homebrewing opinion

Subtle Variety = Texture

We’ve noticed a distinctly improved malt character in the last two pale ales we’ve brewed at home, and think we know why.

Even though their grain bills consisted entirely of pale malt, for purely pragmatic reasons (using up ‘bag ends’) we used a mix of different varieties, from different sources, which we suspect has provided a subtle background texture.

We’re not talking about using different types of malt, e.g. crystal, chocolate, wheat or Munich, but multiple malts in the same category.

We’ve heard of brewers mixing malt from different suppliers to even out inconsistencies, i.e. if Bloggs Malting Ltd can’t deliver Maris Otter this month, it won’t be missed because it only makes up 10 per cent of the total. But that must also improve the complexity of the beer, even if only in the most subtle way.

One of those music analogies everyone loves: a key secret in the Beatles’ sound is double tracking. John Lennon’s vocals in particular were usually made up of at least two separate recordings played in sync so that his voice sounded ‘thicker’. If you’re not interested in recording technology, you probably won’t spot it, but it certainly makes a difference.

And another for those who prefer to use their peepers rather than their lugholes: there’s green, and there’s textured green.

Flat green vs. textured green.

The appeal of texture is why Instagram is so popular, and why people spend so much time using Photoshop to make things look as if they were printed on sugar paper using a 1920s press.

So, our hypothesis is that a ‘pale and hoppy’ ale made with 40 per cent Bloggs’s Maris Otter, 40 per cent Dibble’s Maris Otter and 20 per cent Grubb’s Optic will taste more interesting than a beer with a grist comprising 100 per cent of any of those malts.

Can any other brewers (home or otherwise) confirm or deny?

9 replies on “Subtle Variety = Texture”

Not something I can personally experiment with all too easily, being limited to 25 kg sacks of malt from reputable maltings (Weyermann).

OTOH, another way to improve maltiness is to dispense with sparging. Also a way to shorten your brew day.

Whether they’ll taste “more interesting” is entirely subjective. The beer should taste different from those with single malt bills certainly as subtle differences in the modification will each affect the process and final beer differently, bringing their own thing to the party and hopefully cancelling out the flaws.
However if the weight of malt added is not increased then changes would be negligible as your proportions of extract and protein should be similar.
Lennon doubled his voice for a fuller sound, so theoretically, it follows for a fuller, “more textured” beer, one should increase the malt bill.
As you’ve noted the practical aspects are less straight-forward. But that’s the fun of it.

I don’t know how much this would count as confirmation, but my home-brews that were thrown together by using up the odd kilos of this and that (and working out the recipe retrospectively) have definitely been more interesting beers than a lot of my more planned ones.

My most recent one of these had Crisp’s Flagon, Weyermann’s Bohemian Pilsener, and Fawcett’s lager malt, for example. Mind you, it also had bits of caramalt, melanoiden, dark crystal and munich malts in it as well…

I’ve talked to some brewers and maltsters that are of the opinion that the type of pale malt used makes no difference to flavour. It’s not something I agree with myself but I’m not convinced that mixing pales malts will always lead to a more interesting beer.

Vaguely relevant: Alechemy’s 10 Storey Malt Bomb, which I had the other day, is apparently made with ten different malts. Don’t know which ones, though, or if they’re all different kinds (are there ten different kinds?) It wasn’t brilliant, anyway – a great big malt flavour, but without the medicinal heaviness of a Burton or the tannic hop overtones of an old-style brown bitter or the whatever-the-hell-it-is of Spingo… in short, it just reminded me how much more a good malty beer has going on.

I’m fairly certain I can identify a common commercial pale malt in quite a few beers, not least as it’s the one I use myself, and have thought that using one or more other pale malts in conjunction with it would certainly reduce its distinctiveness and should make a difference. By extension that should mean that other malts should bring different properties but it’s not something that I’ve tested yet.

We could do with someone who has really nailed consistency (which rules us out…) to test this hypothesis with two otherwise identical batches.

Comments are closed.