Ever hear someone talking about a beer and mention the word malt bill, or possibly grain bill? Maybe you’re talking to your buddy and he says something like, “Remember ‘X’ brewing brewed ‘y’ IPA last week, well they did it again this week. Same malt bill, except they double dry-hopped it with Citra and Galaxy hops.” You nod like you understand, but in the back of your mind you’re questioning what a malt bill actually is. Well I’m hear to tell you, so next time you can nod in confidence.
A grain bill, or more commonly, a malt bill, is all of the grains, and adjuncts used is a recipe to brew a beer (this does not include hop additions). Malt is a super important part of brewing beer. Malt is the most common ingredient in beer after water. It imparts color, flavor, and sugar content to unfermented beer. Malt is the toasted version of any cereal grain; Wheat, rye, oats, millet, sorghum, rice and corn have all been used for brewing beer, but barley is the preferred grain for beer. The starch in a grain of barley isn’t ready to be fermented into alcohol, so the barley is generally converted into malted barley, or “malt.” In most beer styles, the “malt” is barley, because it’s enzyme content is high. You can say “malted barley” or “malted wheat”, but we choose to cut it short and just say “malt”.
We need to toast the grains because we need to access the preferred sugars and enzymes within the grain needed for brewing beer. These sugars and enzymes form the sugary, and much needed backbone of all beer. In their raw version, the starches in these grains are not very accessible. The process of malting begins by germinating barley grain which is known as malting. The grain is first air-dried, and then either immersed in water, or sprinkled with water, to encourage the grain to sprout, then heating the grain to halt the germination progress. Finally, the grains are kiln-dried to a specific temperature in order to create those specific enzymes and sugars, and get them ready for the brewing process, this is where the malt develops it’s signature flavors. Different roasting temperatures and times give you different malts, depending on the amount of heat and caramelization the grain undergoes. Side note; Malt bills are also used for whisk(e)y production.
Go ahead, tip your nose up, and nod with confidence as you now know what a malt bill is. Check out some of our other Beer Slang posts to keep up with all of the beer lingo thats out there. If you’ve heard a word and don’t know much about it, please comment, and we will try and answer any questions in the coming weeks!