Malt Q&A​ Notebook: Using six-row​ for production

In an ongoing series, Brewer will take a small note from interviews of some of the stories it has run and give a small tidbit that didn’t make the issue but is still worth diving into. “Malt Q&A” appears in the July/August issue of Brewer.

​Andrew Zinn of Wicked Weed and Paul ​Liszewski from East Brother Beer shared a lot when asked about using six-row malt and we couldn’t fit all the great insights for our July/August issue of Brewer.

​Liszewski, the Head Brewer for the Richmond, California brewery who was a part of the production of its Pre-Prohibition Lager explained that six-row attributes a bit more of a grainier flavor, with more proteins and enzymes.

“The increase of enzymes allows brewers to utilize adjuncts in the beer, like corn and rice, to brew a lighter and more crisp beer,” he said. “The higher proteins will also aid increase the mouthfeel and head retention in the beer.

The Admiral Maltings Atlas ​six-row is a floor-malted grain, like Marris Otter.

​”​The old-world floor malting techniques provide more depth of flavor compared to modern techniques typically utilized in generic two-row​,” he added​. ​”​Two-row malt tends to have plumper grains which attribute to increased efficiency — use less grain for the same amount of extract, and a maltier flavor.​”​

During the lauter with 6-row, ​Liszewski​ said ​the smaller kernel size and increased amount of husk provides an easier flow​ as well.​

​Zinn did say that he doesn’t see many extra technical challenges with six-row.

“Especially with craft malting, I would encourage brewers to experiment with ​six-row in styles and situations other than the traditional adjunct ​Lagers where one might expect to use them​,” he said​.

​Zinn’s only real prior expectations were based on the limited experience ​he​ had with ​six-row as a homebrewer​.

“In general less flavorful, and less of the round maltiness generally sought after in non-macro styles​. So​ — ​not to keep harping on the same point​ — ​in the early days of working with this malt, it was a big surprise to me to find out that the malt was ​six-row​.

“I think when we first started using it, the goal was just to start using locally sourced ​Pilsner malt, without a whole lot of thought to ​two-row vs. six-row​.”

During recipe formulation, Liszewski​ feels a brewer needs to pay attention to the subtle flavor differences and potential for changing the brewing process to accommodate the differences in the performance of ​six-row versus ​two-row malt.

For the Pre-Prohibition Lager, Liszewski​ wanted to create a version that reflected the malts that were available to brewers during that time.

​”​We use flaked maize, which is pregelatinized and does not require a cereal cooker, and we could potentially create the same beer using ​two-row varieties, but the subtle flavor differences in ​six-row allowed us to create a more authentic version of Pre-Pro Lager.​”​

Until this year, Liszewski​ said they only had one choice for​ six-row, and overall, ​he was happy with it.

“But ​I ​always thought that this beer could be better​,” he said​.

When Admiral Maltings announced that they were adding a ​six-row variety to their portfolio of malts, ​he ​immediately jumped on the opportunity​.

“​In fact, Admiral Maltings increased their initial production run in order to fulfill our order​,” he said.​

The Atlas Malt is an heirloom variety that hasn’t been brewed for decades, and there wasn’t any reference to rely on to determine flavor profiles​.

​​So East Brother performed ​a taste analysis during the first of three brews for the batch to determine if ​they would need to change the recipe for the later brews to accommodate any unforeseen problems.

Admiral Maltings performed an analysis with their test batch and the batch for ​the East Brother’s order​.

“We are in constant contact so we could determine if we wanted to make changes to the recipe,” ​Liszewski​ said. ​”​We ended up supplementing the mash with a bit of Admiral Pils to help ensure that we hit out OG. We incorporated a protein rest in the previous brews, so that wasn’t a huge change for us.​”​

The result was a huge success​,” he said​. ​

“​The more pronounced and depth of malt flavors was astonishing from the previous versions. I picked up flavors like honeysuckle and clover that weren’t present before​,” he said​. ​”​The best way I can describe it is, you can taste the field and everything that helped pollinate the grain.​”​

​East Brothers may work with the malt in a Saison or even a sour.

“The flavor from this malt should carry over and add some more layers of flavor to these styles,” ​Liszewski​ said. “In a practical sense, perhaps supplementing grain bills with some six-row to boost the enzymatic power of the mash to adjust for two-row lot differences — similar to using acidulated malt to help adjust mash ph or carafoam/pils to add some mouthfeel and head retention.

“If brewers use more six-row, the demand will increase and this will lead to more choices for us to use.”

​Photo Credit: ​Clara Rice Photography

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