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Malted barley – the foundation of all beer


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In traditional floor maltings, the wet barley is set out to germinate. The grain must be regularly turned in order to ensure an even malt.

By: Stephen Beaumont


Malted barley, commonly known as simply “malt,” is grain that has been soaked until it begins to germinate and then kilned to stop the growth. The purpose of this process is to release the starches in the grain, which when the brewing process is commenced will be converted first to fermentable sugars and ultimately fermented into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Without these readily available starches, fermentation would simply not occur, or occur much more slowly and much less vigorously.


The principle ingredient in beer, besides water, malt is typically made at specialty operations known as “maltings” where large amounts of grain are processed on a daily basis. The vast majority of this malt will be pale gold in colour, but malt is also available in all sorts of hues and flavours, from pale to lightly toasted and caramelized to black and roasted, and everything in between.

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Modern brewing malts are available in all sorts of varieties, from very pale malt to reddish Munich malt and dark brown “chocolate” malt.

Aside from fermentable sugars, malt also adds flavour, colour and some aroma to the beer. Flavours range from grainy, cereal tastes to lightly toffee-like sweetness to powerful chocolaty or coffee-ish notes; colour will range across the entire spectrum and may not relate to the flavour or intensity of the beer; and aromas will vary from sweetly grainy to caramelly to strongly roasty.


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