A few words about beer

Boldwin every dayBoldwin is curious

10 May 2018

Malt, mash, wort, hops, yeast, spent grain—the world of beer has a vocabulary all its own. A true beer connoisseur needs to be fluent in the language, which is why we put together a few key terms to help you better understand the ingredients that go into this timeless drink.

Before we do, though, let’s start by explaining just what beer is. This bubbly alcoholic concoction has been brewed for thousands of years using malted grain, yeast, hops, and water. At Boldwin, we start by brewing our beer (mash, transforming, filtration, and boiling), before fermenting, maturing, transferring, and conditioning. These steps produce different products, some of which we’ve covered below.


Malt usually refers to barley that’s been “malted”—in other words soaked, germinated, dried, and heated. This process activates the enzymes in the germinated grains, which in turn transform starch into sugar. The malt is then heated to give it colour and aroma that varies depending on the intensity of heat used. There are both basic and specialty malts available on the market—the former used simply for brewing and the latter for giving beer a unique colour and aroma. Boldwin uses organic Quebec malt from Caux-Laflamme.


Mash is made from malt that’s been mashed and blended with water, then heated so the malt’s enzymes activate to transform starch into sugar. Once filtered, what’s left is a sweet mixture called wort—or “beer to be,” as David Lévesque Gendron and Martin Thibault call it in their book Les saveurs gastronomiques de la bière. Hops is then added to the wort.


Hops is a plant that can grow up to 8 metres high, sprouting cones (or flowers) that are used to “spice” the wort that beer is made from. Just like when making tea, the longer wort is infused with hops, the more the liquid will take on aromas and bitterness. This is rated on an IBU (International Bitterness Units) scale, which measures a beer’s level of bitterness. In general, the higher the IBU number, the more bitter the beer. The authors of Les saveurs gastronomiques de la bièreestimate that the IBU number for an American pale ale varies between 30 and 45, while a traditional or Belgian IPA varies between 40 and 70, and popular blonde lagers range from 10 to 15. Around the world, there are currently over 150 commercialized varieties of hops on the market. Boldwin uses Cascade, Chinook, and Newport varieties, many of which we obtain from organic Quebec hops grower Houblons Franklin.


Without yeast, your favourite brew would not be alcoholised. These fungi digest the hops-infused wort sugar, giving beer its alcohol and CO2content as well as its distinct flavour. While malt and hops provide beer with its distinct characteristics, it’s yeast that gives beer its unique taste, since it provides up to 500 aromatic compounds. Yeast is classed into two main categories: one for making pale ale (high fermentation) and the other for making lager (low fermentation). At Boldwin, our yeast is derived from different strains of saccharomyces.


What’s left at the end of this process is grain residue—which we call spent grain. This consists mainly of fibre, protein, and starch and is generally used as cattle feed. However, spent grain is also a great ingredient for making bread. Since Boldwin is always on the lookout for new ways to minimize our impact on the the environment, in 2016 we asked bakery L’Amour d’un painto create a bread from our spent grains. That’s how Boldwin breadwas born! It contains 30% spent grains and 18% Boldwin Extra Special Bitter rouse beer, and is available Wednesday through Friday at the bakery’s Bourcherville outlet.


We hope this quick lesson makes you that much more fluent in beer!

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