Book Review: Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse

A few weeks ago I came home to a package by the door, joyful that another relative had shipped me another present to put under the tree. I was even more joyful to realize the package was from Brewers Publications and was a copy of the brand new book Malt a practical guide from field to brewhouse.Malt a practical guide from field to brewhouse

Having just finished The Brewmaster’s Table (review coming soon) I was about to start looking for a new book to read and review for the blog, so here we go.

Malt was written by John Mallett which may not be a name at the tip of many tongues but the beers that he’s produced have been tasted by many tongues. As Director of Operations at Bell’s Brewery he’s overseen everything from Two Hearted to Black Note. So it’s safe to say he knows a few things about malt and brewing.

This book covers the entire process of getting barley from seed to malthouse to brewhouse. Most of it is focused on the malting process at the malthouse. However, that can’t be covered without mentioning the effects of the variety of barley grown and conditions it was grown in as well as how it will be used to brew a beer. All of this is great, if not necessarily actionable, information. The most actionable information comes toward the end of the book and malting process with the Certificate of Analysis. If you haven’t seen one it’s a sheet with two columns containing various items and their numbers. You definitely need a guide to learn to digest the information presented and this book provides an excellent one in chapter 10.

Much of this book is relevant only for production brewers. Anything a brewery could need or want to know about malt is covered here but most homebrewers are likely to only need a small portion of the book. Chapter 7 Malt Family Descriptions is one of those small portions. Anyone moderately interested in beer could learn a lot here about what flavors and colors come from which malts and how the barley is processed into that malt. Here’s a sample of my notes from that chapter as an example:

Roasted malts

  • No enzymatic potential
  • Dry & astringent flavors
  • Rare to be used over 10%
  • Biscuit malt
    • 20-30 SRM
    • Bread crust, toasted, nutty, biscuit flavor more intense than Vienna
  • Amber malt
    • 20-36 SRM
    • Toffee, baked bread, nuts
  • Brown malt
    • 40-150 SRM
    • Similar to amber but deeper flavors & color
    • Dry harsh notes when used in excess

Malt is the fourth and final book in the Brewing Elements series preceded by Hops, Yeast, and Water. I haven’t read the others yet but one thing I’ve heard about them is that they can be very scientifically oriented. That remains the same in a few chapters of this book, but not most. For the majority Mallett has constructed an easy and enjoyable read, though I doubt anyone could have made some chapters easy to read. The intricate history and tedium of the variety of barley in the world came to be as bland and boring. The chapter covering malt science gets very deep into the science of plant biology and the maillard reactions that occur during kilning.

In the end every professional brewer should have this on their shelf as should any extremely serious homebrewer. If you’ve spent the time and money to build a RIMS system then you can spend $17 on this book. If you’re neither a professional brewer nor a super serious homebrewer I think there’s still plenty of enjoyment and knowledge to be gained here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I received a review copy of this book from the publishers. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending samples. Sending samples does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it. I do promise to give it a fair and honest review and publish a post about your product as time allows.

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