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Porter and Enzymes

March 26, 2013

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It’s been over three months since the last time we brewed and Larry and I both agree: we can’t let that happen again. For one, we were on a nice little routine where I think we had sort of optimized the process a bit so this time we were a bit out of sync. But more importantly, I just absolutely love our brewing Sundays and I really friggin’ missed it. The good news is, this ridiculously long-lasting winter has made our “out of seasonality” a bit easier to catch up with and I’m really excited to see how our Porter and Pale Ale (with Sorachi Ace hops) turn out. Black and tans anyone?

I was particularly excited about the Porter after deciding on a malted barley blend that included some “chocolate malt”. My original thought on this malt as its own sort of varietal was a bit off actually. In fact, just like my affinity for bourbon aging, the key here is an element of heating. Not so much charring in this case; rather the chocolate malt is a more traditional malted barley that has been kilned at a fairly high temperature. This results in a “caramelization” of flavors bringing out the “vanillas” and “caramels” that we love in our Porters. But this high heat kilning has another interesting result as well.

The process of malting barley for fermentation purposes is all about the generation of enzymes. These enzymes act to convert the starch component of the barley to simple sugar molecules that are then digested by the yeast in the mixture. Of course, we know all about the yeast digesting sugar and producing alcohol, but those sugars have to come from somewhere. The amount of enzymes available for this conversion along with the flavor components of the barley itself help impart certain end notes in the product (let’s say beer in this case). So let’s bring it back to the “chocolate malt”. The kilning process actually degrades all of the enzymes. This means, our Porter mash must rely on some component of “pale malt” for the necessary enzymes to get fermentation. 

Man, all of this is getting me thirsty. What about you? Well, just a few weeks more and the next level of appreciation can begin.

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