Originally Posted by Barley_Bob
Both are solid pieces of advice. I'll probably ease in and use some munich and a pound (~7.5%) of 60L.
Yooper, I keep reminding myself that your IPA and APA recipes all (or mostly all?) use at least some crystal, and that there's no real reason to avoid it. I've done great without it, but there isn't a reason for the door to be shut.
J187, I'll probably tip-toe into it to prove to myself it works (hence ~1lb). With an early success, I'll try inching that number upward. I probably won't brew this until September, so I have some time to adjust.
Some of my APAs and IPAs have no crystal malt at all, but others have 7-10%. It depends on the recipe, and the hopping.
A great American amber (red) may have 15% crystal, in 'layers' of crystal like 1.25 pounds of crystal 20L and .50 pound of 80L, and as long as it's bittered and hopped appropriately, it is a balanced and tasty beer. Some other beer styles, like cream ale may have none.
I likened crystal malt to salt earlier- but how about we compare it to onions? I don't put onions in my cherry pie, but I do put it in many things from meatloaf to chip dip. Onions are awesome, and they have a myriad of uses from tiny amounts in the chip dip to huge amounts in French onion soup. But sometimes, you don't want onions at all because you're making ice cream sundaes!
The same is true with crystal malts. Pilsners tend to have no crystal at all, except for some carapils (dextrin malt) which is technically a crystal malt. An American amber may have 10-15% crystal malt. And other beer styles may have 0-12% too, depending on the goals of the beer.
I think some people tend to demonize crystal malt because it's one of those grains that can be steeped so extract brewers can use it and it's used more often than any other specialty grain. Because of that, some people may consider it a crutch, but it's not.
Crystal malts enhance body and mouthfeel, and the lightest ones can bring a tiny bit of fullness to the beer without being cloying. Crystal 10L is nice in lighter beers, while 120L or special b has a definite 'toffee' or 'raisin' flavor in it. One of my friends owns a nano brewery, and his big selling brown has special b in it. It's great, but not sweet.
Since crystal comes in many flavors/colors, from carapils to caramel 20L to special b (120L+), by eliminating it from recipes is to limit yourself to just a few styles of beer.
I love other grains, too- victory malt, biscuit malt, amber malt, etc- for specialty grains. But by eliminating crystal malt from beer styles where it fits perfectly is limiting yourself from branching out into another dimension of flavors.