April 8, 2013 by Prost Brewing
Most people are aware that beer contains malt, but they may not know the specifics upon how different grains used in malting imbue different flavors into the beer. In addition to flavor, malt serves as the primary source of color and plays a vital role in the development of a particular mouthfeel.
Malt is usually made from barley, often wheat, and sometimes rye and oats as well. Barley is the most commonly used due to its diastatic power, essentially the ability to release enzymes that are required to modify grain’s starches into fermentable sugars that will feed the yeast.
Malts can also be classified as “base malts” or “specialty malts.” Base malts make up the bulk of the malt as the name implies, and typically have a higher diastatic power that enables them to convert their own starch as well as a certain amount of starch from un-malted grain into simple sugars. They are normally lighter in color and contain your most basic grain flavors. Specialty malts usually contain little diastatic power but are important in the development of a beer’s color, flavor, and body. The range in color of malts from very pale to crystal, amber, chocolate, and even nearing black, are contingent upon different degrees of kilning (heating).
In the end, all malts are not created equal. Malts must be carefully controlled by the brewer to obtain the proper color and flavor. Then, similar to an artist, a brewer must carefully mix and match various combinations of malts in order to achieve the flavor profile they are looking to obtain. At Prost Brewing, Bill Eye and Ashleigh Carter play with their palette of malts and hops, using traditional German techniques, in order to concoct the same styles of German beer drunk in Germany itself.