I have often wondered what it was like for that first brewer to taste the first beer on earth. Naturally that never happened because the brewing of beer took time and evolved over thousands of years.
However, I can imagine, about six thousand years later, a brewer in London, England, as he opens the first bag of the new coke-roasted malted barley.
It had been specially ordered, at great expense he would add, along with a good deal more hops that he was used to using, to go into the new triple thread or what some of the brewers were calling “porter” after its popularity with the working men of the district. He had tasted and rather enjoyed his first porter and had it on good authority from many of the other brewers that this would be the answer to the pale ale swilling gentry and the stale ale merchants who were holding stock well past prime and selling it for two penny less on the market. There would always be short selling middle men and the gentry could have their rather expensive pale ale!
Now, back to the brewer who, ever since he can remember, has tasted only malted barley roasted over wood fires. Even the most closed roaster could not keep out that slight hint of smoke that he knew by heart. He was convinced that he could even tell which maltster had roasted the grain by the mixture of wood and type of wood used to roast the grain. Of course it was also his imagination… but eight out of ten correct choices at the tavern when he had been challenged was almost enough to convince him of his talent.
Let us join him on that early morning in May when he strode into the brewhouse and there they were… the first bags of malt specially roasted in one of the new coke fired roasters.
Before he could let the thought cross his mind he knew there was no touch of wood in the air that always came with a new malt shipment. Just his imagination… His sharp knife slit the top of the bag and a stream of the palest roasted malt he had ever seen spilled down the side of the bag. For a moment he watched the last of the grains spill out and reached down to take a few between his fingers only when the stream stopped.
He tested the first few grains between his front teeth and then sucked them into his mouth and chewed them with his back teeth to taste the bready heart of the grain. There was too little to tell but the difference between anything he had ever tasted before was making him impatient for another taste to prove what he already suspected.
The next half fist-full of pale ale malt was something like he had never tasted before.
The pure malt flavors were essential and his mind must have raced imagining consistent brews like he had never had a chance to brew before. If this was the pale malt in such a pure flavor state he could only imagine what the various roasted malts would taste like.
All from a first taste…