Malt Substitutes

Prior to the repeal of the Malt Acts, the only substitute for malt allowed in the United Kingdom was sugar. The quantity of the latter employed was 295,865 cwt. in 1870, 1,136,434 cwt. in 1880, and 2,746,615 cwt. in 1905; that is to say, that the quantity used had been practically trebled during the last twenty-five years, although the quantity of malt employed had not materially increased. At the same time other substitutes, such as unmalted corn and preparations of rice and maize, had come into favour, the quantity of these substances used being in 1905 125,671 bushels of unmalted corn and 1,348,558 cwt. of rice, maize, etc.

The following statistics with regard to the use of malt substitutes in the United Kingdom are not without interest.

Year.

Quantities of Malt and Corn used in Brewing.

Quantities of Sugar, Rice, Maize, etc. used in Brewing.

Percentage of Substitutes to Total Material.

Bushels.

Bushels.

1878

59,388,905

3,825,148

6.05

1883

[2]51,331,451

[3]4,503,680

8.06

1890

[2]55,359,964

[3]7,904,708

12.48

1895

53,731,177

10,754,510

16.66

1905

51,942,368

15,706,413

23.22

The causes which have led to the largely increased use of substitutes in the United Kingdom are of a somewhat complex nature. In the first place, it was not until the malt tax was repealed that the brewer was able to avail himself of the surplus diastatic energy present in malt, for the purpose of transforming starch (other than that in malted grain) into sugar. The diastatic enzyme or ferment (see below, under Mashing) of malted barley is present in that material in great excess, and a part of this surplus energy may be usefully employed in converting the starch of unmalted grain into sugar. The brewer has found also that brewing operations are simplified and accelerated by the use of a certain proportion of substitutes, and that he is thereby enabled appreciably to increase his turn-over, i.e. he can make more beer in a given time from the same plant. Certain classes of substitutes, too, are somewhat cheaper than malt, and in view of the keenness of modern competition it is not to be wondered at that the brewer should resort to every legitimate means at his disposal to keep down costs.

It has been contended, and apparently with much reason, that if the use of substitutes were prohibited this would not lead to an increased use of domestic barley, inasmuch as the supply of home barley suitable for malting purposes is of a limited nature. A return to the policy of "malt and hops only" would therefore lead to an increased use of foreign barley, and to a diminution in the demand for home barley, inasmuch as sugar and prepared cereals, containing as they do less nitrogen, etc. than even the well-cured, sun-dried foreign barleys, are better diluents than the latter. At the same time, it is an undoubted fact that an excessive use of substitutes leads to the production of beer of poor quality. The better class of brewer rarely uses more than 15-20%, knowing that beyond that point the loss of flavour and quality will in the long run become a more serious item than any increased profits which he might temporarily gain.

With regard to the nature of the substitutes or adjuncts for barley malt more generally employed, raw grain (unmalted barley, wheat, rice, maize, etc.) is not used extensively in Great Britain, but in America brewers employ as much as 50%, and even more, of maize, rice or similar materials. The maize and rice preparations mostly used in England are practically starch pure and simple, substantially the whole of the oil, water, and other subsidiary constituents of the grain being removed. The germ of maize contains a considerable proportion of an oil of somewhat unpleasant flavour, which has to be eliminated before the material is fit for use in the mash-tun. After degerming, the maize is unhusked, wetted, submitted to a temperature sufficient to rupture the starch cells, dried, and finally rolled out in a flaky condition. Rice is similarly treated.

The sugars used are chiefly cane sugar, glucose and invert sugar - the latter commonly known as "saccharum." Cane sugar is mostly used for the preparation of heavy mild ales and stouts, as it gives a peculiarly sweet and full flavour to the beer, to which, no doubt, the popularity of this class of beverage is largely due. Invert sugar is prepared by the action either of acid or of yeast on cane sugar. The chemical equation representing the conversion (or inversion) of cane sugar is: -

CHO
cane sugar

+

HO
water

=

CHO
glucose

+

CHO.
fructose

- - invert sugar - -

Invert sugar is so called because the mixture of glucose and fructose which forms the "invert" is laevo-rotatory, whereas cane sugar is dextro-rotatory to the plane of polarized light. The preparation of invert sugar by the acid process consists in treating the cane sugar in solution with a little mineral acid, removing the excess of the latter by means of chalk, and concentrating to a thick syrup. The yeast process (Tompson's), which makes use of the inverting power of one of the enzymes (invertase) contained in ordinary yeast, is interesting. The cane sugar solution is pitched with yeast at about 55° C., and at this comparatively high temperature the inversion proceeds rapidly, and fermentation is practically impossible. When this operation is completed, the whole liquid (including the yeast) is run into the boiling contents of the copper. This method is more suited to the preparation of invert in the brewery itself than the acid process, which is almost exclusively used in special sugar works. Glucose, which is one of the constituents of invert sugar, is largely used by itself in brewing. It is, however, never prepared from invert sugar for this purpose, but directly from starch by means of acid.

By the action of dilute boiling acid on starch the latter is rapidly converted first into a mixture of dextrine and maltose and then into glucose. The proportions of glucose, dextrine and maltose present in a commercial glucose depend very much on the duration of the boiling, the strength of the acid, and the extent of the pressure at which the starch is converted. In England the materials from which glucose is manufactured are generally sago, rice and purified maize. In Germany potatoes form the most common raw material, and in America purified Indian corn is ordinarily employed.

Hop substitutes, as a rule, are very little used. They mostly consist of quassia, gentian and camomile, and these substitutes are quite harmless per se, but impart an unpleasantly rough and bitter taste to the beer.

Preservatives

These are generally, in fact almost universally, employed nowadays for draught ales; to a smaller extent for stock ales. The light beers in vogue to-day are less alcoholic, more lightly hopped, and more quickly brewed than the beers of the last generation, and in this respect are somewhat less stable and more likely to deteriorate than the latter were. The preservative in part replaces the alcohol and the hop extract, and shortens the brewing time. The preservatives mostly used are the bisulphites of lime and potash, and these, when employed in small quantities, are generally held to be harmless.