Special Bitter, and Floor Malted Barley

So I’m making a new beer, probably next weekend.  It’ll be a Special Bitter — largely minimalist in hops and grain, and as true to the style as it exists in Britain as I can manage.  That means British hops, which I prefer anyway.  And it means Maris Otter malt, which has, for the past half-century or thereabouts, been the (well-deserved) standard malted barley for beer in the U.K.

Why has it been the standard, you ask?  Because it’s good.  Real good. It’s malty, complex, assertive, sprouted-barley goodness in a husk. Yum.

Anyway, as I was doing some electronic shopping for ingredients yesterday, I came across an interesting choice.  Northern Brewer (a supplier that I like very much) was offering ordinary Maris Otter.  Or, for just a couple of cents more, a floor malted variety.

Of course — I bought the floor malted.  To my basest consumerist instincts, it sounded “premium.”  And if I know I like the ordinary Maris Otter as X price, why would I not like super duper special Maris Otter for X price plus just a couple of cents?  It’s a product that hit my impulse-buy button for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that “floor malted” sounds a lot like “heirloom,” and the folklorist in me certainly can’t resist that.

But the honest-to-goodness truth of it is that I didn’t know what floor malted means.  I knew that it was, in fact, an “heirloom” process, but what it entails, or how it differs from “modern” malting processes — well, beats me.  So once the internet-shopping brain numbness subsided, I went poking around on Google (actually DuckDuckGo) to find an answer.  And what I found was this, over at a blog called Beervana.  It’s a series of three videos, actually of a whiskey-producing operation in Scotland, in which the floor-malting process is revealed.

I ordinarily don’t do video, but so compelling did I find these that I decided that I’d give you a taste here.

And if you’re interested in the other two, you can find them at Beervana.

Meanwhile, here is the recipe that I plan to brew with next weekend.  If any of you out there have any suggestions you’d like to make, I’d be more than willing to listen.  So please do let me know.

8 lb Maris Otter Malt
.5 lb British Carastan Malt, Light
.5 lb CaraPils
1 tbsp British Chocolate Malt (to hopefully impart a bit of a red color to the wort)
2 oz UK Kent Golding Whole-Leaf Hops (1.5 oz for 50 minutes, .5 oz for 10 minutes)
Safale S-04 Yeast

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