Umami in beer comes primarily from two sources. First, barley malt has considerable protein in it (in the range of 10 to 15 percent) and the largest component of this is glutamic acid. The processes required to turn barley into beer involve reactions that convert this to glutamates. Most importantly though, I believe, is the contribution of the yeast. Nutritional yeast, known for its nutty, creamy flavors, provides a sample of this flavor.
Yorkshire Ale provides a vivid example of fermentation-induced umami flavor. The yeast produces a variety of metabolic by-products that create a well-balanced beer that is malty, and even meaty. The flavors are toasty with estery notes that accentuate the malt ingredients. These ingredients are chosen for their ability to contribute glutamates and nucleotides of a wide variety.
Archetypical Yorkshire Ale is a sweet, full-bodied beer with a deep red-brown cola color. It has a thick head and a mash/roast malty smell. It tastes of bread, caramel, chocolate, nuts, brown sugar, carob and earth. In the mouth it’s robust, mildly bitter and astringent, with a roasted finish.
My recipe relies on brown and chocolate malts, with a crystal malt blend, cara-aroma, and melanoidin malts to develop the glutamates derived from Maillard reactions.
Demerara and extra-dark aromatic Belgian sugar contribute caramel to the profile. Flaked barley provides raw glutamates that also contribute to a thick long-lasting head.
This version is bittered with a highly bitter variety, but in a mild proportion. Traditional English hops provide flavor and aroma that does not overwhelm the malty nose. It comes in at 7% ABV, which makes it, while not a Tadcaster Stingo, a funky, earthy–but in a good way–experience as rich as tucking into a plate of roasted mutton chops.