Understanding Ingredients

Barley, Hops, Water, Yeast

Base Malt/DME

·                     UK Malt - low moisture, slightly darker, ‘maltier’ flavor than American malt
·                     US Pale Malt - domestic malt to replicate UK malt flavors
·                     US Two Row - slightly lighter in color than previous base malt, all purpose malt
·                     European Pilsner - German and Belgian Pilsner malts
·                     Vienna/Munich Malt - darker base malt to create intensely rich malt flavors

Specialty Malts

Understanding the flavor profile of malt based on the color measured in degrees Lovibond (*L)is a great way to think about flavors of specialty malts. Just like when you toast bread, flavors are created during the malting and toasting/roasting process. Think about toast from lightly toasted to burnt.  This is called a Maillard reaction and the same chemical reaction happens when malt is toasted/roasted in a kiln or drum roaster.  Starting with the lowest numbers below 10 you get a malty character from the base malts. As you start approaching 25*L the malt starts to develop a toasted english muffin character. Into the 40-85*L caramel tones and bread crust flavors develop. Into the 100-175*L you begin tasting raisin, dark pit fruit, and toffee flavors. As you go over 200*L the flavors start tasting like coffee.  Into the 300-500*L is the spectrum of espresso, chocolate, All the way to the darkest color of 600*L where barley is roasted in a drum like coffee beans and these malts are used to create the opaque beauty of stouts.

Lovibond Scale (malt color)


Experiment with specialty malts.  For example, learning the flavor differences of English Crystal 60*L and German Cara 60*L. They are similar but with subtle differences. When designing a recipe think about how you want to arrive at your desired color in your beer. Do you want to use base malt and some black patent malt to create a brown ale? Or do you want to layer depths of flavors from lighter specialty malts to arrive at your desired color? It all depends on the type of character/style you’re aiming for; whether it is a schwarzbier with a simple grist bill or an Imperial Stout that uses a complex bill to layer the flavors of specialty malts into the final beer.

Other Grains and Sugars

  • ·         Rice                             (flaked, or needs to be cooked first)
  • ·         Corn                            (flaked, or needs to be cooked first)
  • ·         Corn Sugar/Table Sugar
  • ·         Wheat Malt                  (aids in head retention, and lightens body)
  • ·         Oats                            (adds creamy texture to mouthfeel)
  • ·         Rye                             (adds peppery character, adds body and complexity)
  • ·         Other Sugars              (molasses, brown sugar, sucanat, turbinado, etc)
  • ·         Alternative Grains       (buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, teff, amaranth)
  • ·         Lactose Sugar            (lactose is not fermentable, leaving full mouthfeel)

Using adjuncts can sometimes be just the thing to turn an ordinary stout into something sublime.  For example wild rice can add an earthy nuttiness to amber to brown ales. Sugar can be used to lighten the body and strength to a Belgian strong ale.


On the most basic level, brewers use hops to act as a bitter counterpoint to what would be a cloyingly sweet beverage. When thinking about hops and all the available varieties, consider what flavor you want from your hop additions.  The style you’re brewing will help you decide what variety or varieties to use. As with malt, you can break down hop character by region (for the most part).

·         UK Hops - earthy and grassy, with pine and floral aroma. Traditional varieties: East Kent Golding, Fuggle, and Northern Brewer

·         German Hops - home of the “Noble” hop varieties, mellow with a herbal and spicy quality. Traditional varieties: Hallertau Mittlefruh, Spalt, Tettnanger

·         Pacific Northwest Hops - pungent citrus (grapefruit, orange, etc.) and tropical fruit aroma of pineapple and mango. Traditional varieties: Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, and Amarillo

·         US Grown Descendants of Old World Hops - this group of hops do a great job of replicating flavors from their relatives. Some examples are Liberty/Mt. Hood/Vanguard descend from Hallertau hops.

·         New Zealand Hops - a new hop growing region producing uniquely aromatic hop varieties. Most famous is the Nelson Sauvin hop which lends a gooseberry, sauvignon blanc character.

·         Other Continental Hops - spicy, earthy, floral. Traditional varieties: French grown Styrian Golding and Strisslespalt. Czech grown Saaz. The former used in many Belgian ales and the latter is the hop variety for a classic Czech Pilsner.

To brew traditional style beers, you’ll want to match hop varieties from the countries that the style of beer originated. But Saison’s, hefeweizen’s and Belgian ales brewed with pungent Pacific Northwest hops can also be delicious. Play around, see what varieties and hop flavors you like with different styles.

Hop Additions

·         First Wort Hopping - lends an interwoven hop flavor and bitterness.

·         :60-:30 Addition - Bittering hops. Flavor and aromas are lost but bitterness remains
·         :10-:30 Addition - Flavor hops. Adds some bitterness, loses aroma but maintains flavor

·         :10-:0 Addition - Aroma hops. Negligible bitterness, the aroma in the nose of your beer

·         Dry Hopping - Over the top aroma. To create the American IPA.


95% of yeast activity produces carbon dioxide and ethanol.  The other 5% of the activity produces the flavors of beer. While the yeast is eating sugar and multiplying it’s producing these chemicals in various levels depending on the strain of yeast and fermentation conditions:

·         Esters - Fruity
·         Aldehydes - green and red apple
·         Phenolics - banana and clove
·         Higher Alchohols - fusel alchohol (nail polish remover)
·         Organic Acid

Different strains of yeast produce different amounts of each so choose a yeast strain that will complement the style you’re brewing. To some extent, you want the yeast to do what the yeast wants to do. You can manipulate the yeast to produce more or less flavors by changing the temperature at which the beer is fermenting. Temperature control during fermentation is extremely important. Even a few degrees warmer will create more esters, aldehydes, and phenols, while cooler temperatures will create a ‘cleaner’, maltier beer. Steam Beer is an example of lager yeast fermented warm and German Alt beer is an example of ale yeast fermented cooler. Another fun thing to do is is take the exact same wort and split the batch between fermentors and pitch different yeast in each.  For a drastic difference try one with American Ale yeast and other with a Belgian strain. Although it’s the same wort, you would not know it in a blind tasting. Think about the role yeast selection will play in the overall impression of the flavors you’re after. To me yeast is the soul of a beer, the magic, the science humans didn’t understand until recently.


The least sexy ingredient but really the ingredient you use the most.  Water plays a crucial role in how your other ingredients come through in the final beer. Certain beer styles actually call for specific water profiles. The mineral content plays a role in how the bitterness in hops is perceived and to help balance the low ph of dark malts in darker colored beer styles.

There are five historical regions that are known for certain styles of beer. Each regions water chemistry complements the styles that were created in these regions.

·         Burton on Trent - high gypsum, dry bitter finish, low color extraction, low ph improve hop flavor, famous for English IPA 
·         Dublin/Munich/London - high bicarbonates, higher ph, better color extraction, famous for Irish Stout/German Dopplebock/London Porter

·         Pilsen - low ions (soft water), allows malt and hops to dominate yet remain delicate in flavor, famous for Czech Pilsners

No comments:

Post a Comment