Patent No. 192292A: Improvement In Malting Of Grain

Today in 1877, US Patent 192292 A was issued, an invention of Jules Alphonse Saladin, for his “Improvement in Malting of Grain.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described this way in the application:

The object of my invention is the malting of grain, barley for breweries, or any other grains, and consists in causing grain to germinate in very thick layers (one meter or more) and in ventilating and stirring it mechanically, so as to obtain a great saving in manual labor over the old process, although producing with great regularity, and throughout the whole year, a malt of superior quality.

The apparatus and means used are as follows: First, a soaking-tub; second, a germinating-box; third, damp and cool ventilation fourth, a stirring apparatus fifth, a mode of carrying or transferring the grain from one apparatus to the other.


Patent No. 320361A: Method Of Preparing And Treating Starch

Today in 1885, US Patent 320361 A was issued, an invention of William T. Jebb, for his “Method of Preparing and Treating Starch.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described this way in the application:

This invention relates to an improvement in the manufacture of beer and ale from barley malt and the starch extracted from Indian corn or maize.

The object of this invention is to utilize the starch contained in the Indian corn for producing a heavy, light-colored wort, without imparting to the malt-liquor an objectionable taste or flavor or impairing its keeping qualities, by extracting from the corn in a simple and inexpensive manner a crude starch which is substantially free from impurities, and then producing a wort from this starch in connection with barley-malt.

Multi-colored Indian corn at a farm in Marion County, Oregon

Patent No. 890031A: Malting Kiln

Today in 1908, US Patent 890031 A was issued, an invention of John F. Dornfeld, for his “Malting Kiln.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described this way in the application:

I have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Malting-Kilns, of which the following is a specification.

Malting kilns as heretofore constructed comprise buildings of considerable height, in the upper part of which are arranged the malting floor or floors, and in the lower part are introduced the hot gases and. products of combustion from a furnace, together with a quantity of fresh air. No means is provided for mixing the hot and the cold air to produce a uniform temperature throughout the kiln and asa consequence the hot air rises in columns through the cooler surrounding air reaching the top of the kiln and there escaping through the ventilator at a temperature considerably in 4excess of the cool fresh air remaining in the bottom of the kiln.

One of the objects of this invention is to obviate the difficulty mentioned by mixing by mechanical means, the hot air and gases with cool fresh air, making a uniform mixture and introducing said mixture into the Further objects of the invention are to reduce the height of the kiln building, which reduction is rendered possible by locating the furnace outside of the kiln proper, and in other ways to improve the construction of such kiln.


Patent No. 4670274A: Process For Controlling The Germination Of Malting Barley

Today in 1987, US Patent 4670274 A was issued, an invention of Piroska Ress, Istvan Kiss, Geza Miltenyi, Antal Strahl, Imre Petro, Jozsef Farkas, Peter Biacs, Istvanne Kozma, and Istvan Debreczeny, assigned to Kobanyai Sorgyar, for their “Process For Controlling the Germination of Malting Barley.” Here’s the Abstract:

The present invention relates to controlling germination of barley in the malting process. More particularly, the invention relates to the treatment of malting barley by ionizing radiation prior to the malting process.

Barley field in Colorado.

5,000-Year-Old Beer Recipe Found In China

There was exciting news yesterday about a find in China by a research team from Stanford University. According to one source, “Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the earliest direct evidence of beer brewing in China, a trove of beer-making equipment dating from between 3400 and 2900 BCE, discovered at the Mijiaya site in Shaanxi province. Along with this archaeological find, scientists conducted an analysis of residue on the ancient pottery, jars, and funnels found, revealing a surprising recipe for the beer.” Their findings will be published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Here’s the abstract:

The pottery vessels from the Mijiaya site reveal, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence of in situ beer making in China, based on the analyses of starch, phytolith, and chemical residues. Our data reveal a surprising beer recipe in which broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and tubers were fermented together. The results indicate that people in China established advanced beer-brewing technology by using specialized tools and creating favorable fermentation conditions around 5,000 y ago. Our findings imply that early beer making may have motivated the initial translocation of barley from the Western Eurasia into the Central Plain of China before the crop became a part of agricultural subsistence in the region 3,000 y later.



This research reveals a 5,000-y-old beer recipe in which broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers were fermented together. To our knowledge, our data provide the earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China, showing that an advanced beer-brewing technique was established around 5,000 y ago. For the first time, to our knowledge, we are able to identify the presence of barley in archaeological materials from China by applying a recently developed method based on phytolith morphometrics, predating macrobotanical remains of barley by 1,000 y. Our method successfully distinguishes the phytoliths of barley from those of its relative species in China.

I’m not sure how that squares with Chateau Jiahu, the beer made by Dogfish Head based on a 9,000-year-old find in China, from Northern China. They also found preserved pottery jars “in the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province.” The difference, as far as I can tell is the ingredients themselves, although in both they do use barley. This beer recipe calls for broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and tubers to be fermented, whereas the earlier one from Jiahu used “pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers.” So their claim that this is older seems suspect unless there’s some qualifier I’m missing. As is typical, academic papers are only available online if you’re already an academic or are willing to pay to look at it for a short period of time, so I’ve not been able to look at their full claims or at the recipe itself, except what’s been written about it by more mainstream news outlets.

According to Gizmodo’s coverage:

Step aside with your claims to long legacies, craft breweries! This reconstructed beer recipe is over 5,000 years old. It’s the earliest beer recipe—and the earliest known use of barley—in China.

Archaeologists at Stanford University, while digging along China’s Wei River, made an intriguing discovery: A marvelously complete set of brewing equipment. And at the bottom of that equipment was something even more wonderful: Residue from the drink it once brewed.

After scrapping that gunk from the pots, researchers analyzed it and confirmed that it was, indeed, leftover froth from a 5,000-year-old beer. They were also able to pin down the recipe of that beer to an unlikely, but delicious-sounding, combination of broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers.

So they claim, or rather Stanford claims, this is “the earliest known use of barley in China.” I didn’t think that the Chateau Jiahu added the barley to the original recipe, which was developed with the Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania, and I have a call into Dogfish Head to find out. But failing that, there’s a 4,000-year difference in the two claims that it seems hard for me to believe the Sanford team wouldn’t have uncovered.

The report from CBS News calls the barley a “secret ingredient,” which seems really odd, but seems to reflect the surprise of the researchers on this project. But McGovern’s find in the Jiahu area of China is more than ten years old, and got considerable media attention when the modern version of the beer was first released in 2007, so again I’m not sure a) how they could have missed it or b) what makes this find different, and if it is why none of the news reports are addressing that difference. Some news outlets, such as IFL Science, do mention that beer is older than 5,000 years, which is fairly well-known. Whether it was known in China at the very beginning, as it was in the fertile crescent seems to be gaining ground as a theory.

Although most of the paper is unavailable, there is supplemental information that is available, and that does give some information about the brewing process:



Beer Birthday: Sabine Weyermann

Today is the 58th birthday of Sabine Weyermann, co-owner of Weyermann Malting in Bamberg, Germany. If you’ve visited any of the Craft Brewers Conferences, you’ve no doubt seen the bright yellow and red of the specialty malting company, which is sold in the U.S. by the Brewers Supply Group. Sabine’s family began the Weyermann Malt company in 1879, although she can trace her family back at least as far as 1510. She’s an amazing person, and her malt has helped fuel many a small and large brewery. Join me in wishing Sabine a very happy birthday.

Sabine giving a presentation at their offices in Bamberg when I visited there in 2007.

CBC_San Diego_ 2012
Sabine and her husband Thomas Kraus-Weyermann at CBC in San Diego, 2012.

You can see the Weyermann Malting Brewer’s Star that Weyermann’s starting making at the top of my home office/guest house, which we call “The Brewhouse.”

Patent No. 3085945A: Malting Process

Today in 1963, US Patent 3085945 A was issued, an invention of Wayne W. Luchsinger and John G. Fleckenstein, assigned to the Kurth Malting Company, for their “Malting Process.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

According to the present invention there is provided a novel malting process which gives greatly increased malt recoveries and with other benefits which will be disclosed hereinafter. There is also provided a novel malt produced having substantially retarded, and/or essentially free of rootlets. This novel malting process broadly comprises acidulating a cereal grain, as well as contacting the cereal grain with a growth-stimulating amount of gibberellic acid, in the period from initial steeping to the growth or germination stage prior to any significant growth or germination, viz, usually within about 6 hours, and as much as 1 day, or slightly longer, after steep out, and thereafter completing the germination.

By acidulating is meant applying an acidic substance to the grain, such as by spraying or immersing the grain in an aqueous solution of the acidic substance to inhibit growth. Thus, the acidic substance can be incorporated in the steep water at any stage of the steeping operation or it can be applied to the grain at steep out or thereafter and before any significant growth or germination has resulted, viz, within about 6 hours and as much as 1 day or slightly longer after steep out. However, malt recoveries are generally progressively lowered as the acidulation treatment is delayed after steep out. Nevertheless, the malt recoveries generally obtained after such tardy or deferred acidulation are higher than without such treatment.

Acidulation without the addition of gibberellic acid to the grain inhibits growth but the grain is not converted to usable malt, especially at low pH values below 3.8. Gibberellic acid alone without acidulation promotes growth but losses due to respiration and rootlets are excessive.

Surprisingly, the combination of acidulation and gib- 4 untreated malt and, in fact, almost reaches the ultimate object of going from grain to malt without loss. The 1% loss in the aciduiated-gibberellic acid treated malt due to steeping and abrasion is presently considered unavoidable but negligible compared to the reduction in other losses.

The avoidance of wasteful rootlet formation in the process of this invention is particularly significant since the germinating grain (barley) is more readily stirred and because matting is avoided. The barley thus requires less volume during germination so that more barley can be malted with existing equipment than when rootlet growth takes place. For example, instead of germinating 250i) bushels in a bed, from 3500 to 4000 bushels can be germinated. The increased productive capacity leads to lower costs. Furthermore, the essentially rootlet-free malt produced according to this invention requires much less storage volume and transportation space than conventional malt with rootlets. In addition, this malt has a higher bushel weight than conventional malt after the rootlets are removed.

The reduction in loss due to respiration is also highly important, not only because of the waste of the kernel constituents which is avoided, but also because of the reduced amount of heat developed in respiration. This heat must be removed to maintain the grain at a proper malting temperature. Since less heat is evolved there is less to remove. Turning of the malt to avoid overheating thus can be reduced. There is also less expense involved in refrigeration since less cool air is needed to maintain the malting temperature.


Patent No. 1299379A: Wild-Oat And Barley Separator

Today in 1919, US Patent 1299379 A was issued, an invention of Robert J. Owens, for his “Wild-Oat and Barley Separator.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

The object of my invention is to provide a separator which will dispense entirely with fans and air currents and wire sieves and of such devices as flannels, carpets and the like, frequently found in machines of this type for separating and grading grains.

A further object is to provide a machine by means of which not only wild oats but small, imperfect kernels of grain can be separated from the full, plump kernels that are suitable for seed.


Patent No. 4112: A New Or Improved Method Of Drying And Preparation Of Malt

Today in 1817, British Patent 4112 was issued, an invention of Daniel Wheeler, for his “A New or Improved Method of Drying and Preparation of Malt.” According to one account, “Black patent malt changed the game in beer history, as it allowed darker beers to be brewed without the use of adjuncts that would adulterate said brew. By 1828, Guinness had replaced their entire stock of brown malt with black patent malt, and their own stout porter started eliciting competition from other notable breweries such as Beamish, Crawford, and Murphy’s.”

Here’s a short description of his patent, from an 1881 book, “Abridgments of Specifications Relating to Brewing, Wine-Making, and Distilling Alcoholic Liquids.”


Here’s more of the background to Wheeler’s patent, from Ron Pattinson, in a post entitled Patent malt in the early 19th century:

When all forms of colouring were made illegal in 1816, Porter brewers had a big problem. How could they brew a beer of the right colour when using mostly pale malt? The answer was provided by Daniel Wheeler, who, by roasting malt in a way similar to coffee beans, created a malt capable of colouring a large quantity of wort. Pale malt was roasted at 360 to 400º F in metal cylinders, which revolved over a furnace. (Source: “The Theory and Practice of Brewing” by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 90.) Wheeler acquired a patent for the process, hence the name patent malt. It was also known as black malt, porter malt or roast malt.


And here’s another account of his patent, and its effect on the history of brewing.

In 1817, Daniel Wheeler obtained British Patent No. 4112 for a “New or Improved Method of Drying and Preparation of Malt.” His invention of the Drum Malt Roaster allowed maltsters to roast malt to the point where a small amount of malt could darken a large amount of beer without imparting an overly burnt or tarry taste to the entire brew. Before Wheeler’s invention, brown ales were made exclusively from brown malt, but the advances in kilning technology gave way to the use of pale malts, which became a cheaper and more reliable alternative. Therefore, the color and flavor profiles of brown ales were subsequently determined more by modern style dark malts, crystal malts and caramelized sugars.

And one more, partially from H.S. Corran’s A History of Brewing:

The malt bill is a combination of new and old but truly british malts (minus the 6-row). Black Patent Malt leading the way to the creation and evolution of porters by helping differentiate it from brown ales. From H.S. Corran’s A History of Brewing (1975), “On March 28, 1817, he obtained British Patent No. 4112 for “A New or Improved Method of Drying and Preparation of Malt. The adoption of malt made according to Wheeler’s patent, and called ‘patent malt,’ marked the beginning of the history of porter and stout as we know it today, and put an end to the period during which the term ‘porter’ was probably applied to any brown beer to distinguish it from pale ale. The new process was effective, economical, produced a palatable product and freed brewers from charges of adulteration. It was quickly taken up throughout the British brewing industry. Whitbread’s Brewery recorded stocks of Patent Malt in 1817, as did Barclay’s in 1820, and Truman’s showed stocks of ‘Black Malt’ in 1826.”

Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Camille Maillard

Today is the birthday of French physician and chemist Louis Camille Maillard (February 4, 1878-May 12, 1936) who was the Doogie Howser of his era, joining the faculty of the University of Nancy when he was only sixteen. He rose to prominence thanks to his work on kidney disorders and later taught medicine at the prestigious University of Paris.


But his biggest contribution, especially to brewing, was an accidental discovery he made in 1912, which today we call the Maillard Reaction, or Browning Reaction.

Here’s the basic description, from Wikipedia:

The Maillard Reaction a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, biscuits (widely known in North America as cookies), breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.

The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which typically proceeds rapidly from around 140 to 165 °C (284 to 329 °F). At higher temperatures, caramelization and subsequently pyrolysis become more pronounced.

The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors. This process is accelerated in an alkaline environment (e.g., lye applied to darken pretzels), as the amino groups (RNH3+) are deprotonated and, hence, have an increased nucleophilicity. The type of the amino acid determines the resulting flavor. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry. At high temperatures, a potential carcinogen called acrylamide can be formed.

In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds, in turn, break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to make reaction flavors.

It was, and is, for food science and understanding how heat and cooking create flavors. If you want to dive deeper, the Warwick Medical School has an article on the Historical Development of the reaction, and NPR’s Food for Thought on the centenary of Malliard’s discovery posted 100 Years Ago, Maillard Taught Us Why Our Food Tastes Better Cooked.

But it was also very important to brewing, too, especially when it comes to malting and roasting malt to get different flavors and colors in the beer. For example, here’s UC Davis professor Charlie Bamforth writing about the Malliard Reaction in his book Grape vs. Grain.


Not surprisingly, John Mallett, in his recent book Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse, mentions Malliard’s contributions to brewing science.


The chemistry website Compound Interest has a good explanation with their post, Food Chemistry – The Maillard Reaction.


And finally, Popular Science’s BeerSci series discusses the Maillard Reaction in How Beer Gets Its Color.