Vita Malt is a popular brand in the “malt beverage” category (non-alcohol), in the Caribbean and elsewhere. There are numerous competitive brands, some brewed locally, some imported. Denmark makes a number of these.
I understand this is essentially hopped wort that has not been fermented. It makes for a rich drink that resembles beer to a degree but sans the kick.
I bought a few brands available here. All seem to be made from a similar mix of ingredients. Looking now at the label for Power Malt, made in Denmark, the ingredients are water, barley malt, sugar, caramel colour, carbon dioxide, hops. Made by Royal Unibrew. Similar to the grist for many beers, but it’s not beer.
I found Vita malty-sweet and lightly bitter, very pleasant. I drank part of it – adding plain soda and lemon to cut it – and used the rest for a blending experiment.
To emulate Frank Faulkner’s description in 1884 of blending practise for stout in Ireland, I mixed some Vita with a London porter, Fuller’s, about 1:3. I then added the cloudy dregs of two Imperial stouts and the same of a local pale ale, to ensure enough yeast for a re-fermentation. The Imperial stouts might be 5% of the total.
So: Imperial stouts = Faulkner’s old vatted stout; modern London porter = his young or mild porter; malt beverage = the “heading”. The malt beverage is neither “live” of course nor partly-fermented, but net result should be similar, I think.
I flattened the beers first since the object is to condition them. The blend as a whole, pre-aging, tasted virtually flat, as Vita contributed only a little fizz given the proportions.
A rough and ready approach, but one in accord with old practices of adding heading or krausen to condition beer, as I’ve gleaned them.
Home brewers today might use corn or other sugar, or dry or liquid malt extract, to ensure proper condition. They also employ priming formulas for a correct palate and to avoid “bottle bombs”. IME malt beverage approximates nicely to brewers’ wort since it is not in concentrated form and is hopped. Any of these, save corn or other sugar, will contain unfermentable dextrin and sugars and that can only add to the beer’s quality, as I see it.
I closed bottle with a light, temporary stopper, so if it popped no harm could be done, especially as I placed it in a covered cardboard box. I left it for a week at room temperature. At week’s end I removed the closure. There was a nice pop and foam rose smartly in the bottle, filled initially as you see above, leaving “room”. I got a good re-fermentation.
The beer, shown below, had a full, zesty carbonation with excellent taste, much like a good export stout – and better than many I’ve had. There was a light lactic tang because one of the Imperial stouts had that. But no off flavours at all, no oxidation (that I could tell) even though the component beers had been “handled” by flattening, blending, storing, etc.
So this is my version of a late-1800s Irish porter, and I’m very pleased with it.
Caution: anyone trying this should ensure the closure is fairly loose and not kept in too long. And handle the bottle carefully. You don’t want stoppers popping out uncontrolled, or burst bottles.
N.B. I made a second version I haven’t broached yet, about 10 days ago, and will open it this weekend. It used 1:1:1 London Porter to malt beverage to Imperial Stout. The yeast coming, as I think it will, from the Iast.