With Steve McGinty, Beer Expert

The same grains that make bread, make beer (that’s the tie-in). In fact, grains are one of the four fundamental ingredients in beer, the others being water, hops and yeast. Grains are often referred to as the “backbone” of the beer, providing flavor, texture, mouthfeel, color, and perhaps most importantly, starch, which generates the fermentable sugars that are transformed into alcohol.

The most common grain used to make beer is barley, but wheat and rye are also popular, along with adjuncts like rice and corn. Barley contains very high levels of starch and comes in two varieties — two-row and six-row. Two-row barley is used in many English, German and other imported beers while six-row barley is uniquely American and only grown in North America. The most obvious difference between the two is the arrangement of the kernels when the head is viewed down its axis.

In making beer, grains are malted by soaking them in water to allow germination to begin. Then, they are dried by kiln. This process produces enzymes that convert starch into fermentable sugar. The malt is then roasted to produce the wide variety of colors and flavors we associate with our favorite beers, from sweet and mild, to caramel, candy-like, roasty and even coffee flavors!

Some popular malts are lager malt, Munich and Vienna, caramel, crystal, chocolate, and roasted barley. With a look at the Briess Malt Flavor Wheel, you can probably guess which one your favorite brew contains! If you want to taste the malted grains in a beer, choose a beer that is less hoppy like one of the following:

  • Stella Artois Belgian Lager
  • Victory Prima Pils
  • New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
  • Negra Modelo Vienna Lager
  • Guinness® Stout
Still have questions? Ask one of our in-store Beer Experts. They’re sure to help you go with the grain!

Who’s Steve?

Steve joined us in 2013 bringing years of experience in the food industry, the last five focusing on retail beverage and alcohol sales. He has lived in various regions across the U.S. and traveled to Central and South America, Europe and Asia developing a passion for the diverse flavors and cultures of food. As a Certified Cicerone®, a Certified Specialist of Spirits and recipient of a WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Level 2 Award, he possesses an in-depth knowledge of the history, styles and flavors of beer, along with an expertise in beer and food pairing. He is always game to try something new or different, so bring it on!