiskey is taken the colour from of the casks and also certain aroma’s . A lot of used sherry casks and used bourbon casks are popular for maturation. Together with the amount of peat used during kilning, the shape of the stills, the casks and the phenol content define the final whiskey: Low peated whiskey’s (e.g. Highland 0-3 ppm phenol) ; high peated whiskey’s (Islay 30 ppm phenol and above)

Distillation of alcohol (whiskey) can be problematic. Certainly in combination with copper distillation devices. In growing barley (during malting process) EPH (epi-hetero-dendrin) is formed in the acrospires. This GN (glucosidic nitrile) is forming measurable cyanides during distilling which are causing the formation of ethyl carbamate in whiskey (cancerogenic). The last 40 years the whiskey industry is using only malt from barley varieties which are no longer producing EPH. That is why we have, apart from malting barley’s suitable for brewing, also malting barleys suitable for distilling. Best known are LAUREATE, CONCERTO and ODYSSEY; luckily also very good brewing varieties.

2. Crafted alcohol production

Craft distillers usually have a more varied equipment depending what kind of strong alcoholic beverages they want to make. Furthermore a lot of them have also a brewery. The installations are small and often suitable for making clean alcoholic beverages like gin and wodka, and more aromatic strong alcoholic beverages like jenever and whisky. However a lot of those craftsmen also appreciate and discovered the possibilities of the use of speciality malts with their typical taste and aromas.

In order to have specific catalytic reactions during distillation whereby copper is essential it is necessary to have an extra device (doubler) if one uses a stainless steel column stills. With a column still it is possible, even in one step and/or in a continuously process to make almost pure alcohol (96%). This is not possible with a pot still: it is batch related process and max 70% alcohol content in the final spirit can be achieved. Because of this, believers of the pot still claim to have more aromatic spirits and believe the choice of malt types could therefore be more explicit.

In general it does not matter if one uses pot still or column stills, it is the distiller who has to make the cuts.

In the picture below a range of worts from speciality malts are produced in order to define their taste and aroma. The use of these malts in strong alcoholic beverages is rather new and mainly used in craft distilling production.

The results on mid and long term (long maturation) are not known very well. Immediately after distilling the spirits are tasted and evaluated. On basis what has been found, the distiller will make new compositions which he will try out and evaluate again.

It gives the distiller other opportunities then only phenol from peat and wood from the casks to spice his alcoholic beverage. Below a spider diagram which can help to make choices. The example shows a strong roasted malt tasted as such (which is mostly very hard) and 2 blends with regular base distilling malt at 2,5% and 5%. The small amounts do not cause difficulties in processing the wort but even at those small concentrations the distiller can expect some strong influences. It is to him to get it in the spirit.

When cold season is coming, beer lovers tend to drink much darker and complex beers. As yesterday we celebrated the International Stout day, this time we share a stout recipe. The Oatmeal Stout is a very dark, full-bodied, malty ale with smooth roasty and oatmeal flavour. The style was first created in England, somewhen in the 50’s, but in the next decades its popularity dropped. Luckily a few breweries resurrected the style, so today many craft breweries have it in their assortment.

BJCP 16B – Oatmeal Stout
Original Gravity 1.045–1.065
Final Gravity 1.010–1.018
ABV 4.2 – 5.9%
Color 22–40 SRM
IBU 25–40

Grain bill:
The base of your grist should be an Ale style malt (to which you can add some darker base malt too). Addition of oats could be in malted or in flaked form too, both bring you smooth creaminess. For the color and roasty taste you need a blend of specialty malts, dominated by black varieties. Mid-color crystal malts impart a nutty flavour and some sweetness, while the black ones contributes to the complex „dark” mouthfeel you want. A single step mash at the higher end (above 70 ⁰C / 178 ⁰F) should work well.

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Hops need to be primarily for bittering, but feel free to add some for aroma too. Use traditional English varieties without any fruity or citrusy aroma.

We recommend to use low attenuating English-style ale yeast and ferment at 20-22 °C / 68-72 °F.

Fermentis Safale S-04
Mangrove Jack M36 Liberty Bell Ale

WLP002 English Ale
Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Batch size: 21 l (5,5 gallon)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1,052
FG: 1,011
ABV: 5,4%
Bitterness: 31 IBU
Colour: 38 SRM
Carbonation: 2
pH: 5,1

Appearance: Deep brown colour, creamy foam
Taste: Sweet maltiness, notes of chocolate and oat
Food pairing: beef dishes & desserts

There are many reasons why brewers use various flaked grains. Some intensify a certain characteristic, add a unique aroma to the beer, while others affect the color and clarity or boost the volume of fermentable sugars. Depending on the beer style and purpose you can commonly choose among flaked maize, barley, oat and wheat. Their production method starts by steam-cooking, then they rolled flat between hot cylinders and finally dried. The heat and pressure pre-gelatinize the starch, so they can simply added directly to the mash. Depending on the grain the addition may occur at beginning of the mash, or you can perform a protein rest, if needed. Flaked grains are not malted at all, therefor do not include any enzymes to break down their starch, but luckily they can utilize the enzymes from the barley. Nevertheless brewers have to be careful of their ratio and how to compose the rest of the grain bill.

Flaked Maize
There are many different forms of corn you use in your grist bill. Flake is the simplest one of them. As it only has a little protein no such rest is required. It’s generally pregelatinized too, so you can directly add to your mash with all other grains and schedule your brewing as usual.

Result: milder taste; dry, crispy finish
Flavour: sweet, less malty
Uses: usually in lighter Pilsners

Flaked Barley
As whole grains require a long gelatinizing process brewers usually choose the flaked version. Increases the volume of fermentable sugars, without any additional body or taste. You can expect some extra haziness above 10%, consider this when brewing a low EBC beer.

Result: stronger head retention, smoother flavour
Flavour: slightly grainy
Beer styles: Stouts

Flaked Oat
They can be added up to 20% to the mash, but with 10% you can easily reach your aim. Excess in glucans results in extra body and texture, which could affect filtration too, therefore more rice hulls are needed. The form you can normally buy is pregelatinized, so no protein rest is necessary.

Result: additional body, foam retention and haziness
Flavour: silky mouthfeel
Beer styles: Oatmeal Stout, Porter, Witbier, New England IPA

Flaked Wheat
Flaked version of wheat imparts more “wheaty”, flavour than the malted one. They are high in protein, therefor increase haziness. Having a protein rest is recommended due to the excess in beta-glucans and also to help the starches be easier gelatinized.

Result: increased body and head retention
Flavour: spicy, bready
Beer styles: Witbier, Weizen, New England IPA

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At the end of the germination time the green malt has to be dried in order to keep it. It is generally accepted that malt should be kept below then 6% moisture. All base malts however will be kilned and cured between 4 and 4,5%. After transfer to storage and/or bagging, a maximum of 5% will not be exceeded.

Malt is very hygroscopic: it will take water up if it is exposed to free air. To understand this, one has to look to the kilning process of green malt (germinating barley). During drying greenmalt will at normal drying temperatures of 60° reach an equilibrium at 10-12% moisture. In order to drop below 5% , temperatures have to increase in order to make water migration possible from in the very inside of the kernel to the outside where it escapes from the kernel. Once the malt has been cooled down it has the tendency to go back to its earlier equilibrium at higher moisture: that is what we call hygroscopic.

There is one exception to the max 6% moisture rule and that are low coloured caramel malts. Caramel malts have a different process. The greenmalt will be saccharified between 60 and 80°C and then dried. During caramelisation water is produced and in order to produce the low colours extra heating is not possible. The water content will vary from 8% to 6% depending on colour (10 to 60EBC). However this water will have a chemical bounding with the caramel once it has cooled down and the kernels become very hard.

In order to prevent the natural tendency to pick up moisture malt has to be kept in closed “containers”. At the malthouse we use vertical high cylindric bins. Only the very small top layer of a couple of cm/inches is exposed to air. That is why flat storage is never used to keep malt.

Malt is packed in bags with a polyethylene inside layer which prevent water up take. However one should store bags always in a dry environment. Once the bag opened malt should be used.

In case one need only small quantities e.g. special malts like Chocolate or Black malt, it is better to keep the remainder of the malt from a bag in a plastic container which can be closed airtight. This has a second very important advantage: volatile aroma compounds from special malts (caramel and roasted) will not be lost in the surrounding air.

Malt can be kept healthy several years and will not lose its enzymatic power. One condition: keep water and air away!