Ground Up


As discussed previously, beer is composed of four basic elements, water, malted grain, yeast, and hops. The last element was discussed recently. Now, as follow-up, the role of grain in beer production is on the plate.

Although grains like rice and rye can be used for ale, primarily used malted grains include wheat and barley.

The former has its benefits. Greater protein content often results in sturdier, more durable foam, making it an ideal blending partner for other malted grains with lesser capabilities. However, the grain can be tricky to work with, too. Its thinner husk makes it more water soluble, decreasing germination time significantly and requiring a careful eye to monitor it. Also, the higher protein content mentioned creates a characteristic haziness in wheat ales that is uncommon to other types.

The latter creates a different product. As can be inferred, its lower protein level causes thinner foam to form on the ale’s surface. But in its favor is its thicker husk, which acts as a natural filter during fermentation, clarifying the beer even before it is bottled.

Today’s samples were made from each grain. Representing wheat ale was Lagunitas’ American Wheat Ale Lil Sumpin’ Sumpin’, while Great Lakes Porter Edmund Fitzgerald illustrated usage of barley. For its brew, Lagunitas uses all of the “C” hops – Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus – making for a characteristically hoppy drink with a citrusy edge. By contrast, Edmund Fitzgerald, a deeply colored, richer counterpart, is considerably less hoppy (It uses three aromatic hops), with flavors reminiscent of coffee and chocolate.


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