Maltwerks on Malting & Brewing with Wheat Malt

Wheat: A Brief History

Wheat cultivation for both bread and beer making is as old as civilization itself. Today, you might be surprised that North Dakota is among the top grain producers in the country. Craft Malting operations like Maltwerks have the advantage of sourcing close to home. 

Despite humanity’s propensity for brewing and baking with wheat, wheat is challenging from harvest to brew day. Whether you have a craft brewhouse or a large-scale brewing operation, contending with wheat is part of the game. 

In the brewing process, the proteins in this grain must be degraded. 

Wheat, left to its own devices, becomes dense, hardly making it a proper thirst quencher. So why even attempt to brew with wheat? 

  • Color
  • Light Mouthfeel
  • Refreshing and Crisp Acidity

The challenge for Maltsters is to select brewing wheat out of the plethora of grains grown for food supplies. The only alternative for Maltsters is to go directly to the source, our Farmers. 

Hard vs Soft Wheat

Maltwerks produces malted wheat for brewing by sourcing Hard Red Spring Wheat, the majority of which is grown in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota. However, North Dakota accounts for slightly more than half of the annual production.

Hard Red Spring Wheat stands out as a premium for baking and is known for its color and high protein content. On the other side of the spectrum, Soft White Wheat can be milled to a finer particle size is perfect for baking cakes. In brewing it is best known for adding haze to East Coast-style IPAs and Wheat-style beers and originates predominately in Idaho. 

Even British brewers use wheat as a secret ingredient in their ales. Brewers use wheat along with barley because of wheat’s soft, crisp flavor — a unique quality that works well as a background for additions.

Malting Wheat Varietals

Wheat malting is difficult through every phase until a recipe becomes perfected.

Wheat has no husk, so the wheat kernels absorb water more quickly during the steeping phase than do husk-wrapped barley kernels. This results in much shorter steeping times.

Once transferred to the germination chamber, the lack of husks also causes wheat kernels to condense. In turn, germination heat generates and retains, thus potentially accelerating germination out of control. 

To slow the process down and ensure germination homogeneity, the Maltster must reduce the temperature in the germination chamber and keep the wheat layer at a lower depth than a comparable barley layer. However, because the lower temperature slows down germination, it also favors higher protein modification.

Clumping can also pose problems in the kiln because the aeration of the malt would not be even. 

Finished wheat malt differs from barley malt in terms of proteins the brewer will degrade in the mash tun. Once properly degraded in the brewhouse, these proteins are then responsible for the firm and long-lasting creamy head. 

Brewing With Wheat

British brewers are known to use wheat as a secret ingredient in their ales. Wheat, along with barley, adds a soft, crisp flavor – a remarkable quality that works well as a background for additions and hop profiles alike.

A brewer can add any proportion of wheat to the brew, except in Germany, where a traditional Weissbier requires the mash to contain at least 50% wheat malt. 

Craft brewers find that the addition of wheat creates depth in beer color and achieves haziness with ease. The wheat provides a natural quality with hazy proteins that are offer a distinct contrast to bright, filtered beers. 

There is an increasing interest in wheat varieties among craft brewers worldwide. At Maltwerks, Soft White Wheat Malt and Hard Red Spring Wheat Malt are among our most popular products. 

Contact: 1448 Cormorant Ave, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501 Phone: (218) 844-6258

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