Monday, July 2, 2012

What is your favorite base malt?

Maris Otter - 34%
American/Canadian Pale 2-row - 22%
German Pilsner - 9%
Belgian Pilsner - 9%
Golden Promise - 8%
Belgian Pale - 3%
Munich - 3%
Vienna - 2%
Generic English Pale - 2%
American Pilsner - 1%
French Pilsner - 1%
Wheat Malt - 1%
American Pale 6-row - 1%
Rye Malt - 1%
Rauch Malt - 0% (5)
Oat Malt - 0% (3)
Mild Malt - 0% (3)
Other - 1%

Votes: 880

The ability to select the ideal base malts for a given batch is one of the biggest advantages to brewing all-grain. It allows you to brew beers that possess subtle malt flavors, where extract brewers often have to rely on heavy-handed specialty malt additions for character. Even within the categories listed in the poll, I imagine many brewers have strong preferences for a certain maltsters’s version of their favorite malts.

For the purposes of this poll, I defined base malts as any grain that contains enough amylase enzymes to convert its own starches into fermentable sugars (while I have heard some darker grains, like Aromatic, can do this trick given enough time, I have not heard positive things about the results). While there are some malts made from grains other than barley that appear on the list, these grains (wheat, rye, and oats) only accounted for 2% of the votes combined. Malting barley has just the right amount of protein and husk material to easily produce beers. As a result of its popularity there are also more varieties and toasting methods employed in their production.

As much as I enjoy brewing with a new variety of malt, buying in bulk is simply too cost effective for me to ignore. There are four malt that I tend to buy bulk. I use Maris Otter in English ales and dark American beers where the darker toasting provides more maltiness than lighter American pale “2-row” malt. Before I had enough storage space I used Maris Otter for all of my ales, but the softer/mellower flavor of American pale is now the base for most of my hop-forward beers (I even like it in dark Belgian beers). German Pilsner is so clean and crisp, perfect for pale Belgians and most lagers (other than those based on Vienna or Munch). I also buy a sack of wheat malt every year to provide its doughy flavor to Hefes and Berliners (and add some extra protein to other beers).

In addition to those four, I buy other grains in bulk if I know I’ll be using a large amount of them. Such as Munich when we filled our Apple Brandy Barrel, or most recently a sack of Vienna so I can brew multiple variations of the Dank Amber IPA recipe I’ve been developing.

For the 10 people who answered “Other” what did I leave off the list? English varietals (e.g., Optic), French Pils, or Kolsch Malt? I'm glad to see the number of base malts rising. For example, Weyermann recently started making oak smoked wheat malt, the key ingredient in Gr├Ątzer/Grodziskie. Between Stan Hieronymus's Brewing with Wheat and Evan Rail’s Why Beer Matters I’ve been inspired to brew one.


Brian said...

I even used Maris Otter (plus S-04!) to make a Kolsch/pseudo-lager, triple decocted for maltiness and fermented cool to see if I could avoid any discernible British character. It succeeded. It was pretty much just to see if it would work, but I was pleased with the result.

Andrew said...

Since I don't have a mill or space yet, full-on sacks are not my bag yet (hehe). Eventually I want to get into specific base malt, but now I am happy just trying new recipes and yeasts.

What do you think of the barley crusher with all the use you have put on it now?

Matt said...

Have you had much experience with Golden Promise? I'm wondering if I use it in an IPA fermented with an American Ale yeast would I get a malty profile with a clean finish?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I actually did a second runnings lager from a Maris Otter based barleywine last year that I really enjoyed. Might have to try something like that again.

I think for most ingredients it is better to try a wide range before you commit to buying in bulk. Better to learn what you like early on.

The Barley Crusher has been pretty good, but every year or two it will start having an issue where it stops feeding grain through. It takes about 10 minutes to take it apart, clean the brushings, re-lube, and put the whole thing back together. Not the a big deal, but slightly annoying.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I find Golden Promise to be closer to American Pale Malt than Maris Otter. It doesn’t have as much of the toasty flavor, should do well in a hoppy American beer I think.

tom said...

First time I'm buying a bulk, and actually a double bulk.
Wheat malt is going to be the base for the next 8-10 brews I'm planning. It's a little late in the year for that,
but it'll mainly be to test out different recipes with slight changes in ingredients and second fermentations that 'll take a while so I got some real good surprises for next summer.

jbakajust1 said...

As far as unlisted, I mainly use Great Western's Pale Malt, it is kilned between MO or GP and American 2 row.

Nick said...

Funny you mention Optic malt. I just used it for the first time in an English IPA. I'm so happy with the results. I've been on a US two row pale malt kick for IPA's (American) and the depth of malt flavor was amazing with the Optic. I'm thinking of brewing a barleywine with Optic and a touch of British crystal for the winter. Curious if you have used Optic malt...I wouldn't recommend it for an American hop forward Ipa but the other possibilities are huge.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't recall whether I voted in the "other" category or not, but I have made some good beers with US pale ale malts (as opposed to the less kilned 2 row pale malts)

Ed Coffey said...

A follow up poll might be "Where do you buy your grain in bulk? LHBS, Online, Or Regional Bulk buys". Ive heard this is a hot topic with some LHBS owners, apparently they are not happy about the bulk buys and are trying to put a stop to it. Mike, where do you buy your bags and whats the pricing like.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Where you buy supplies is actually the current poll, although I didn't separate out group grain buys (to me they are a variation on ordering online).

A friend sets up our buys from North Country. They usually work out to ~$45 a sack for imported malts, ~$35 for domestic. Considering I pay $.80/lb for Best Pils I’m not surprised homebrew stores would prefer people paid them ~1.70/lb (Northern Brewer, not inlcuing shipping) for the same malt.

gordsellar said...

I missed the poll, but I will say, brewing over here in Korea, as someone who doesn't have access to his own APO (unlike some of the military folks here), you learn to do what you can with a more limited selection of grains: pilsner, Vienna, Munich, and Wheat are the base malts widely available.

Anything else (and any speciality malts besides the Weyermann Cara- line, basically) you either carry home from trips abroad, or order knowing you'll be paying an insane malt tax , or you beg off friends who got it into the country some other way. Which is one incentive for experimenting more with hops, yeast (which is easier to import or have brought over), souring, as well as roasting, malting, "crystallizing", and smoking your own malt. (I have only done the latter but others have experimented with all the others.)

(And we can't really blame the importers: they have insane legislation and sample-submission rules to abide by, which make importing certain things like hops or grain really hard here.)

This is a challenge, but it's not all bad: you sure learn a lot about the characters of the grains available. (And we do manage to get to know your ingredients very, very well...)

Which brings me to your plans with making a Gratzer: it's a wonderful style, though I'd run across complaints online about the Weyermann being insufficiently smoky.

I've had good results with home-smoked wheat, for what it's worth: the first time, it wasn't traditional (I used a mix of different smoking woods, which of course shaped how it was received: hickory always makes people proclaim "Bacon!" and the mesquite and chestnut somehow didn't stand out so much).

But last week I smoked up just enough wheat for a batch or so, with some Korean oak (which is what's available here)... that's the next brew I have planned! I expect big things, well, at least, if I can keep it under control temperature-wise...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sometimes restrictions and limitations are the best things for bringing out creativity. Many great dishes have been born out of attempts at preservation, substitutions as a result of shortages, and left-overs.

Sorry to hear the Weyermann oak-smoked wheat is underwhelming, maybe they’ll up it for subsequent runs? Interested to hear what sort of character you get from the Korean oak. Good luck!

Scott said...

I've been buying bags of Canada Malting's Pale Ale malt.

RE: where do you buy. I checked local, but it's from a bulk seller. I buy sacs from them and the rest from the LHBS. Almost the same with hops. I buy specialty stuff locally but I can get hops by the pound from Washington for under $10/lb and I would be paying $2+/ oz locally. I try to support the LHBS's but 400% markup on Cascade hops is, well ridiculous.

Unknown said...

Brew the Grodziskie! I made one with the Oak-Smoked Wheat malt, and it is fantastic. It is the ultimate summer beer, in my opinion. I used a ton of Celeia hops in it as well.