Why is dark beer dark?


If you are well versed in beer varieties, know about the upper and lower fermentation and distinguish between lager and ale, this column is not for you – DO NOT read it. If you are not savvy about the craft breweries – this column of our news is for you!

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Something like “beer for dummies”. In this text, Yulia Voloshyn, the brewer of the Beer Theatre “Pravda”, explains why the dark beer is dark.

Dark beer is dark because we add roasted malt to it. It looks similar to how coffee is roasted. Malt beans are placed in a special drum and heated. Depending on temperature, time and humidity in the process of roasting, we get different degrees of roasting.

Now let’s recollect: a long time ago if there were no candies at home, but you really wanted some caramel, you put sugar on a spoon and brought it to the fire. So, if you overheat sugar over a fire, you will not get a caramel but such a bitter black burned substance.

The same thing happens in the malt: the sugar is burned inside it, it is no longer sweet, it “gets” bitterness and, at the same time, coffee and chocolate notes of taste. Depending on the process technology and how much we want to burn the malt, we get different colours (dark or darker), different degree of roasting (roasted or well roasted), different degrees of coffee, chocolate, and caramel flavours in malt. This is what distinguishes light malt from the dark one.

Light malt “gives” sugar to beer (which is then eaten by “yeasts” and “made” into alcohol), while dark malt is used to add colour and chocolate flavours to our beer. Yeasts do not “eat” dark malt, it is added for bitterness, colour, chocolate and coffee notes.

We add a lot of light malt and a little bit of dark malt to dark beer; maybe not a little bit, but less than the light one – this is the brewer’s business, depending on what he wants to achieve: what kind of beer taste. In fact, in dark beer there is more light malt than dark malt.

“Pravda” brews

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