The world of vinegar is a bit like that of alcoholic drinks. You have a malt based option which is dirt cheap and associated with the lowest of convenience foods and you have wine vinegar which comes in posh bottles and costs from twice as much to two hundred times as much. Even cider vinegar seems to have greater culinary cache than the humble malt-based product. At the top of the tree you have balsamic vinegar which is the best because;
1. It’s not British
2. It’s made of grapes
3. It’s aged in a barrel
I’m going to start a revolution, right here right now. Ladies and gentlemen I am the first craft, malt vinegar maker. Within a year I foresee a website called ratevinegar.com and vinegar geeks, or Acetoheads as they prefer to be known, will debate the best volatile acidity level, trueness to style and world's best producer of craft malt vinegar. Vinegar bloggers will debate the definition of craft vinegar and vow to drizzle their mixed salad leaves with nothing else. A video will be produced with a stream of attractive and quirky people saying "I drizzle craft vinegar" to a soundtrack of a power ballad.
Two Acetoheads throwing signs to a rival tribe
Just after I had written the last passage I thought I’d double check that there wasn’t already a burgeoning craft malt vinegar industry. I googled “craft malt vinegar” and found that some of the US brewers are in fact years ahead of me. With reddened face I ask that you to ignore my claims of boundary breaking. I suspect that Scotland’s largest independent brewery were similarly red-faced when they realised that their claimed “radical reinvention” of brewing and beer imagery had already been done by several US brewers a few years before they finished their Highers.
My craft malt vinegar will differ from traditional malt vinegar in that it will be hopped and fermented like a beer before oxygenation and acidification with Acetobacter and aging with oak, grape skins and dry hops. I can’t find any evidence of dry hopping in the other craft malt vinegar brewer’s products so mine will automatically be superior. The production of vinegar is a pretty fascinating process when you look into the science but only if you are already interested in science. As with beer the craft approach is much sexier and easier on the little grey cells.