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The history of Pale malts?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Crusader, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    I was thinking about the basic story behind pilsner beer today which is said to have come about due to the combination of Bavarian lagering techniques and bottom fermenting yeast with pale kilned malt originating in the British isles. This made me wonder though how old pale ales are, i.e ales with a color akin to a (genuinly)pale ale/golden ale/paler lager. Was the light kilning technique relatively new to England when it was brought and introduced to Bohemia? Or had the English been using pale kilned malts for a longer period of time before that?
  2. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Champion (875) Michigan May 30, 2005 Subscriber

    I won't swear to it but I think I read in one of Pete Brown's books that pale malts were discovered by someone in Belgium who gave it to the Brits before it made its way to Pilsen. Don't bet the farm or any good beer on that statement though.
    Crusader likes this.
  3. A number of points.

    Pale Malt was first made in the 1600’s in Britain via kilning with coke (vs. wood):

    “Pale ale was a term used for beers made from malt dried with coke. Coke had been first used for roasting malt in 1642, but it wasn't until around 1703 that the term "pale ale" was first used.”

    A historical Pale Ale was not really too pale in color; it is really an amber color. It was called Pale Ale only because it was lighter in color than other beers of that time:

    “Pale Ale is actually amber in color. It gets its name only because it is pale in comparison to dark beers. Porters and stouts were the foundation on which the modern British brewery was built ….”

    Pilsner malt is lighter in color than Pale Malt. It was ‘invented’ in Bohemia in the 1800’s:

    “New and improved kilning methods also contributed to the success of Pilsner Urquell by enabling maltsters of the period to produce a pale malt that lent an unusually light wort.”

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  4. White malt was used in the Burton IPAs back in the late 18th century. The Czechs used this technology to make Pils Malt in a British malt kiln obtained from Britain. Source IPA by Mitch Steele, page 71.
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  5. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    Thanks alot for this information. So there was in fact a development of the kilning of the malt, in making it even paler, once it reached Bohemia, that is interesting. I'm assuming that the use of coke made its way to Bavaria at some point also and replaced wood as a fuel, though I wonder if the British produced paler ales than the dark Bavarian lagers by the 1800s (the type of beer that Bohemian pilsners are most often compared against). Or if the two types of beer would have been similar in color and surpassed in lightness by the new pilsner type.

    Also, temperature is the deciding factor in producing the color of the malt, and controlling the temperature of the kiln is thus important in achieving a lighter as opposed to a darker malt. But this leaves the question of smokiness in the malts unanswered. Sources seem to indicate that malt dried over coke would have less smokiness than if smoked over wood, but to eliminate the smoky taste they had to invent a vessel to dry the malts without letting it come into contact with the smoke (similar to how the malt used in Irish whiskey is made, which I'm unsure as to how it relates chronologically to pale malts used in beer). So early British pale malts might have used coke as fuel but without protecting it from the fumes which were generated, whilst introducing vessels at a later point which did protect the malts. Then the question becomes whether the Bohemian breweries (or more specifically what was to become the Pilsner Urquell brewery) used such protective measures from the onset since such techniques had been invented by the 1840s.

    I guess different breweries in different countries used different methods and adopted new techniques at different points in time making it difficult to generalize across national borders.

  6. I should firstly caveat that I am not an expert on malting technology in general and I have no genuine knowledge on malting technology history.

    Hopfenunmaltz made a great post and quoted IPA pg. 71.

    From the IPA book (pg. 71):

    “Only one malt was used in Burton IPA, and that was the extra pale or white malt (aka East India Malt), which was kilned to only 1.5°L. … The brewery malted its own barley using a lower kiln temperature of about 150°F (65°C) compared to the more standard 170-180°F (77-82°C).The result was a bright yellow malt that produced a beer golden or light amber in color.

    White malt is very similar to today’s Pilsner malt, which, interestingly was itself developed after an apparent industrial espionage mission by Czech brewers into England’s best malthouses. The malt used to brew the very first batch of Pilsner Urquell was kilned in an English kiln that had been sent to what is today the Czech Republic.”

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  7. Pale malt as mentioned was introduced in the 1600s as already mentioned.There was no Belgium at the time! Later "pale" malts would be of course less dark than earlier attempts.
    I pinched this from Michael Jackson;
    It also meant that brewers could travel farther to study brewing techniques. Such travels were traditionally a part of the beer maker's apprenticeship. In the manner of the day, Sedlmayr's son, Gabriel II, traveled to Prussia, Bohemia, Austria, Switzerland, Baden-Wurttemberg, the Rhineland, Belgium, The Netherlands and the British Isles. He formed a long-term friendship with an Austrian, Anton Dreher (whose name survives in beer brands in Hungary and Italy).
    Sedlmayr's journeys continued for six years or more, in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Gabriel II noted that, as compared to the Bavarians, the Belgians and British has gentler techniques for drying the malt. The Prussians and British knew more about the extraction of fermentable sugars in the mashing. The English brewer, Bass, provided him with his first saccharometer, but elsewhere in Britain, Gabriel II and Dreher recalled that they "stole" samples of wort and yeast. They even commissioned the manufacture of a metal tube, with a hidden valve, for this purpose. "It always surprises me that we can get away with these thefts without being beaten up," Gabriel II wrote.
    The British probably did not care. The island nation had used its sea power to explore and colonize half the world. Britain was a prosperous and industrially sophisticated nation. British brewers, never far from the coast, were already shipping beer to northern Europe and the Empire. There were still countless brewpubs in Britain but there the era of industrial brewing had already dawned. British brewers were far more advanced in the application of biochemical research, in temperature control throughout the production of beer, and in the use of steam power.
    Gabriel II and Dreher went on to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Alloa, among other brewing cities, picking up what knowledge they could. I have heard it argued in continental Europe that this British trip provided the foundation for the first methodological production of lager.
    Later, when Gabriel II helped other German brewers, a notable participant in his work was Heinrich Boettinger from Baden-Wurttemberg. At college, Boettinger had known Justus von Liebig, the great chemist who had done pioneering work on yeast. Boettinger at one point worked in Britain, helping the Burton brewers, Allsopp, perfect a pale ale, the precursor of Double Diamond. Boettinger subsequently returned to Germany as a stockholder in Stuttgart Hofbrau, which still operates.
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  8. In IPA, it is said that you can do a white malt substitute by using a mix of Pils and Pale malt.

    The IPAs from Burton were said to be very light in color, as they were only brewed with white malt.
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  9. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    Would you happen to know how this kiln was/is constructed and works? As I understand it after watching a few videos of floor malted barley being produced by whisky distillers, floor malted barley is the traditional large scale way of producing malt for beer as well as whiskey. Though I've yet to understand how the heat is transported from the furnace to the malt, and how the barley is protected from the fumes. In modern malting operations, from what I understand, the malt is separated from the fumes of the furnace or heat and is thus indirectly heated, whilst floor maltings is a more direct form of heating and drying malt. This should in my mind make the malt susceptible to flavor components imparted by the coke, unless coke is devoid of such flavor components (the only experience I have with charcoal is grilling meats which makes me think of charcoal as imparting a distinct charcoal flavor). But perhaps the use of coke and floor maltings imparts no smoke flavor in the malt?
  10. Hopefully hopfenunmaltz will get back to you with definitive answer to your questions.

    It appears to me that in modern day malting the kilning process is conducted via forced hot air. A heat source is used to heat air and that hot air is forced over the malted barley. There are some diagrams of the kilning process (Fleximalt System) on this website: http://www.prairiemaltltd.com/maltingprocess.html

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  11. As I understand it, the kilns were designed so that coke fumes came nowhere near the malt; coke is pretty unpleasant stuff.
    For whisky malt of course things were different .This hasn't been fully understood by many people who mistakenly think Scottish beers had a smoky or peaty component.
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  12. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    That would make more sense, the new kilns or kilning techniques produced a pale malt devoid of the smoky flavor of the past, by somehow separating the barley from the heat. I wonder how the Scottish whisky relates to this though since their floor maltings seem to incorporate both a peat and coke element, with the peat intended to impart the smoky character and thus having access to the barley being dried, with coke used at a later stage to simply dry the malt (with unclear flavor imparting). I.e, where there two separate developments here, creating on the one hand pale malt devoid of smoke flavor and on the other hand pale malt imparted with smoke flavor.
  13. One guess is that the gas products from burning coke were passed through a heat exchanger to heat air.

    In Bamberg they make rauchmalz by drying the malt over wood fires. The wood has been seasoned for 3 years, and produces little smoke, and air is also drawn in to control the temp of the malt grain bed. In this case they want the smoke.

    In really olden times they would make air dried malt or as the Germans called it Luftmalz.
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  14. mjryan

    mjryan Advocate (550) Minnesota Dec 22, 2007

    Malting is the process of germinating cereal grain. Floor malting is an antique way of malting. Once floor malted barley has been malted, it is kilned like any other malt. There is no floor kilning that I'm aware of.
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  15. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    So once the starches have been turned into maltose via the malting process, the barley is dried in the kiln. So the floor malted barley is kilned after being floor malted? I'm guessing in a modern malting plant this would take place in a vessel which separates the malted barley from the source of heat, be it steam etc. (since even boiling the mash and wort is done by steam these days). But it makes me wonder how drying the malt was done, via direct heat or not. At some point the smoke-flavor inducing procedure of drying malt was replaced by clean tasting malt, and in the process, the malt was lighter than in the past since they could now control the temperature of the malt. Maybe I'm using the wrong term however, what I mean by kilned is the barley being dried by heat after it has been left to soak and germinate. But the drying process might include both a drying and a kilning process which complicates the matter further. If that's the case then the kilning process is the part which I am interested in. How was the kilning undertaken in the past, and how has it changed.
  16. mjryan

    mjryan Advocate (550) Minnesota Dec 22, 2007

    Well, it is said that most if not all malt was at one point smokey. I'm guessing a variety of techniques were used to dry malt, the most simple being placed near a fire. I'm also guessing that old kilns were basically smokers. Probably a structure attached to an oven of some kind where the hot smoke filled the adjoining structure containing the wet malt. Nowadays I'd assume they use something akin to a coffee roaster to kiln malt. Maybe a cylinder that is heated via indirect heat that can be rotated to gain even kilning of the malt. I don't really know, these are just guesses.
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  17. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    I fully accept that there were different procedures for malting and kilning the barley. And there might be a distinct shift between as you say a smoke filled adjoining structure containing the wet malt, replaced by a type of coffee roaster where the barley malt simply touches the heat and not the fumes or smoke. But this leaves me confused, since Scotch whisky malt appears to be a hybrid of the two, where floor maltings is combined with peat-smoke flavor before the mash. There is thus no clean break inbetween a dry floor malting operation and a heat operated kiln. I know that Pilsner Urquell brags about its floor maltings, which makes me think that floor malting is a traditional way of producing malt for beer, but there are several steps to producing beer worthy malt, including steeping and drying and perhaps also kilning. Which makes for a rather complex process.
  18. Crusader

    Crusader Savant (440) Sweden Feb 4, 2011

    I found these videos describing the process for whisky. I guess what he is saying is that there is little in the way of taste left from the coke drying which makes sense when one considers the historical use of coke in drying barley malt used in beer. If coke dried malt leaves little in the way of an aftertaste then one understands why it was used to such a degree.