Unraveling the Secrets of Malted Barley: An Essential Ingredient in Your Favorite Beers
As lovers of craft beer, you likely already have an understanding of the basic ingredients that go into your favorite brews: water, hops, yeast, and of course, malted barley. But have you ever wondered about the process behind malted barley production? Or how local craft maltsters, like Asheville’s own Riverbend Malthouse, are bringing unique flavors to the beers you love? Let’s delve into the world of malted barley and explore the malt houses that are central to American brewing.
What is Malted Barley?
Malted barley is essentially barley that has been germinated and dried in a controlled environment. The purpose of malting is to convert the starches in the barley into fermentable sugars. These sugars will then be eaten by yeast during the brewing process to produce alcohol and CO2, giving us the delicious beer we all enjoy.
How Is Malted Barley Produced?
The production of malted barley involves a three-step process:
Steeping: The raw barley is soaked in water for a couple of days to initiate germination. This is where the moisture content of the barley increases, activating the enzymes within the grain.
Germination: The moist barley is allowed to germinate in a controlled environment. During this stage, the enzymes begin converting the grain’s starches into sugars.
Kilning: The germinated barley is dried in a kiln to stop the germination process. This step also imparts the color and flavor characteristic of the malt, depending on the temperature and duration of kilning.
Larger Malthouses in the United States
Several malt houses across the United States supply malted barley to breweries. Some of the more notable ones include: