Most people associate dark color in beer with strong flavors and paleness with the opposite. And, if statistics and long-time trends are anything to go by, average beer drinkers — as opposed to homebrewers or craft beer lovers — do not like dark or strongly flavored beers. In fact, low-flavor brews hold at least an 80-percent market share in the United States. (The brewers of these products would likely vigorously disagree with that description of their products.) In a few countries that percentage is slightly lower, but in many more it is much higher. Virtually all beers designed for mass-market appeal are at the pale to straw-blond edge of the beer-color spectrum. No wonder the consumer has come to associate paleness in beer with mildness and lightness and darkness with assertiveness and heaviness.
As brewers, of course, we know that there is not necessarily a correlation between a beer's color and its flavor or alcoholic strength. For example, Duvel — the Belgian golden ale — is a pale straw color yet weighs in at 8.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). In contrast, Guinness Draught — which is just about jet black — is only 4.2% ABV.
We also know that brewing a dark beer that does not taste assertively chocolate, roasty or acrid can be difficult. This is because the darkness in beer comes from dark malts and dark malts are highly kilned and often roasted to the point of tasting burned. The intense roasting process not only darkens the malt, it also accentuates sharp, tannic bitter notes that stem mostly — though not exclusively — from the grain's husks. When these bitter notes are leached into the wort during mashing and lautering, a mouth-puckering sip of the resulting scorched liquid can cause an unexpected and unpleasant jolt to the palate — especially of those drinkers who do enjoy dark, strongly malty brews but dislike the acrid flavor components often associated with high-Lovibond malts.
Debittered Beer Coloring
It is this realization that, in 1903, drove Johann Baptist Weyermann — the great-grandfather of Sabine Weyermann, co-president with her husband Thomas, of the Weyermann Malting Company in Bamberg, Germany — to come up with a beer-coloring product. Herr Weyermann invented a "de-bittered" liquid concentrate of roasted malt, which he called SINAMAR®. He derived the name from the Latin sine amaro, which means "without bitterness." For a century now, SINAMAR® has been used by hundreds of commercial breweries on four continents, from Mongolia to Norway to Japan to Brazil. It has been used to produce dark beers ranging from dunkel to schwarzbier to bockbier to dunkelweizen to porter to stout. In fact, the Guinness brewery has developed a modified version of the patented Weyermann process to make its own proprietary coloring agent for its style-setting stout. (Of course, Guinness Flavor Extract intentionally retains the roasty flavors from the dark grains.) Briess Industries, Inc. of Chilton, Wisconsin offers a super-condensed roasted-malt extract, which it calls Maltoferm®.
Color Help at Home
Until recently, these coloring agents have not been available to homebrewers. In 2004, however, Weyermann introduced its product in a size that is suitable for homebrewers. A small, plastic bottle containing 4 ounces by weight (110 g) or 3.2 fluid ounces (96 mL) in liquid measure. It is distributed to homebrew supply shops by Crosby & Baker of Westport, Massachusetts. (A few homebrew shops buy Maltoferm® in commercial quantities and repackage it for homebrewers.)
SINAMAR® is made entirely from unhopped, fermented wort that is extracted from a mash of nothing but de-husked Carafa® Special Type II roasted malt of roughly 375–450 °L. Therefore, Weyer-mann's color extract even conforms to the strict requirements of the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law. (The Reinheitsgebot is still in effect for German-made beer for sale in Germany. However, the German goverment cannot enforce this law on imported beers nor German beers meant for export.)
This "roasted-malt beer" undergoes a two-stage vacuum-evaporation to become a highly pH-stable tincture that is as black and complex as espresso and has the consistency of vanilla extract. Because of its enormous concentration, SINAMAR® is a veritable color bomb with a SRM rating of roughly 3,000 to 3,200. (The switch in units from the Lovibond rating of Carafa® II to SRM in the extract made from it is due to the fact that ingredient color is measured in Lovibond, but beer color is measured in SRM.) It contributes darkness to the finished beer, but next to no bitterness or roasted notes. It can be added in the hot kettle or whirlpool. Alternatively, because it is packaged hot for sterility and produces no turbidity, it can also be added to the cold beer before fermentation or to the finished beer just before bottling or kegging. After opening a container, it may of course cease to be sterile. Partially used containers, therefore, should be refrigerated — or even frozen — and from that point on the liquid malt color ought to be added only to the hot
Styles and SINAMAR®
SINAMAR® can be used in conjunction with any beer style. (You can even color soft drinks, teas, spirits, or bread dough with it.) Modern malting techniques — according to Thomas Kraus-Weyermann, co-president with his wife Sabine of the Weyermann Malting Company — allow for the production of such super-pale Pils malt that many breweries now infuse even their blond Pilsners and Helles with just a touch of liquid malt color to give these beers a more golden hue.
There are several beer styles — notably dunkelweizen, Oktoberfestbier, Bavarian dunkel, Thuringian schwarzbier, bockbier, Märzen, and altbier — that come with contradictory brewing requirements. These beers demand that the brewer put some color and opacity into the beer while keeping acrid, burnt flavors out of it, because roasted notes would be completely out of character.
Not only German-style lagers, but British-style ales, too, such as porter, dark ale, Irish red, and stout, are often more appealing to certain drinkers, if they are brewed to be more drinkable, smooth, and pleasing. So, if roasted notes are not your mug of beer — or if the man or women in your life is not fond of burned flavors in the dark beers you make — try using a lighter hand in the darker-malt department. Consider substituting some or all of the caramel, chocolate or black malts with pale malt and then adding a smidgen of color extract for some de-bittered, easy-drinking, palate-friendly darkness. With this technique you are also likely to improve your system's mash efficiency, because you are replacing enzyme-poor with enzyme-rich grains.
For extract brewers, too, SINAMAR® makes it easy to brew different beers from your favorite pale malt extract. You can even make different beers from the same batch by apportioning the brew at racking-and-priming time into several smaller containers and then adding different amounts of color to these.
A little liquid malt color goes a long way. The mixing guidelines from the Weyermann Malting Company specify the following quantities:
"14 grams or 11.9 milliliters of SINAMAR® make 1 hectoliter of beer or wort 1 EBC darker."
For the North Amercian homebrewer, used to a different set of units, this translates into the following useful equations:
About 0.25 oz. (7 g) or 0.2 fl. oz. (6 mL) of SINAMAR® make 5 gallons (19 L) of wort or beer 1 SRM darker. To make a 5-gallon (19-L) batch of wort or beer 10 SRM darker, for instance, you need 2.5 ounces (70 g) or 2 fl. oz. (60 mL) of SINAMAR®.
An entire homebrew-size bottle of SINAMAR®, which contains 4 ounces by weight (110-g) or 3.2 fl. oz (96 mL) in liquid measure, makes one 5-gallon (19-liter) batch of wort or beer 16 SRM darker.
Briess Malt and Ingredients Co., of Chilton, Wisconsin, makes two forms of their coloring agent, Maltoferm®. Maltoferm A-6000 Liquid (Black Malt Extract) is a very dark liquid malt extract, rated at 3,000–5,000 °L. A dried malt extract, Maltoferm A-6001 Dry (Black Malt Extract) is also rated at 3,000–5,000 °L. The liquid is available in 5-gallon (19-L) pails and 55-gallon (208-L) drums, while the dry extract is available in 50-lb. (23-kg) bags. These sizes contain enough coloring agent to make over 2,000 gallons (7,571 L) of stout-colored beer (SRM 40). Obviously, this is not a convenient size for homebrewers. However, some large homebrew shops repackage Maltoferm® into smaller packages.
Maltoferm® differs from SINAMAR® in that it is a malt extract, not a beer. It is made from black malted barley and water. Either the liquid or dried extract can be added to the kettle for adjusting the color of a beer. If sterilized, it can be added post-fermentation for small color adjustments. For small color adjustments, it is flavor neutral.
The product literature says that a mere 1.3–1.5 oz. (37–43 g) of Maltoferm® per barrel (31 gallon/117 L) of beer will increase its color by one degree SRM. For a 5-gallon (19-L) batch of homebrew, this would amount to 0.21–0.24 oz. (6–7 g) of Maltoferm® to raise the color one degree SRM.
Brew Your Own
You can also make your own dark grain extract at home. See the Techniques article, "Blending," on page 47 of this issue.
How SINAMAR® is Made
In the brewhouse of the Weyermann Malting Company in Bamberg, Germany, SINAMAR® is made in a sequence of stages in approximately 100-hectoliter (85-barrel/2,635-gallon) batches from intensely drum-roasted malted barley, which gives the product its dark color. However, because most of the harsh, unpleasant bitterness in severely roasted malts comes from the husks, these are mechanically removed from the raw barley by a special machine before the start of the malting process. This "de-bittered" malt is then turned into grist by a six-roller mill that can handle about 1,500 kg (3,300 lbs.) in eight minutes. The milled malt is then mixed with water in a heated mash tun fitted with a mash agitator. The mash rest lasts for three hours at a temperature of 118 °F (48 °C). This mash is lautered into the kettle to a starting gravity of about 1.040 (10 °P). Because of the density of the mash, recirculation and lautering are extremely slow and usually last about four hours combined, but it keeps many bitter substances in the grain from being leached into the kettle. This wort, of course, has next to no sugars, except from malting, because there are no active enzymes in roasted malt. (The 1.040 specific gravity is mostly due to dissolved solids other than sugars.)
After a 90-minute boil (without hopping), the result is 92 hectoliters (78 barrels/2,418 gallons) of wort at an original gravity of roughly 1.050 (12.5 °P). During the intensive boil, many of the unpleasant aroma substances are being driven off into the brew stack, the kettle's "exhaust pipe" for evaporation. After 40 minutes of whirlpooling, which drives additional bittering substances into the hot trub, the wort is heat-exchanged to 59 °F (15°C) and inoculated with bottom-fermenting yeast. One fermenter takes four batches. At the end of fermentation, the FG is about 1.040 (10 °P), the same as the kettle starting gravity, and its alcohol level is about 1.2% by volume. Because there is very little fermentable sugar in the wort, the fermentation is complete after no more than 36–48 hours. The result is an extremely dark, but essentially undrinkable, high final gravity, low-alcohol, roasted-malt beer. This brew now undergoes a sterile-filtration at a nominal porosity of 0.45 microns to remove all residual particulate and remaining bittering substances.
To become liquid malt color, the finished beer is sent to two 11-meter high (36 feet), two-stage vacuum columns for evaporation. To speed up evaporation and to sterilize the beer, the beer is heated to roughly 162 °F (72 °C). At this stage, any dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2), much of the water, as well as all alcohol, and any remaining volatile oils and aromatics from the grain are literally pulled out of the brew. Evaporation continues until the brew has turned into a concentrated liquid with a gravity of roughly 1.192–1.224 (48–54 °P), at which point it is sterile-packed into hermetically sealed shipping canisters of 5, 10 and 30-L (1.32, 2.64 and 7.93-gallon) sizes for commercial breweries and into 3.2-fl. oz (96-mL) plastic bottles for homebrewers.
The entire SINAMAR® production process is fully automated and runs 24 hours a day, all year round, for an annual output of about a quarter million liters (about 200,000 gallons). To put this in perspective, this is enough SINAMAR® to make about 10% of all the beer brewed in the United States 1 SRM darker.
Horst Dornbusch is Brew Your Own's "Style Profile" columnist.