Know Your Malts

Posted on July 22nd, 2009

Most people know that beer is made from barley, and that’s certainly true. Barley is the main ingredient in most beers; what many don’t realize is that it’s not that only grain used to make beer. There are actually many different grains and beans used to make many different brews and today we’re going to take a look at a few of the most popular ones used by brewers around the world.

Barley – This is your basic grain that’s used in the vast majority of beers. Of the three basic types of barley that exist (two-row, four-row, and six-row) only two-row and six-row are used for brewing, with two-row the most common. Many different varieties of barley are grown all around the world from The US to the Czech Republic. Once it’s been harvested, barley can be malted and processed in any number of ways to prepare it for the brewer. Barley is a quite versatile grain, used as key ingredient in everything from pilsners to stouts.

Rye – This is a lesser known grain, but it’s beginning to be used more and more. Rye gives beer a coarse, grainy flavor that can add a refreshing bitterness to beer distinct from the bitterness of hops.

Wheat – One of the most common grains used besides barley, wheat can be quite smooth and refreshing. The Germans are perhaps the best known wheat brewers; some notable styles include the hefeweizen, the weizenbock and the weiss.

Oatmeal – Most commonly used in the oatmeal stout, this grain usually associated with breakfast provides a wonderful nutty, smooth flavor to beer.

Chocolate – Chocolate grains are perhaps best known as the key ingredient in chocolate stouts, but it’s also used in brown ales as well, providing bittersweet chocolate flavors and a roasted aroma.

Rice – Initially used by Asian brewers, rice was later adopted along with corn by America macro brewers like Coors and Anheuser-Busch as a cheap way of increasing the alcohol in a beer without adding much flavor. Although it’s looked down upon by much of the craft brewing community, rice can be used in moderation to impart dryness to some craft brews also.

Coffee – Primarily used in coffee stouts and porters, coffee beans provide a lovely roasted quality to many brews.