How Modern Day Brewers Recreate The Flavor Of The First-Ever Beers

Beer, like most food and drink consumed, is something people can enjoy whether they understand all the details that go into creating it. Yet self-proclaimed beer geeks and foodies alike may appreciate the key ingredient in beer and the history behind how it's processed. Malt is the foundation that beer is built upon, and according to Food 52, it goes through a process that converts starches from malt into fermentable sugars. But what exactly is malt?

It's made from soaked grain that has germinated (or sprouted), and then dried. As reported by Masterclass, malt is a grain, typically barley, but malt makers or malters, can also malt numerous cereal grains such as wheat, oats, corn, or rye. Modern drying methods include kilning or heating germinated barley, in order to develop a malty "biscuit-like flavor" according to Beer & Brewing. Before kilning was available, malt was dried in a way that imparted a unique flavor into the grain.

The return of smoked malts

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the method of drying malt was achieved by using the heat from burning wood or peat, as reported by Serious Eats. As further detailed by the article, there are a few traditional rauchbiers (German for smoked beer) that are still being produced by German brewers such as Aecht Schlenkerla, with their Marzen or Weizen beers available in America.

Maybe modern brewers are recreating smoked beers due to the availability of the traditional brewed rauchbiers or perhaps it's as Hop Culture suggests, and the craft beer industry is cyclical and given enough time, what is old inevitably becomes new again. No matter the reason for it, the old-school ways of creating authentic smoked beer are gaining traction.

Per More Beer, American styles of smoked beers catching on are the darker beers such as porters, brown ales, and Altbiers. And as Beer Connoisseur details, smoked beers pair perfectly with robust foods like smoked seafood, meats, and cheeses, so consider picking up a six-pack of a smoked brew to take along to your next barbecue.