Base malts are the foundation of any great beer. They are the primary source of fermentable sugars, which are converted into alcohol during the brewing process. These malts are made from barley that has been germinated and then dried in a kiln. The kilning process determines the colour and flavour of the malt, with lighter kilned malts producing a lighter colour and less intense flavour, while darker kilned malts produce a darker colour and more complex flavour profile.
The most common type of base malt is two-row barley, which is named for the two rows of kernels that grow on each barley stalk. Two-row barley has a high enzymatic activity, making it an ideal choice for brewers who want to maximize the amount of fermentable sugars in their beer. Two-row barley is also low in protein, which helps to produce a cleaner, crisper beer.
Another popular type of base malt is six-row barley, which has six rows of kernels on each stalk. Six-row barley has a higher protein content than two-row barley, which can be beneficial for certain beer styles, such as American lagers. However, the higher protein content can also lead to haze in the finished beer, which may not be desirable for some brewers.
Other base malts include Pilsner malt, which is a type of two-row barley that has been kilned at a lower temperature to produce a lighter colour and milder flavour, and Vienna malt, which is a type of two-row barley that has been kilned at a slightly higher temperature to produce a slightly darker colour and more intense flavour.
When choosing a base malt, it is important to consider the desired colour and flavour profile of the finished beer, as well as the brewing process and equipment being used. The right base malt can make all the difference in the quality and character of the final product.