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Old 04-21-2014, 01:49 AM   #11
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There are a lot more than 4 base grains!

You could spend a ton of time on trying them all. Basically, there are similarities between different "types"- like US two-row is relatively plain. UK varieties (maris otter, golden promise) tend to be a bit "breadier". German malts vary a bit based on type, but they tend to be "continental" in flavor- that is as expected with a clean flavor. Some, like Munich malt (both the US and German versions) are very "malty" in flavor compared to general US two-row.

One way to look at it is to just see where the grains are made, and that will give a clue. Also, the flavor descriptors help alot.

Wheat and rye, and other grains like corn, are special grains that are used for their characteristics but it would be very rare to have 100% of any of those.

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Old 04-21-2014, 02:15 AM   #12
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Designing Great Beers is a great book, but there is more information available than the usual noob brewer can even understand. I have been brewing almost three years, and my wife got it for me as a gift, as I had already blown through every book available for two counties at their libraries. As an example, pick a style and look it up. DGB tells what the predominant grain was, the second grain, and third, etc., percentage wise to see what beers that got to at least the second round in National Judging were using a similar grain bill, and which weren't used as often.

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Old 04-21-2014, 02:28 AM   #13
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Interesting thread, I'm curious, but more as to opinions of base malt differences by the maltsters. I've left extract behind and have a few AG under my belt, now just bought a grain mill (cereal killer its called) and picked up a 50# sack of GW 2 row. I mostly brew IPAs and stout/porters (which will use Thomas Fawcett I suppose, e.g. want to clone a Founder's breakfast stout). So my hope was this thread was for opinions on maltsters and use to type (thanks Beernik for your opinion!).

Don't mean to hijack your thread Matthew, so will start a new one if this to off topic!

Cheers

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Old 04-21-2014, 03:04 PM   #14
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I agree with what several people have already said. What you listed as base malt isn't really accurate. You'll want to try several different versions of 2-row (American 2-row, pale malt, pale ale malt, Maris Otter, Golden Promise, Munich, etc.) and then just use wheat, rye, oats, corn, rice, and whatever else at smaller percentages.

I've been making my own recipes or at least altering recipe kits for a while now. My first beer from my own recipe was what many people would call muddled. I went for too much of too many flavors. I still really enjoyed it, and it got better and better as it aged (it was a big beer). I drank the last bottle about 18 months after brewing it, and it was delicious.

IMO, the best route to figuring out which grains you like is to think about what your extract recipes used. I used Northern Brewer's extract most of the time, when I did extract. So, I knew that if I used the Maris Otter extract in a recipe, I'd try out Maris Otter grain in an all-grain version. If I used the Gold LME in a recipe, then I knew I should use American 2-row and some crystal malts. Then also think about which specialty/steeping grains were included in your extract recipes. Unless you've done 100% extract and never steeped any grains, you should have some experience with at least a few specialty grains.

So, take that knowledge and just try out some grains. Read the descriptions and try out the ones that sound good. I've tried things in sometimes weird combinations, and still felt like I could pick out which grain was adding which flavors.

If you don't trust yourself to identify flavors with specific grains, then just do simpler recipes. Do a couple SMaSH batches. Then, start adding one specialty grain. And so on.

The really involved, systematic experiments can give you a thorough knowledge of certain grains. But I like to brew beer that I like to drink, so I've just played around with some grains while making styles that I like.

With my Porter recipe, I've played around with the amount of Chocolate malt I use, and I've gotten a good idea of how much would be too much. With a couple pale ales and amber ales, I've gotten pretty close to figuring out how much (and what kind of) crystal malt fits my taste.

There's no 'right' way to figure this out. You just have to decide which kind of approach fits your goals and taste in beer.

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Old 04-21-2014, 10:36 PM   #15
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going AG doesn't necessarily mean you need to invent every recipe you make, unless you want to, of course. my LHBS has the same AG recipes as the extract versions I was making.

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Old 04-22-2014, 09:50 AM   #16
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I recommend that you try to recreate the extract recipes that you love, but this time using all grain. Once you're happy there, do some SMASH brews, or branch out a little bit and use different adjunct grains on some of your old standbys. Now that I have 25 or so all-grains under my belt, I have an easier time varying my recipes to try different things.

It's kind of like cooking - once you get a hang for the basics, you can start throwing in a little of this and a little of that. Be careful though, because - much like cooking - it's pretty easy to wind up with too much going on in your beer.

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Old 04-22-2014, 10:22 AM   #17
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I say..."BREW!". If your like me, you started brewing because the "mainstream" beers are unsatisfactory.
I have been doing this for 1 year, and I am still experimenting. Base malts, caramel malts, special malts, roasted malts, adjucts, candi syrups, yeast strains, fermentation temps, mash schedules...a home brewer could spend a lifetime experimenting. And what fun it is!
Sure, I have a few books too. But I need to "taste" the beers to truely know the differences. I share my "experiments" with friends and family. So far, they love being guinea pigs!

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Old 04-22-2014, 10:30 AM   #18
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My first few AG batches were the SMASH variety to get a feel for a few base grains. Then a couple of wheat + pale ale malt + crystal, different hops and yeast. The next few batches have been clones (or highly inspired by) from the recipe section on the forum. That's got my fermenters full right now. Next up? Another SMASH recipe or two with a different mash temp and different hops than the first time around.

Switching it up seems to provide a good balance of ending up with known quality from the recipes others have been kind enough to share, experimentation to get a feel for different grains / hops / yeast, and keeping a nice mixed inventory of stock on hand.

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Old 04-22-2014, 10:44 AM   #19
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My very first batch was all grain and I've never done anything but. There have been a lot of good suggestions so far:

First, don't overthink it. Your local store will likely let you chew on a few to get a sense of the flavors you'll get.
Read books and look at recipes. Compare extract recipes to the equivalent all grain recipe to see how the extract compares to the grain.
The Brewing Elements book "Malt" is due out in September (I say this only to add it to your reading list later).

Talk to your local brewers. Start with a recipe you like. Decide how you'd like to augment or change the flavor and ask how to do it. Ask what adding Maris Otter would do versus Munich will do.

And when you start to change your recipes, change slowly! My biggest failures have come from changing recipes to fast and going to extremes.

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