Chapter XI. American Barley

Although any cereal artificially germinated is termed malt, yet, for various reasons malt made from barley is meant when no other designation save this general term is given. In past ages, wheat, corn, and oats were used in brewing quite as frequently as barley, and there are many statutory evidences, showing that the governments of the various beer-producing countries forbade the malting of any grain the production of which was insufficient to supply the necessary food for the people. The very first beer brewed in New York by the Dutch colonists, was made of oats, there being an abundance of that grain on Manhattan Island. The Puritans of New England, on the other hand, seem to have malted wheat in great quantities, as appears from an order of the General Court of Massachusetts Bay, forbidding the use of that grain, but permitting the malting of oats or other cereals. At the present time the use of barley is pretty general. The quantity of barley produced throughout the world eludes exact computation, however, because this grain is grown in every zone and in many semi-barbarous countries, where the collection of agricultural statistics is unknown. In regard to hops, the case is different, for that plant is cultivated exclusively for use in breweries, and its cultivation moves within clearly defined geographic limits. Barley serves largely as food; in some countries bread is made of it, to the almost entire exclusion of other grain, and its use in cookery prevails in all countries.

In view of these facts, we can only take into consideration the consumption of barley in the form of malt. The data here offered will be better understood, if it be borne in mind that all light beers of that peculiarly vinous taste which has of late become somewhat popular, are made of malt and rice or corn, as in the case of the excellent Pilsen brands. The prevailing taste, however, still calls for a brewage of a deep reddish brown color, peculiar to heavily malted beers. This question may as well be dropped, it being one of taste, about which, according to an old proverb, there can be no conclusive arguments.

The production of barley in the United States expands continually, and the repeated increases of the protective duty on the foreign product---pointedly aimed at the Canadian barley---have doubtless given additional impetus to this growth. Necessarily, the business of malting has kept pace with the rapid development of brewing, and one of the inevitable results of the suddenly enlarged demands was the establishment of many separate malt houses, fitted up with all modern improvements. This progress, in turn, led, in a very large measure, to the discontinuance of malting by brewers. At the present time, a comparatively small number of brewers malt their own barley, it being more profitable and, usually, more satisfactory to draw on the maltster for the requisite supplies.

Species of Barley

Concerning the manufacture of malt, we have already said what might appear to be of interest to the reader. The successful pursuit of it requires not only great skill in the handling of the grain while undergoing the interesting process of artificial germination, but also much experience and practice in the selection of the material. There are many species of barley, distinguished from each other by, and named according to, the number of rows which form the ear; thus we have two-rowed, four-rowed, and six-rowed barley. Of these and other species a number of varieties exist, and the quality of all varies very materially, according to the character of the soil. In making his purchases the maltster must be able, of course, to determine whether the grain is of the kind that will yield good beer. Sight, touch, and taste aid him in this, and enable him to make sure that the grain is fully ripe, of the last harvest, not too hard and smooth, nor excessively husky; but whether it contains the nitrogenous compounds, starch, salts, etc., in the desirable proportions, he is unable to determine, unless he knows the soil where the barley grew and has tested its qualities before. Given good raw material, the maltster's success depends upon his care and vigilance in preparing for, continuing, and interrupting germination at the proper time, and in judiciously handling the grain after these stages. The process begins with steeping and ends with kiln drying, and its object, as we have already said, is the conversion of starch into sugar. Within the past twenty-five years innumerable inventions have completely revolutionized the old methods of the maltster and placed this manufacture among the most advanced industries. From present indications it appears that the future of malting belongs to the pneumatic process, which is already employed in some of the largest establishments.

Statistical exhibits show that the consumption of malt in our country is proportionately as large as that of most beer producing countries; and, necessarily, the cultivation of barley in the United States is in proportion thereto. We have this advantage over England, that we need not draw upon foreign countries for any part of our supply of barley, except when a particularly fine grade of grain is desired, such, for instance, as our neighbors on the St. Lawrence raise. In case of necessity, we might do without any foreign barley. England, on the other hand, imports large quantities from Russia, Austria, and the states on the North coast of Africa, and is dependent upon these foreign supplies, added to what they obtain here.

As in the case of hops, so also in regard to barley, the American industry might rely entirely upon domestic production, and, in fact, for all practical purposes it is wholly independent of foreign sources of supply. It has become so from necessity, not from choice, for many brewers still consider Canadian barley superior to our own, and would, without a doubt, were it not for the prohibitive duty, import considerable quantities of it and of malt. As matters stand, however, the importation of malt has ceased almost entirely and the importation of barley, bears to our exports the proportion of about one to one hundred. The following figures state the case clearly:

Ten Years     Exportation of Barley   Importation of Barley
1899 to 1908  101,226,243 bushels     1,012,941 bushels

The aggregate quantities of malt imported during the same decade amounted to 34,658 bushels.

About three-fourths of the quantity of barley and an even larger proportion of hops exported from our country find a ready market in Great Britain and Ireland.

The Universal Drink of the Future

The phenomenal growth of brewing throughout the world during the past fifty years has given rise to many speculations as to the future of malt liquors, and many very able writers do not hesitate to call beer the universal drink of the future. Formerly confined to about four great states, the use of malt liquors is now known in every civilized land; and even in southern countries, where the grape vine abounds, beer is gradually superseding every other beverage. In France, a wine country without equal, the most eminent scientists advocate the use of beer in preference to any other liquor. Spain, Italy, and even China and Japan, are now being invaded by King Gambrinus, and it is, indeed, only a question of time when beer shall be, as prophesied, the universal drink. The literature, in languages other than English and German, on the subject of beer, proves conclusively that the best minds regard it as a worthy undertaking to write on a question which materially affects the welfare of the people. A story is told of a band of young heathens, whom the Japanese Government sent to Germany to learn the art of brewing, which has since been introduced into that country. When the young men returned, muscular, yet rotund, with a healthy glow upon their cheeks, and elasticity and strength in all their movements, the ministers were so strongly impressed with the vitalizing effects of beer, that they ordered a merchantman to proceed to Germany, load up with beer, and return posthaste to Japan. The result of this expedition is said to have accelerated the establishment of the first brewery in the Mikado's realm.

The most remarkable part of this progress of brewing is, that in many instances, as, for example, in France, it was effected in spite of the popular clamor against the Teutonic drink; and still more remarkable is it that those who began by opposing its use most bitterly, ended by advocating it most fervently.


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