The very original brown malt had still enzymatic power in order to convert the sugars as the malt was used in a very high percentage in the grist bill of Porters. This is not the case anymore with the current brown malt. To understand this we have to go back in time. Kilns in malthouses were direct fired and hand laboured. The green malt was spread out in a thin layer (much thinner then for Ale malt production) and half way its withering process the green malt was exposed very fast at higher temperature for a “short” while. This made the grain popped or blown. Some conversion must have happened, also some saccharification of the green malt although the malt was not caramelised. This process must have been difficult and expensive. For the boost in temperature straw or hardwood was used. Straw was better as it did not give smoky taste. Porters made with hardwood stayed much longer on casks and during that time the smoky taste somewhat disappeared. But also a lot of the green malt did not undergo all those changes (kilning is a static process – grain is not moving enough), nevertheless the stirring, many kernels just got a higher colour like Ale malt, making the total batch in average sufficient diastatic in order to convert most of the starch and polysaccharides.

Today brown malt is made on a roaster. At The Swaen we still use green malt (no ready base malt) in a very dynamic environment whereas every kernel in the roaster is moving continuously. No saccharification and caramelisation is allowed but we raise the product temperature up to the level some coffee notes are distinguished. We avoid having burnt notes. For that effect we have our Chocolate and Black malts. With our new Porter Brown we are as close as possible to the original idea of a Brown malt for every Porter.

Porter originated in London around 3 centuries ago, so it has a quite long history. Where does the name come from? Well, it became very popular among the porters, who worked at the local markets and delivered those products to the pubs. According to beer-historians the style evolved from Brown ales, that were widespread back in those days. Since then Porter is continuously developing, in terms of ingredients, technology and of course drinkers taste. As many other styles, Porters disappeared after the world wars and a they have been also ascended with the start of the craft beer era.

Back in the 19th century Porters were widely-exported, first in Europe and later to the US. The English version – that is usually soft, sweet and caramelly – hasn’t changed much, unlike its foreign variants. The American Porter is stronger, has higher gravity and not surprisingly it’s also hoppier. In the Baltic countries, where German lager brewing dominated, it became a bottom-fermented, high ABV, dark beer, the Baltic Porter. And the story of the Russian version is related to the import to St. Petersburg, supplying the needs of the British diplomatic community, especially after daughter of Queen Victoria married to the Czar. That style is known today as “Imperial Stout”. In those days Porter and Stout has no prominent difference, and both expression were used interchangeably. If you want to know more about that topic, check out our other article.

Grain bill:
My preference as base of the grist is our Ale malt, with some addition of Munich for the fuller rich malt character. Special malt varieties are essential for this style. Crystal malts will help in addition of caramel flavors and residual sweetness, which is required to balance the bitterness of the roasted grains and hops. A mid-color crystal malt should work well. As for darker grains I’m pleased to introduce our brand new product, the PlatinumSwaen©BrownPorter. Historically Porters were brewed from brown malt, which is a very dark base malt. We also kilned this product in our roaster, at lower temperature, in order to avoid burnt flavours, so technically it’s not roasted. You can increase its ratio vs roasted varieties, in order to have a smoother result. A single step mash for 60 minutes in the middle should work well (67⁰C / 153⁰F).

The Swaen malts
Quantity: 4,0 kg – 8,8 lb
Colour: 7 EBC- 2,6 lov
Ratio: 70%

Swaen©Munich Light
Quantity:0,7 kg – 1,5 lb
Colour: 14 EBC – 5,3 lov
Ratio: 12%

GoldSwaen©Munich Light
Quantity: 0,4 kg – 0,88 lb
Colour: 100 EBC – 38 lov
Ratio: 7%

Quantity: 0,3 kg – 0,66 lb
Colour: 425 EBC – 160 lov
Ratio: 5%

BlackSwaen©Chocolate B
Quantity: 0,2 kg – 0,44 lb
Colour: 900 EBC – 339 lov
Ratio: 4%

BlackSwaen©Black Extra
Quantity: 0,1 kg – 0,22 lb
Colour: 1300 EBC – 490 lov
Ratio: 2%

Hops: As in Porters the focus is more on malt flavours, you don’t need to think a lot about what to add. I would recommend traditional English varieties, like Fuggles, EKG, Northern Brewer or as you see in the recipe, Challenger. For an American version feel free to switch to local hops. They can be allocated evenly for bittering and aroma purpose. Please note your hops need to have enough character to compete with bitter flavours of roasted malt.

Variety: Challenger
Quantity: 28 g – 1 oz
Lenght: 60 min
Alpha acid: 9%
IBU: 27

Variety: Challenger
Quantity: 28 g – 1 oz
Lenght: 10 min
Alpha acid: 9%
IBU: 10

Yeast: Any typical English or American-style ale yeast should work well in a porter. For a fuller body we would recommend to use a lower attenuative strain. To have the best result, ferment at 20°C / 68°F. As for many other styles, the higher is your ABV, the longer aging is required.

Fermentis Safale S-04
Mangrove Jack M36 Liberty Bell Ale

WLP002 English Ale
Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Batch size: 23 l (6 gallon)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1,055
FG: 1,012
ABV: 5,6%
Bitterness: 37 IBU
Colour: 29 SRM
Carbonation: 2,2
pH: 5,0

Appearance: Deep brown colour, creamy foam

Taste: PlatinumSwaen©BrownPorter, paired with other specialties definitely brings you what you need for a Porter – an intense range of chocolate, coffee and caramel flavours, but without the burnt, roasty aroma.

Food pairing: Beef dishes, BBQ

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