Jun 18, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 41
The darker side of malts

June 14, 2001

Last week we looked at some paler barley malts and the role they play in beer flavor. Before we move on to darker barley malts we want to remind you that these malts may seems sexier, but that pale malts make up the bulk of the grain bill for most of the beers you drink. For instance, the darkest stout may contain up to 90% pale ale malt. Don't discount the importance of light colored malts when thinking about the flavors in your beer.


To complete the malting process, grains are dried with warm air -- though not too warm, because that will destroy enzymes that are essential to the brewing process. Specialty malts are then heated again and treated in a variety of ways. There are many barley malts with color, but here is a basic list (next week we'll look at other malted grains and still more specialty ingredients):

Vienna and Munich: These are not the same, but we want to emphasize their difference from specialty malts. They are just a bit darker (well, there is Light Munich and Dark Munich) than pale and pilsner malts, and they are used as base malts in some styles. Vienna is essential in a Vienna (surprise!) and Oktoberfest beers, with a malty richness and bit of sweetness. Munich adds a reddish color and a nutty/toasty flavor to lighter beers, and serves as the base malt in Munich dunkels. The darker variety of Munich may be called "aromatic."

Crystal: Crystal ranges from quite light to very dark (the differences are designated by its Lovibond -- color -- rating). It's malted through a special process where undried malt is heated to mashing temperature and allowed to mash in the husk. The sugar inside crystalizes, giving the malt its name. Crystal malts vary greatly from producer to producer and across the color spectrum. They add body to beer, nuttiness and often a bit of caramel. Not all crystal malts are called crystal. For instance, Special B is the darkest Belgian crystal malt, with a particularly strong caramel taste, and is often credited with the raisin-like flavors in some Belgian beers.

Amber/biscuit: Popular with British and Belgian brewers, adding color, maltiness and a bit of baked biscuit. Nutty flavor without nutty aroma.

Dextrin/carapils: Similar to crystal but dried at a lower temperature to prevent color development. Used in lighter beers, particularly pilsners, to add body to beer without adding color.

Chocolate: Also roasted, very dark, and not actually chocolate tasting. Often found in darker British ales, but really important in German doppelbocks and dark lagers.

Black patent: Pale malt roasted until it is black, producing an intense roasty flavor, often bitter. Debitterized versions are available and smoother.

Roasted: Obviously not the only barely that is roasted. Roasted barley is not malted, and the flavor it adds is drier and less pungnent than chocolate and black patent. Key ingredient in dry (and many imperial) stouts.

Brown: A traditional British malt, once essential in brewing porter. Not as dark as chocolate malt or as intense, adds a smoky character and dry biscuit flavor.

Tasting notes

Brewed by the Arran brewery on the Scottish island of Arran

Michael Jackson writes:

The tartness imparted by wheat is beautifully combined with yeasty fruitiness (reminiscent in this instance of peaches) and flowery hop character (just a touch of the citric-tasting variety Cascade, grown in Washington State): a beer that is easily drinkable, yet refreshing in its flavors. It would be perfect after a climb among the crags of Arran, or perhaps some slightly less strenuous exercise.

Brewed by Pennsylvania Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Lew Bryson writes:

Penn Weizen is one of the very best American-brewed examples of a true Bavarian-type hefeweizen, and you should try hard to find some. If properly prepared, the bottle gently twirled to loosen the yeast, it pours like the milky sap of some exotic plant; gold, apricot, a blush of orange-pink, all beclouded and roiling. There is a brief push of sulfur at opening that dissipates quickly to leave a blended nose of plum, clove, cinnamon, and tart berry with little of the more familiar banana or bubble gum aromas. The head is towering, solid, malleable and moldable. Oh, this is a smooth, soothing mouthful. The aromas carry through their promise with a medium-full feel, refreshing and zesty. This cries out for bread, fruit, pretzels. Mmmm...

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