The geographical history/footprint of 6-row barley malt?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Crusader, Jan 7, 2014.

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  1. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (193) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I've been thinking about this question for a while now after having initially read quite a bit about American lager brewing and then delving into the history of Swedish beer brewing. Reading about the American history of brewing it seemed as though 6-row barley malt was more or less an exclusively American grain, which found a suitable complement in corn which was also grown on the continent. But when I started reading about the history of Swedish beer brewing, I came across claims that 6-row barley had been the dominant type of barley in Sweden up until the late 1800s when British 2-row breeds were introduced to Sweden, along with the pilsner-style of beer. 2-row barley was found in Sweden prior to this but it was rare compared to 6-row, and it was distinguished from the common 6-row by the name gumrik, though it sounds as though this 2-row type was of a primitive sort compared to modern barley.

    Meanwhile it seems as though 2-row barley has been the backbone of British brewing for some time, and also German brewing going by some sources, and this makes me wonder if in fact the historical footprint and geographical spread of 2 and 6-row barley is more complex than we commonly imagine.

    Based on the knowledge that 6-row was the standard barley grown in Sweden for centuries, I can't help but wonder if the same was true for Denmark and what are now the northern parts of Germany. I've read about Denmark and northern Germany being pioneers when it comes to adjunct brewing (with the north Germans being particularly fond of rice as an adjunct) and I wonder if in fact the use of adjuncts in these areas was a direct result of 6-row barley being the primary crop there, which might have necessitated the use of adjuncts to produce a clear beer once pale pilsner style beers were being brewed there.

    That's simply a hypothesis on my part, as an attempt at explaining why adjunct brewing became so popular in both north Germany (prior to the reinheitsgebot being extended to the unified German Reich) as well as Denmark. Even though Swedish farmers and brewers switched to 2-row in the late 1800s the brewers still ended up using considerable amounts of corn-adjuncts by the mid-1950s, similar to Danish brewers. I guess this could be an indication that 2-row barley could have been the major type of barley in northern Germany and Denmark in the latter part of the 19th century, and that adjuncts were used simply as a flavor "enhancer" (producing lighter bodied/tasting beers).

    Still I find this to be an interesting topic, and I wonder if any of you on this forum have any additional information or theories which could shed some light on this matter.
  2. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,260) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    I noticed that there is now a "free" version of the 1903 book One Hundred Years of Brewing on Google Books (previously there were on "No Preview" editions). There's some info on the chronology of barley uses in the sub-chapter "Varieties of Barley" starting on page 37.
    (Unfortunately, it may only add to the confusion :wink:.)

    Still, for a 300 over-sized paged book without an index, a '"searchable" Google Books version is handy.
    KS1297 likes this.
  3. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (193) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Hmm, I only get zoomed-out excerpts of the upper parts of the first three search results, and I can't seem to read full pages from the book. Do I have to click on some button to access the book? Maybe I need a google account?
  4. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,276) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    #4 hopfenunmaltz, Jan 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2014
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  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,975) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Patrik, I am unaware of what may have been the motivations for why European brewers utilized adjuncts in making beer but one reason that American brewers used adjunct (e.g., corn) in brewing beers during the 1800’s was to produce a beer that was more clear than if it was brewed with 100% 6-row malt. Using adjuncts (e.g., corn) also results in a beer that was lighter (lighter bodied) which was appealing to some US beer drinkers (particularly during the hot summers prevalent in the US).

    Below is an extract from an article entitled: “The Evolution of North American Beer" by Kihm Winship.

    “In 1899, in testimony before a Senate committee investigating adulteration of food products, a New York City brewmaster testified that he used only malt in 75 percent of his beers, but that he made another beer with the addition of corn grits. The committee chairman asked, "You have some customers that prefer that?" The brewer replied, "Well, I use it to meet competition. Some customers want a lighter beer because I can and do give it to them cheaper. The cost of production is less."

    Later he testified that all-malt beer was a superior product but the chill haze (i.e., enzymatic proteins in solution that appear as a haze or cloud when the beer is chilled) convinced some consumers otherwise. "The ordinary beer drinker or any person not conversant with the reason of that cloudiness may reject the beer for the reason that it does not look right; it does not appeal to the eye." The addition of corn to the mash provided more starch for the excess enzymes from the malt to work on and thus decreased the amount of proteins in the finished beer, solving the chill haze problem cheaply and effectively.

    Cost and aesthetics were working for lighter lagers and against all-malt beers and ales.”

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  6. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (193) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    With 6-row malt and corn being major crops in the US it is understandable if these ingredients were chosen for beer brewing over there. An American brewer could perhaps theoretically have gone with imported (or domestically sourced) 2-row (in order to work around the chill-haze issue), but the price premium might not have been considered worth it (this makes me curious as to whether US pre-prohibition all-malt lager beers used imported or domestic 2-row as opposed to all-6-row grain bills, and whether these beers were by default more expensive compared to the 6-row/corn or rice beer).

    Of course the magnitude of American farming made US farm products affordable even with shipping to Europe. American pork became an important product imported to Sweden in the latter part of the 1800s and called Amerikafläsk (America pork), since it was cheaper and more abundant than domestic Swedish pork, or even pork from European countries. With massive amounts of corn grown, and far greater output per farmer compared to Europe (I recall reading about the development of agriculture in the US vs Europe in some of my university courses), thanks to the development and adaptation of new agricultural science, technologies and machinery, it's perhaps no wonder that US produced adjuncts such as corn found such ready use in Europe.

    I haven't read much about the growing of rice in Europe, where it was located geographically or whether or not it constituted an export industry, as it pertains the German use of rice in brewing.
  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,975) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “ …whether these beers were by default more expensive compared to the 6-row/corn or rice beer.” I believe that US brewed all malt beers were more expensive than the 6-row/adjunct beers based upon the quoted material in my prior post: "Well, I use it to meet competition. Some customers want a lighter beer because I can and do give it to them cheaper. The cost of production is less." This quoted statement referred to 6-row/corn beer.

    Crusader likes this.
  8. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,260) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    The link works fine for me, even if I do a "Private" viewing and not as a "Google" member. When you get the "zoomed out excerpt" can you click on one and go to the page? If not, perhaps it's because you're not in the US?

    Here is the main section on barley varieties (since it's a "free" Google Book, I guess I violate no copyright):

    1. The Chevalier or two-row barley (hordeum distichon), with several sub-varieties. This has been grown in Germany from the earliest times, and is the best material for German beers. In America, also, especially in the western states of Dakota, Montana, Utah and California, it grows splendidly, but the brewers, particularly those in the central and in the eastern states, do not use it much for the reason that it shows certain disadvantages in the American method of mashing, owing to its thin husk and its large percentage of albumenoids.

    But it is exported to Germany, and also to England, where there is a strong demand for it. England has grown this particular barley successfully since the beginning of our century, when it was first planted there by Chevalier.

    2. The common four-row barley (hordeum vulgaris) is, next to the Chevalier barley, the one most used in Germany, as also in France.

    3. The six-row barley (h. hexasticbon) meets with no favor on the part of the brewers of Germany, but is that which is by far most popular in the United States. For the American method of brewing it offers several important advantages. In the early part of the century, however (under another method of brewing) it was not regarded the proper material for malsters and brewers, but always for distillers.

    4. A barley called “bere“ or “bigg," is used in Scotland and Ireland. (It was claimed, even, that the name “beer” was derived from “bere.”) The grain in question is a highland barley.

    5. The fan barley (h. zeocritors) is of a very fine quality and is used considerably both in England and in France. In America, also, it used to meet with great favor in former years, and in England the best home-brewers” ale was made from the same.

    6. The nude barley (h. vulgarc midum) is not used for brewing in Germany. In America its quality was praised very much a hundred years ago, the claim being made that it gave the beer a fine full-mouthed taste, richness and flavor. Roasted, it was largely used as a substitute for coffee.

    It was in the beginning of the last century when, in the eastern states, the sowing of barley from La— Plata and Algiers was recommenced, the first a large and heavy barley. The price then was, per bushel 0f forty-five pounds, from eighty cents to one dollar. Competent parties then advised the farmers of the western states to cultivate the growing of wheat. the soil being just of the right kind for that purpose. The yield per acre was estimated at from thirty to eighty bushels. From that time dates the development of the west and the immense growth of its grain culture, being able to supply the world. In 1894 the United States exported more than five million bushels of barley. In 1895 England received four-fifths of the total export of more than one and one-half million bushels. The American consumption of barley for brewing to-day exceeds forty millions of bushels, ccn-= tainly an enormous quantity, which has grown to its present proportions within the last fifty years.
    JackHorzempa and Crusader like this.
  9. tbaker397

    tbaker397 Initiate (0) Nov 9, 2013 West Virginia
    Beer Trader

    Truthfully I dont have any facts or anything to add..but this topic fascinates me, seriously. Never realized there were that many varieties of barley that have been used in brewing.
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