An Introduction To Partial Mash Brewing

Mug Of Barley GrainSo, you’ve been brewing with malt extract and you’ve got your routine all figured out. The beer’s coming out pretty good, but you’re ready to take it to the next level. Enter: partial mash brewing. Partial mash brewing combines the simplicity of extract brewing with the slightly more advanced part of all-grain brewing called mashing.

The big advantage of partial mash brewing is that you get to learn how to mash without having to buy a lot of extra equipment. If you’re already brewing with malt extract, this is the only additional equipment you need to make the move to partial mash brewing:

shop_brew_kettlesUnlike steeping grains, as we sometimes do with extract brewing, what we’re going to do here is convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars. To do this, we’ll soak the grains in warm water for 30-60 minutes. Here’s the trick: for the naturally-occurring enzymes in the grain to break down the starches, we need to control two important factors: temperature and pH. To properly break down the starches, we want to hold the mash water at a temperature between 150-158F and a pH level between 5.0 and 5.5. That’s it!

Here’s are the basic partial mash brewing instructions. See how it compares with what you’re already doing:

  1. Clean and sanitize as you would normally. This something that should be followed, regardless of your brewing method.
  1. Add 1-1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain to your stock pot.
  1. Heat the water to about 170°F. Since the grain is at room temperature, we heat the water a little above the ideal mash temperature. When we add the grains, we should be right in range.
  1. Add the crushed grain to the stock pot. Stir well to avoid clumping.
  1. Check the pH of your mash. If it’s above 5.5, add 1/4 tsp. of gypsum and stir. If it’s below 5.0, add 1/4 tsp. calcium carbonate and stir. Adjust until you’re in the proper range.
  1. Check the temperature of your mash. Hold the temperature as close to 154°F as possible. If below 150°F, add heat and stir. If above 158°F, add a little cold water and stir.Shop Homebrew Starter Kit
  1. Mash for about 60 minutes, adjusting temperature as needed.
  1. At the end of your mash, pour the mash through a strainer into your brew kettle. Recirculate the wort through your grains as needed to clarify.
  1. Add water to reach your desired boil volume and proceed as if you were brewing with extract.

There you have it: basic partial mash brewing instructions. That’s not too hard, is it?

Partial mash brewing is an easy way for homebrewers to transition from extract brewing to all-grain. Once you master the mash technique, you’re ready to brew all-grain!

Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section!

Til next time…Cheers!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Recipe of the Week: Amber Rye Ale

Glass Of Amber Rye Ale On TableSometimes a beer recipe can be better than the sum of its parts. This week’s amber rye ale beer recipe is a mash-up of two excellent beer styles that are great for fall brewing: amber ale and rye ale. The amber ale brings a malty flavor, medium to medium-full body, and a rich amber color, while the rye brings a distinctive spicy grain note. The hop flavor on this beer is noticeable with a spicy hop character, but the bitterness is balanced at just over 30 IBUs. It’s an American-style ale of moderate gravity that should make a balanced beer to enjoy throughout the fall season.

The beer recipe below uses a pound of rye malt combined with Munich malt, caramel, and chocolate malt for layers of malty flavor. Chinook hops provide the classic American citrus and pine hop profile that plays so nicely with the rye. A classic American ale yeast is used, Wyeast 1056: American Ale, sometimes referred to as the Chico strain. If you’d prefer to use dry yeast, try Safale US-05 or Mangrove Jack’s. There should be little to no yeast esters in this style, so do your best to keep fermentation temperatures in the recommended range for your selected yeast strain. Continue reading

7 Tips For Clearing A Homebrew Beer!

Clear homebrew BeerFor some styles of beer, such as the Bavarian hefeweizen and the Belgian witbier, cloudiness is to be expected. The average consumer, however, has come to expect beer to be crystal clear — or “bright” as it’s known among beer geeks and professional brewers. Clarity has more influence on aesthetics than flavor, but since the appearance of a beer is the drinker’s first impression, it’s an important factor in assessing beer quality. To avoid your friends raising their eyes at your cloudy homebrew — and to achieve better scores at homebrew competitions — it’s important to know how to clarify your homebrew beer.


What Makes Beer Cloudy in the First Place?

Before we can talk about clarifying or clearing your homebrew beer, it would help to understand a little bit about what’s making the beer cloudy. Cloudiness in homebrew can come from a few different sources:

  • Malt can contribute proteins, fatty compounds (lipids), and tannins to your beer. Excessive protein can result in “protein haze” or “chill haze”, which happens when beer is clear at room temperature, but becomes cloudy when chilled.
  • After being boiled in the kettle, hops can break down and leave behind debris.
  • Yeast, as it multiplies and feeds on the sugar in your wort, it becomes suspended in the beer.

All of these a common sources for potentially keep a homebrew beer from becoming its clearest.


Common Ways to Clarify Your Homebrew Beer

There are several different ways to clarify or clear a homebrew beer. Here are the most common:

  1. Whirlpool – At the end of the boil, and before transferring wort to the fermenter, give the wort a strong stir. Proteins, lipids, and hop compounds will collect at the bottom of the kettle and form a pile of “trub” in the middle, making it easier to draw off beer and leave behind most of the protein and hops.Shop Irish Moss
  1. Kettle finings – Clarifying a beer with clearing agents is very effective. Irish moss (a.k.a. “carrageenan”) is a type of seaweed that works as a coagulant. It’s added in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil and helps make the whirlpool more effective by aiding in the coagulation of proteins.
  1. Cold break – Rapidly cooling the wort, such as with an immersion wort chiller, helps proteins settle out after the boil.
  1. Secondary fermentation – Transferring your beer from a primary fermenter to secondary fermenter is an opportunity to leave behind trub and yeast that has settled to the bottom. The length of the secondary fermentation is also a factor – the longer the fermentation, the more settling will occur. Fourteen days is usually enough for ales; lagers tend to take longer.
  1. Fermenter finingsShop Wort Chillers – Some beer finings are added to the secondary fermenter. Gelatin is a popular one. It’s derived from animal collagen, so beer made with it technically isn’t vegetarian. Clearing a homebrew beer with gelatin is quick and easy.
  1. Cold crash – Dropping the temperature on the secondary fermentation helps yeast and other particulates settle out.
  1. Filter – Many commercial breweries filter their beer, and while there are some filters available to homebrewers, in most cases the above techniques will result in sufficiently bright, clear beer.

What methods do you use to clarify your homebrew beers? Have you ever used gelatin or other fining or clear agents? Let us know about your experience!

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

German Altbier Beer Recipe (Partial Mash)

Altbier In GlassSimilar to Kölsch or steam beer, German altbier is something of a hybrid beer style. Though it’s generally considered to be an ale, it’s fermented on the cooler end of the temperature range and goes through a cold conditioning period, resulting in a smooth, clean brew with lager-like characteristics. If you’re looking for an easy-drinking, yet flavorful beer to add to your homebrew lineup, brewing a German altbier beer recipe is a great option!


History of the Style

In German, “alt” means old, referring to the habit of brewing with top-fermenting ale yeasts before bottom-fermenting lager yeasts came into practice. Most of the remaining authentic versions of altbier come from the German city of Düsseldorf.


Style Guidelines

  • Aroma – Clean with rich, bready malt character and spicy, German hop notes. Hop aromas range from low to moderate. Saaz hops are frequently encountered. Some mild esters may be present.
  • Appearance – A good German altbier beer recipe should produce a beer light amber to copper in color. Clear with a billowy, creamy, off-white head.
  • Flavor – Malt-forward with an assertive hop bitterness. Beer is relatively dry, but balanced by rich caramel malt flavors. Often has a complex, nutty finish with both hop bitterness and moderate noble hop flavor.
  • Mouthfeel – Smooth, medium-bodied, with moderate to moderate-high carbonation. Full of flavor yet easy drinking.

Due to the need for temperature-controlled fermentation, altbier can be a difficult style to brew. But it’s well worth the challenge and can be a delicious go-to option for your home brewery!


German Altbier Beer Recipe
(five-gallon batch, extract with grains)

OG: 1.051
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5%
IBU: 38
SRM: 15 

Shop Steam Freak Kits6.6 lbs. Munich LME
1 lb. Munich 20L malt
12 oz. Caramel 60° malt
2 oz. Chocolate malt
1.5 oz. Perle hops at :60
1 oz. Saaz hops at :15
1 tsp. Irish moss at :15
1 oz. Saaz hops at :5
2 packs Wyeast 1007: German Ale Yeast 

Place crushed grains in a grain bag and steep in 3 gallons of water at 154˚F for 30 minutes. Remove grain bag and discard. Add liquid malt extract to brewing liquor and mix in thoroughly. Bring wort to a boil and add hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Pitch yeast and ferment at 58-60˚F for about two weeks. Optionally, transfer to a secondary fermenter. Cold condition at 32-40˚F for about 1 month, then bottle or keg for about 2.5-2.8 vols CO2. Cheers!

Sound tasty? Also consider brewing the German Altbier beer recipe kit from Brewer’s Best!

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

The Pros & Cons Of Using A Secondary Fermentation For Your Beer

Adding Beer To Secondary FermenterMany homebrewers like to take advantage of a process called “secondary fermentation,” and claim that it improves the quality of their homebrew beer. Secondary fermentation, also known as two-stage fermentation, is simply transferring (“racking”) your homebrew from one fermenter to another. The optimal timing as to when to start the secondary fermentation is up for some debate, but it is about midway through the fermentation process. But why go through the trouble? Is putting your beer through a secondary fermentation really necessary. What are the benefits?

The Pros of Secondary Fermentation for your Beer

Here are a few of the benefits of secondary fermentation:

  • It gets the beer off spent yeast sediment. After two or three weeks, yeast starts to break down and contribute off flavors to your beer. Most homebrewers don’t ferment their beer long enough to cause any noticeably problems, but for those who choose to do a longer fermentation, racking the beer into a secondary fermenter or carboy is highly recommended.
  • It allows the beer to mature. Time allows the malt, hops, and yeast flavors to blend together and balance.
  • It improves clarity by reducing the amount of sediment in the finished beer. Putting your beer through a secondary fermentation allows time for more yeast, hop trub, and protein to fall out of the beer. Adding a fining agent, such as gelatin, into the secondary fermenter can aid in this process significantly.
  • It gives the homebrewer an opportunity to “dry-hop” — or “dry-spice” — their beer. Dry-hopping is just adding hops to the secondary fermenter, which contributes hop aroma to the beer. You can also take this opportunity to add spices, flavorings, wood chips, or other additives to your brew.

The Cons of Secondary Fermentation for your Beer

There aren’t many disadvantages to using a secondary fermentation, but they’re worth considering:

  • It takes a more time and effort. Yes, it takes some time to transfer or rack your beer to a secondary fermenter. How long it takes varies depending upon your set-up, but usually the time it takes to transfer is much shorter than brew day or bottle day.
  • There’s a risk of contamination. By opening your fermenter and passing your beer through a siphoning hose, you risk bacteria or wild yeast getting into your beer. But, as long as you practice good sanitation, you should be fine.
  • Potential to lose hop flavor. Hop flavor degrades over time. In most cases, a few weeks won’t make a difference, but if you’re brewing a very hop-forward beer, the length of the fermentation period should be considered.

How to Transfer Your Beer for a Secondary Fermentation

To transfer your beer to a secondary fermenter, keep in eye on the bubbles coming out of the airlock and wait until the fermentation slows down (4-5 days). Clean and sanitize your secondary fermenter and transfer tubing, then add the beer to the secondary fermenter – usually a carboy – by siphoning. Re-seal with an airlock. In 7-14 days, bottle or keg your beer as you would normally.

Do you use a secondary fermentation when you homebrew? When do you start yours? How long do you leave it in the secondary? Leave a comment!

Til next time…Cheers!

3 Gallon Glass Carboy
5 Gallon Glass Carboy
6 Gallon Glass Carboy

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Using a Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB) System to Make Your Beers

Brew In A BagIf you are an extract or partial mash homebrewer trying to get started with all-grain brewing, the “Brew-in-a-Bag” (BIAB) method is a great way to make the switch. It’s a little easier than the standard infusion mash, but the big advantage is that you eliminate the need for a separate mash tun (tun is just brew-talk for kettle). Instead of mashing the grains in a mash tun, recirculating your wort, and boiling it in another kettle, the Brew-in-a-Bag method allows you to do everything in one vessel.

To set up your BIAB brewing system all you need is a mesh grain bag large enough to hold 10-12 lbs. of grain (for a 5 gallon batch). I also recommend a large strainer or colander that’s big enough to sit across the top of your kettle.

The main difference between BIAB and a standard all-grain brew is that the grains go in the bag and the bag comes out at the end of the mash. Removing the bag from the wort washes the grains and eliminates the need for a sparge.


How to “Brew-in-a-Bag” BIAB

  1. Clean & Sanitize. Just as you would otherwise, clean and sanitize all of your brewing equipment. I like to use One Step No Rinse Cleanser and Star San Sanitizer.
  1. Heat the mash water to 170°F. Start with your full boil volume. Knowing that some of your water will evaporate, use more water than however much beer you plan to make. For example, if making 5 gallons of beer, you might start with 6.5 gallons. Tip: If heating water on a kitchen stove, you may want to heat water in two pots to get up to temperature more quickly.
  1. Put your mesh brewing bag in the kettle and pour the crushed grains into the bag. Give the grains a good stir to avoid clumping. Hold the temperature between 150°F and 158°F to begin converting the starches in the grains into fermentable sugar. Tip: Use a bungie cord to hold the bag in place.Shop Brew Kettles
  1. Check the pH level. To convert the starches, your mash needs to be between 5.0 and 5.5 pH. If your pH is over 5.5, add a 1/4 teaspoon of gypsum to bring it down. If it’s under 5.0, add a 1/4 tsp. calcium carbonate. Adjust until you’re in range.
  1. Pull out the grain bag. This is the whole key to a brew in a bag system. After about 60 minutes, slowly pull out the bag and all the grains, taking care not to rip it. Set the bag over a strainer or colander so that the wort drains back into the pot, then discard the grains.
  1. Bring to a boil and add hops – Heat the wort to a roiling boil and start adding hops.
  1. From here, proceed as you would with any other method of brewing.

Have any questions about Brew in a Bag (BIAB) brewing system or homebrewing in general? Drop us a question in the comments!

Til next time…Cheers!

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Big, Hoppy, American Barleywine Recipe (All-Grain & Extract)

BarleywineJust how much flavor can you pack into a homebrew? I’m not sure if there’s a limit, but this barelywine beer recipe really pushes the envelope!

Barleywines are big, malty beers, usually featuring a complex range of flavors, from sweet caramel and toffee, to raisins, dates, and molasses. To balance out the malty sweetness, they’re usually heavily hopped, but the level of hop flavor and aroma can range from subtle to quite aggressive. Alcohol content is high, so these beers are often aged for months or even years to round out the flavors.

At 96 IBUs, this barleywine beer recipe is for hop heads. Three of the “C” hops – Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook – are added throughout the boil and as dry hops to give this beer a piney, citrusy hop character – think of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot.

Since this is such a high gravity beer (OG = 1.112), we recommend a few things to ensure a healthy fermentation:

  • Pitch a yeast starter – Pitching enough healthy, viable yeast cells is critical. At the very least, pitch two packs of liquid beer yeast into a 2L starter. Use a yeast starter calculator to determine exactly what size starter you need.
  • Use yeast nutrientYeast nutrient can give yeast an added boost for high-gravity beers. Nutrient is added during the boil, but have some yeast energizer on hand in the event of a stuck fermentation.
  • Oxygenate – if you have the equipment to oxygenate your wort, by all means use it. Otherwise, be sure to aerate the wort very well. Splash it around more than usual when pouring into the fermenter. Maybe even pour it through a strainer to maximize aeration.

Ready to brew this mammoth beer? Good luck!


Neural Rust Barleywine Beer Recipe (via AHA)
(5-gallon batch, all-grain)

OG: 1.112
FG: 1.023
ABV: 11.7%
IBUs: 96
SRM: 19Shop Dried Malt Extract

17.4 lbs. Maris Otter malt
1.1 lb. Carapils malt
1 lb. Caramel 60L malt
0.6 lb. Caramel 90L malt
0.4 lb. Caramel 120L malt
1.25 tsp. gypsum (added to mash)
1.2 oz. Chinook hops at :60 (13.2 AAUs)
1 oz. Chinook hops at :45 (11AAUs)
0.85 oz. Centennial hops at :30 (7.4 AAUs)
0.6 oz. Cascade hops at :15 (3 AAUs)
0.6 oz. Centennial hops at :15 (5.2 AAUs)Shop Liquid Malt Extract
1 tsp. Irish moss at :15
2 tsp. yeast nutrient at: :15
2 packs Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast
1 oz. Chinook hops, dry-hopped for 14 days
1 oz. Centennial hops, dry-hopped for 14 days
1 oz. Cascade hops, dry-hopped for 14 days


Barleywine Beer Recipe Directions: 
Mash crushed grains at in 5.25 gallons water at 150˚F for 90 minutes. Lauter and sparge to collect seven gallons of wort. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops, Irish moss, and, yeast nutrient according to schedule above. Chill wort, aerate well, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 68˚F for one month. Transfer to secondary and dry hop for two weeks. Bottle or force carbonate to target 2.3 vols. CO2.

Partial Mash Option:
Replace the Maris Otter malt with 2.4 lbs. Maris Otter plus 10 lbs. light DME. If possible, do a 7-gallon boil. If not, add half of the DME before the boil, the other half at the end of the boil, and increase the first hop addition to 2.4 oz.

Any barleywine can be fun to brew, but this barleywine beer recipe is particularly fun to make. And if you are not into the all-grain scene, the partial mash option fills out the flavor quite well.

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

3 Homebrews to Serve at Your Holiday Feast

Homebrew Holiday Beer In Front Of FireplaceHomebrewing is without a doubt a culinary activity. Chances are that if you’re a homebrewer, you also enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about homebrewing is translating seasonal flavors from the kitchen into seasonal beer recipes. In the winter, many spices from holiday cooking make it into the brew kettle: ginger, cinnamon, cardamom. Pumpkin and cranberry are classic elements of a holiday meal, and what would the season be without peppermint?

All of these holiday flavors can be incorporated into beer recipes. Below, find three of my favorite holiday beer recipes. Brew each one for a three-course homebrew tasting event!


Cranberry “Lambic”

This beer resembles the wild-fermented lambics of Belgium, often made with fruit. But instead of waiting for years for the wild microbes to develop the characteristic sourness, this recipe uses cranberry juice concentrate in the secondary fermenter! Serve this homebrew as an aperitif or see how it plays along with the cranberry relish! Cranberry Lambic Recipe >>


Pumpkin Porter

This heartier brew can easily accompany some of the heavier dishes at the holiday meal. Canned pumpkin, sweet roasted malts, and variety of holiday spices combine in a wonderfully sweet, roasty, and spicy brew. Be sure to save room for dessert! Pumpkin Porter Recipe >>


Peppermint Stout

And for a final holiday treat, consider this chocolaty-smooth stout recipe recipe featuring notes of peppermint. Feeling adventurous? Try adding a candy cane at the very end of the boil!

OG: 1.057
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 36
SRM: 34

3 lbs. Dark DME
3 lbs. Dark DME (late addition)
Shop Steam Freak Kits1 lb. Munich malt
0.75 lb. Chocolate wheat malt
0.25 lb. Roasted barley
0.5 oz. Northern Brewer hops at :60
1 oz. Northern Brewer hops at :30
0.5 oz. Northern Brewer hops at :10
5 grams dried peppermint at flame out
1 packet Safale S-04 

Directions: Steep crushed grains in one gallon of water at 150˚F for 30 minutes. Strain wort into brew kettle. Add half the DME and enough water to make 3.5 gallons. Bring wort to a boil and boil for one hour, adding hops according to the schedule above. At the end of the boil, remove kettle from heat, mix in the DME and the peppermint, and chill wort. Transfer wort to a clean, sanitized fermenter and add enough clean, chlorine-free water to make 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast and ferment at 68˚F.

What are some of your favorite holiday beer recipes? 
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Reusing Beer Bottles For Homebrewing

Bottled BeerMany homebrewers like to save money. Who doesn’t? One of the first opportunities for saving a few bucks while homebrewing is to reuse beer bottles you buy from the store. Sure, it saves some cash, but it does take a little extra effort. (But at least you get bonus points for being eco-friendly!)

Here’s what you need to do to reuse beer bottles for homebrewing.

  1. Don’t save twist-offs. This type of beer bottle doesn’t work well for re-capping. Only save the pry-off style beer bottles for recycling.
  1. Brown is better. It’s ok to reuse green and clear glass bottles, but brown ones offer the best protection against UV light. (Light can make your beer taste “lightstruck” or “skunky”.)
  1. Love the larger beer bottles. The larger format 22-oz. and 25-oz. bottles are great – fewer bottles to clean and fill. Plus they make great gifts for the holidays!
  1. Covet the flip-top.shop_beer_growlers Euro-style bottles with the flip-top are just cool! Reusing these type of beer bottles for homebrewing are well worth the effort.
  1. Rinse them out first. Residual beer left at the bottom of a beer bottle is an ideal place for mold and other funky creatures to take hold. Save yourself the trouble of scrubbing out the beer bottles by rinsing them out as soon as you’re done with them. Three quick rinses usually gets the job done, but check inside for residual yeast at the bottom just to be sure.
  1. Remove the labels. Plan for this task to take some time. (It’s probably the least favorite part of bottling homebrew, so some homebrewers just leave the labels on.) The best way to remove commercial labels is to soak the bottles in a tub filled with hot water and One Step. In 15-20 minutes, most of the labels – the ones that use a glue adhesive – should slide right off. Others may be more difficult. Make note of the brands whose labels come off easily and those who don’t. Next time you’re looking for a 12-pack, choose accordingly.

With a decent amount of time and elbow-grease, you can soon have a healthy armada of beer bottles!

If you want to avoid some of the work involved in reusing beer bottles for your homebrewing, we carry new beer bottles by the case!

You can also use plastic beer bottles for bottling homebrew. Don’t forget the caps!

Are you reusing beer bottles for your homebrewing operation? How did you get the bottles?
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Recipe Formulation: Brewing Dark Beers

Woman Drinking Dark BeerOne of the biggest challenges of homebrewing is recipe formulation. There are so many different ingredients available to the homebrewer, that it takes a lifetime of brewing to develop a solid understanding of how each one impacts beer flavor, aroma, color, and mouthfeel. That’s why I often recommend that new brewers try clone recipes. You have a good idea of how your homebrew is going to turn out, and you get learn about different brewing ingredients along the way.

But sure enough, coming up with your own beer recipes is one of the reasons people enjoy homebrewing. It’s a sudsy expression of creativity – that just happens to get you buzzed!

One of the more challenging aspects of beer recipe formulation is figuring out how different malts affect a beer. This post will cover some tips and tricks for developing dark beer recipes.


Tips for Brewing Dark Beers

What makes a beer dark? Malt! In the third step of the malting process, a maltster heats the sprouted grain to dry it out and develop some flavor and color. This step is called kilning. Basically, the higher the heat and the longer the kiln, the darker color of the grain. Maltsters can used these variables to make malts that range from pale yellow in color to red, brown, or even black.shop_barley_grains

One thing to be aware of when brewing dark beer is, in general, it only takes a small amount of dark malt to affect beer color. But it’s not just about color – flavor is important too. It’s a balancing act between getting the flavor profile you want as well as the color.

When building a dark beer recipe, start by thinking about flavor. This clearly depends on the beer style, but also on your personal preference. Do you want a bready, almost chewy, sweet malt flavor? In this case the beer recipe might include decent amounts of lightly roasted Munich malts with just a touch of chocolate or Carafa to get the rest of the color. Or would you prefer a dry, bitter, roasty beer? In this case the beer recipe may include mostly regular pale malt with larger amounts of chocolate malt and roasted barley. Caramel malts can contribute complexity to beers, offering flavors of caramel, raisins, nuts, or dates. Think about the balance you want to achieve for your dark beer, then select the malts accordingly. Finally, small adjustments can be made to get the color where you want it.


What about using extract when brewing dark beers?

Dark malt extract works great for beginning homebrewers. It’s an easy way to brew a dark beer without having to figure out the right combination of malts to get the color you want. But a lot of homebrewers will agree that dark malt extract doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility when brewing dark beers. The dark malt extract was made with a specific blend of grains. You’re kind of stuck with the flavor profile you get.shop_liquid_malt_extract

An alternative way to do it is to use light malt extract and then use the darker specialty grains to get the color and flavor just the way you like it. You can certainly brew a stout using light malt extract! Just use 5-15% of the darker specialty grains to get the color and flavor you want. Explore some tried and true beer recipes to get a sense of what malts work well together and in what amounts.

With a little practice, you’ll soon get a feel for different specialty grains and how to go about brewing a delicious dark beer.

What’s your favorite dark beer style?
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.