CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 17 Made in America: Part II - Page 78

W W W. C R A F T BY U M H . C O M the soul of beer.’ That is still true today. The science of making good malt from poor barley has not yet been developed, so careful selection of malt- ing grains is vital for high quality finished beer.” The process of malting barley can be looked at as the first step of brewing. The biochemical change Mallett referred to is essentially converting starches to fermentable sugars. Once in the mash tun, the brewing process completes this conversion, extracting the sug- ars, flavors, and color into water prior to the brew kettle. The sugar conversion is important; when the sugar is consumed by yeast in the process of fermentation, alcohol is created as the byproduct. To slip back to the rock band analogy, the mashing and extracting process, combining sugars and base flavors in water to prepare for the hops in the kettle and yeast in fermentation is like the rhythm section made up of bass and drums getting their act together before they bring in the rest of the band. Their solid foundation is necessary for anything else to make sense, not to mention, be excellent. If we want to look deeper into malt, we should look towards the brewer’s relationship with barley. Today, the brewer’s access is pri- marily through large commercial malthouses, the companies that buy barley and process it into brewing malt, but that wasn’t always the case. Aaron MacLeod, Director of the Hartwick College Center for Craft Food and Beverage explains some of the history, “There was a time when everything was local. People weren’t spread out so much in this country [and] you couldn’t move goods around easily; there were no trains, no planes, no automobiles. You brewed the beer where you con- sumed it, so there were breweries in every town. They were small — it was all fresh. There was no long-term storage, and you had to pretty much make it with ingredients that were sourced locally.” MacLeod also shed some light on how distance grew between brew- ers, beer and its agricultural roots, “…with industrialization and trans- portation, we found that you can grow crops on a different economy of scale; and that’s now the situation in the Western plains, the grain grow- ing region. Then we had prohibition, and it all sort of just stopped.” “After Prohibition, [we had] a protracted period in brewing, [with] large commercial brewers producing a fairly small portfolio of different styles. Their demand for ingredients was for large quantities of malt that was very similar. In order to make a lot of American light lager, you need a lot of base malt — very low color malt that can be grown on a very efficient