On February 9, 2020, the Edmonton Homebrewers Guild ran a malt sensory activity for their members. Here’s a recap of what happened.
For the event, I made up 4 malt steeps early that morning (ran out of time for the 5th). I followed the instructions for the Briess hot steep method: http://blog.brewingwithbriess.com/the-hot-steep-method-step-by-step-instructions/. I increased the volumes to 70g/700mL of water to have enough sample for 15 tasters. It took over 3 hours to filter the samples through coffee filters, even with having 3 filters running per sample. When we run this event again, we will stick with the recommended 50g/500mL and decrease the amount of participants. It was great to run the base malts first because you need to choose a base malt to pair with the specialty malts.
We used Canada Malting’s 2-Row, Origin Malting’s Prairie Pale 2-Row (which is now available as an add-on in Beersmith as an Alberta malt), Maris Otter and Golden Promise. Surprisingly, the Maris otter had prominent grassy notes. This was very unexpected.We now have a better idea of which malt had the most subdued flavours. Next time, we will also have some actual malt grain for people to taste along with the extract and I’ll experiment with different filter sizes.
I interviewed Crystal Flynn who attended the session. She heard about the event on our Facebook page, and decided to attend as she was due to brew another batch of beer. She said it was good to try some malt flavours and meet new people and that it was her first event that she was able to attend.
Before the event, she had a mild knowledge about base malts with her focus being on hops—she was aware that there were different variants of base malts and wouldn’t normally go for malt forward beers whereas she grows 6 different varieties of hops at home. She found that all of the malts tasted very similar to her: there was some range but very subtle differences. Her big takeaway from the experience was to buy a few different kinds of base malts. The only way to know for sure is to brew. As a scientist, she is aware that there are so many variables in brewing and it’s difficult to make conclusions with so many variables.
Cover photo courtesy of Chelsea Tessier.