Beer is made by fermenting the sugar from malted cereals, usually barley. It takes approximately 2000 grains of malted barley to make one pint of beer. A brewer can make beer without hops but they cannot make it without malt!
Malt is the shorthand for ‘malted cereal’. As well as being the source of sugar for yeast to ferment and convert to alcohol it also gives beer its colour, some flavours, body, foam, and head retention.
Britain is the 3rd largest producer of malt in the world exporting it for brewing and distilling around the globe. British malting barley is renowned because the temperate maritime climate and soils of Britain unite to grow the highest quality, flavoursome barley. Uniquely British farmers can harvest two crops a year – spring and winter varieties with names such as NFC Tipple and the legendary Maris Otter.
Malting is the process that changes barley corns into a product the brewer can use. In simple terms this is done by soaking the barley corns in water to start germination. Starch is converted to simple sugars by enzymes in the barley. The maltster then dries the corns with heat and depending on the temperature this will change the flavour and colour of the malt. Different types of malt have names such as Amber, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate, and Black. Flavours include biscuits, bread, honey, nuts, toffee, smoke, coffee, charred.
Beer is nutritious containing carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, soluble fibre, and amino acids. Fermentation increases the nutritional value of food and drink so the malted cereal in beer is much more nutritious than it would be as breakfast cereal. B vitamins are particularly abundant in beer so are potassium and silicon. Beer is the richest source of silicon (from the barley husk) and this essential mineral is involved in the production of collagen – the protein in tendons, blood vessel walls, skin, nails and hair. It also maintains healthy joints and bone density. Barley also contains antioxidants – substances that help to protect the body against the effects of free radicals – molecules that can damage cells, and may trigger heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Not only is beer good for social health it is also a benefit for physical health too!