hist-brewing: Re: hist-brewing digest, Vol 1 #49 - 3 msgs

Randy Mosher rmosher at 21stcentury.net
Thu Jan 31 12:36:35 PST 2002

on 1/31/02 2:07 PM, hist-brewing-request at pbm.com at
hist-brewing-request at pbm.com wrote:

> While pale malt may well have been preferred, I believe that other than
> wind malt, even a pale malt was likely to be somewhat more highly colored
> than modern pale malt, and brown malt was likely by far the most common.
> It's my understanding that the "new" pale ale of several centuries ago was
> pale only in contrast to older brown ale.  Brown ale was esteemed because
> it was an indication of strength, "the Beste and Brouneste that the
> Brewsters sullen..." (Piers Plowman, 14th Century).  So I will include some
> dark malt.

It is unlikely that brown malt was ever the most common type, for two

1. It takes more energy to make brown ale than pale, and before you get to
the brown stage, you pass through the point that the malt is dry and
brewable, so brown was not liikely to just be a result of crude kilning
procedures, but a consciously created flavoring product. Wood, the most
common energy source before the 1600's was always more in demand for other,
more strategic uses: shipbuilding, steelmaking, even barrel-making.

2. Brown malt yields a lot less fermentable material for the wort, making it
doubly expensive. 

These two reasons were why brown malt was dropped like a hot potato as soon
as a suitable subsititute (patent malt) was found, even there was some
consumer (and brewmaster) objections to the switch, from a flavor point of
view. One of the early acts of treachery by the brewery accountants who have
come to dominate the industry!

I agree that pale malt may well have been darker than at present. "the best
and brownest..." comment certainly makes sense, in that with any given
proportion of ingredients, the stronger a beer is, the darker it's color.
Put enough pale malt into a brew and you get a rich amber. A beer brewed
with 100% munich malt--perhaps a model for a darker "pale" malt--will be
solidly brown. Keep in mind that malt brews considerably darker than its
name--brown malt does not equal brown ale.

On Scotti's point:

I have never seen a reference to chocolate malt in any British brewing text
until about 1950. All the old books refer to "brown" or "blown"
(torrified/puffed) malt as the darkest malt available.

For a citation, try John Tuck, "Private Brewer's Guide," London 1822,
reprinted in a facsimile edition a few years back. Like many of the old-time
brewers, he laments the use of "patent" malt, "roasted in an iron tube until
it is brown, like coffee," as it totally changed the flavor profile of
porter. But really, ALL of the old books say pretty much the same thing
along these lines.

I have been trying to track down the definitive origin of crystal malt, but
with no luck so far. It starts to show up in textbooks (with litle fanfare)
a little before 1900. A thorough scouring of the Journal of the Institute of
Brewing would probably give us the answer, but there is about a 15-year gap
in that publication at the brewing library I have access to (the Siebel
Institute). I have never heard of the "pressurized kiln" you mention. In
theory, at least, it isn't needed. I have made a pretty passable version at

I'm getting thirsty!

--Randy Mosher

More information about the hist-brewing mailing list