Friday, November 12, 2010

Barley is King

Malt – a germinated grain that is quickly dried.  Germination is when a seed sprouts and many of us completed an elementary school or middle school science experiment of placing sees between moistened paper towels and observing the seeds as they germinate.  The germination changes the seed, enhancing the conversion of starches into sugars and developing enzymes that enhance fermentation.  Germination is halted at a precise time and the sprouted grains are dried – the color of the malt changes depending on the length of drying or kilning of the germinated grain.  The brewer changes the style, alcohol content, and flavor of the beer by using different malts and various mixes of different malts.
Various grains can be used for making malt; however, barley is king.  There are two types of barley, 2-row and 6-row, with many varieties or strains of each type.  The barley farmer is a big risk taker as the malt house or brewer can deny purchase of the barley if it does not meet specific criteria.  The farmer will then need to sell the barley as feed barley at a lower price.  The U.S. is the eighth largest barley-producing country and barley is grown in the Northern Plains and the Pacific NW – Colorado is the 5th largest barley-producing state.  Because Coors has contracts with most barley farmers in CO, local craft brewers acquire barley (or malt) outside of CO.
I am hosting a beer-tasting tonight with guests bringing a CO craft beer.  I will be serving Avery’s – Elle’s Brown Ale and the Sierra Nevada – 30th Anniversary Bock.  Tomorrow’s post will cover the beers tasted, the guest’s synopsis of the beers and notable pairings.

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