American Amber: Munich vs. Crystal Totals
I’m researching to brew my first AG American Amber and see that most of the recipes use varying amounts of Munich and one of the crystal/caramel malts (60L, 80L…) to go along with the 2 row pale base.
Some use 1-2# of Munich others 1-2# of caramel. According to BeerSmith 2.0 Munich provides the sweetness and color; crystal provides body, color and head retention.
Are there any benefits to using more of one than the other for a middle of the road amber?
Thanks for the help,
Think of Munich as a substitute of the base grain and not a substitute for Crystal malts. For a recipe that represents an average Amber, I would keep the pound of Munich but wouldn't go above 15% on Crystal. This may require you to bump up the 2 row. You may also consider adding some Crystal 120 to add some more color and depth. Maybe something like this...
2-Row = 78%
Munich = 10%
C60 = 8%
C120 = 4%
Yes, Munich is a great base malt that brings a "malty" flavor while crystal malt brings color and sweet flavors.
We have a pretty good wiki, and my favorite write up of this style is in it. Here's the link: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/American_Amber_Ale
One of the things I love about American amber/American red is the "layered" crystal malts. You get depth of flavor by using two different crystal malts. A lighter crystal (say 20L) gives caramelly sweet notes, while a darker (say 80L) gives some toffee/raisin notes. It's so great like that.
Munich malt gives some bready malty notes, as support for the sweetness, as well as an orange-ish color.
I like some Munich in an amber and a mix of Crystal malts. I like some Munich and a mix of C40 and C80.. But you can do other mixes and get good brew.
I just did an amber ale with roughly your set-up - 9 lbs of Pale and 2 lbs of Crystal 60L. As has been said Munich is not a substitute for Crystal. Mine ended up with a great smooth mouthfeel (I did mash at 156) from just the Crystal. I'd recommend going with 60L and replacing some of it with any of the other Crystal malts at 80L or below for the layered flavors Yooper describes.
Not sure about proportions of Munich as I've not used it in this style before.
+1 on avoiding excessive crystal content in a beer. I've tasted beers that had up to 20% crystal malts and they were really pushing it with regard to a cloying sweetness that becomes unbeer-like. The 15% value may still be pushing in some beers and a typical limit of 10% is safe.
Munich can be used at up to 100% of a grist, but it wouldn't be appropriate in an Amber Ale. It would be too malty. You need some of the crispness of typical pale malt to moderate that maltiness. Many brewers use a modest proportion of munich malt to enhance the flavor of the beer without getting too malty. You might get away with up to 20% munich in an Amber grist, but I wouldn't go much higher since I find that well hopped beers need a have a more focused and one-dimensional malt flavor profile to avoid clashing with the hops.
Brewing Classic Styles shows:
British Pale Malt - 9.25lb
Munich Malt - 1lb
Crystal 40L - 0.75lb
Crystal 120L - 0.5lb
Victory(28L) - 0.5lb
Mash at 154F
Hop bitterness of 35 IBU (Rager scale)
6 gallon batch size
Thanks so much for the great advice! I loved the Wiki idea about keeping it all American with the hops.
Right now it's looking like:
^^ That looks great. To illustrate the above point(s), the best amber I've made so far uses a pound of Munich, a pound of C120 and half a pound of C80 (two crystals = a bit of complexity), plus a half pound of Carapils. All very nicely balanced at about 32 IBU.
Internet descriptions are great, but there really is no substitute for tasting and smelling things yourself. If your local brew shop sells in bulk, that is great way to learn. If not, spending a buck or so on a half lb of a couple different grains is well worth it if you are going to be designing/tweaking recipes.
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