There's a lot of jargon and buzzwords floating around the beery world. You may have used them yourself but aren't sure if you're describing exactly what you think you are. Beer Hawk is here to help make sense of of it all and tell you just what, exactly, "malty" means.

What is malt?

Think of malt as the base of beer: one of the four main ingredients it is responsible for providing the sugar source which yeasts use to convert into alcohol. Depending on the malts used, they also impart colour and flavour. While we won't get into the malting process here, the most common grains used for brewing beer are barley, wheat, rye, oats or even spelt.

Each of these different grains has a different effect on a beer in terms of colour, flavour and even its impact on the alcohol content. For fear of turning this into a brewing degree, we'll just keep it simple: darker roasted malts tend to give dark colours and roasted flavours like coffee, bitter chocolate, dark fruits and even liquorice or tobacco. The lighter roasted malts are typically used as base malts--or as the primary sugar source--and are responsible for grainy, biscuity, nutty or bready flavours. Flavours like caramel, toffee, spices (usually wheat or rye manages that) and raisins usually come from malts as well. Mouthfeel can be affected as well with oats being a fantastic ingredient if you're wanting a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Clearly, there's a lot for a brewer to play with when it comes to which malts can be used!

What's a malty beer?

Like hoppy beers, the degree of maltiness can run the gamut. Some beers are so malty and rich they could be poured over ice cream, like milk stouts or barley wines. Others feature malts and all of its character but a crisp or dry finish keeps it from feeling syrupy on the tongue. While "malty" indicates a certain level of sweetness and will be present in every beer, different malts can create different flavours. So, depending on which malts are used and how much residual sugar is left behind the sweetness level and flavour profiles will change.

The degree of maltiness depends on the amount of residual sugars remaining.

Malty beers you'll love

If you're still trying to figure it out nothing will help more than tasting it for yourself. Here are our favourite malty beers:

Durham Temptation

Big, chewy malts with notes of chocolate, coffee and liquorice swirl around. A rich, slick mouthfeel accompanies this creamy, boozy, full-bodied Russian imperial stout.

Schneider Weisse Eisbock

This style of beer is unique in that when a doppelbock is frozen, the resulting ice is removed and the concentrated beer is left behind. The result is this mahogany-coloured beauty with plums, dried fruits, vanilla, banana, marzipan. Perfect for when your sweet tooth is niggling. 

La Trappe Quadrupel

This Trappist style quadrupel ticks all the boxes for those who love a rich, malty beer. Notes of spice, oak, caramel, vanilla and roasted nuts lead into a sweet, warming flavour that finishes just slightly bitter.

And Union Beast of the Deep

Proving that malty doesn't mean dark, strong beers, this Helles Bock is a German lager that puts the spotlight on the malts. A creamy, smooth mouthfeel leads into a honey-like character with notes biscuity malts. Its somewhat dry finish keeps it from being cloying!

White Hag Red Doe Amber Ale

Amber or red ales are known for showcasing malts. While hops can be used a great deal in this style, it's the chewy caramel, brown sugar and toffee notes that steal the show. A balancing bitterness and some fruity hop notes round off this great beer.

Sometimes it sounds as though some of these beers need to be chewed! I think we're off to go see so ourselves. We hope this gets you excited to try something new. Please let us know your favourites--cheers!