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I’ve been reading about common mistakes with Belgian beers and it’s been noted that a “real” Belgian beer requires a step mash. The reason given for this is that apparently this is required for good head formation and retention.

The article also mentions that this will only work with under modified malts and not your typical well modified pilsner.

Given that malting effectively does the same job as a protein rest step (gets the enzymes churning away) what is the benefit?

To put this another way, what’s the difference between a well modified malt and single temp vs an under modified malt and step mash?

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It can help head retention and other aspects of the beer with the right grain bill, but fully modified malts don't benifiet from it.

Typically a acid / protein rest is applied to release the amino acids needed for yeast to produce good clove esters for appropriate styles.

Moderately-modified malts benefit from a protein rest to break down any remnant large proteins into smaller proteins and amino acids as well as to further release the starches from the endosperm. Fully-modified malts have already made use of these enzymes and do not benefit from more time spent in the protein rest.

http://howtobrew.com/book/section-3/how-the-mash-works/the-protein-rest-and-modification

I believe the focus of the article you sighted, concerning step mashing, is to get the most fermentabilty out of your grains. It's not the most well written article I've seen, and somethings he claims would lead me to question his other reasonings. Mainly how he addresses yeast and Belgians. Yeast is a critical character to Belgian styles. For him to imply you can make a Belgian to style with Cali-ale or US-05 yeast is ignorant IMO. Though he recants that claim the yeast part reads like fiction.

  • Right so fully modified malts don’t benefit from the extra rest, but is there a difference between this and an under modified malt with this rest? – EnduroDave Apr 4 '18 at 17:16
  • @EnduroDave yes if the grist has a lot of under modified malts you will get more head, possibly clove (with the right yeast and malt), and a more fermentables from the under modified malts. But fully modified malts basically this has already been done in the malting process so it won't benifiet from a pre saccharification protein rest. There is an other lesser known post saccharification protein rest at 162°F which aids proteins to rejoin into larger chains which helps body and head, all malts can benifiet from this. – Evil Zymurgist Apr 4 '18 at 17:22
  • I think I follow you but I’m not sure I’m asking the question clearly enough. Just to confirm, are you saying that the under modified malts with a rest will have more head/clove/fermentables than the fully modified malt without a rest? If that’s the case then I get it. If however, you’re saying that they will effectively end up the same then that’s the basis of my original question - if they are equivalent then why would the author suggest the extra work? – EnduroDave Apr 4 '18 at 17:27
  • @EnduroDave I understand now. No there is little difference in fully-modified malt mashed at X, and an under modified malt using protein rest and mashed at X. Basically the protein step is to bring the under modied malt up to the characters of a fully modified malt. The maltsers have done the work for you. But under modified malts are available so brewers can still do it the "hard way" and exploit it to enhance clove and other effects from it. Fully modified grains, are malted in a way to limit clove esters. – Evil Zymurgist Apr 4 '18 at 17:31

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