N.B.: This is kind of long, but I think it's interesting anyway. If you want, you can skip the background info and start at the bolded text below.
So I was reading a bit about cereal mashes and discussing the idea with a few other brewers. For those unfamiliar with the process, here's an outline of the process cribbed from the Maltose Falcons' web page:
-- In mashtun 1, crushed cereal grains (e.g., rice) are boiled to gelatinize them, making a heavy "porridge." The temperature is adjusted to saccharification temperatures, and a portion of malt is added to add enzymes.
-- In mashtun 2, the bulk of the grist is doughed in for a protein rest.
-- Mashtun 1 is then brought back to the boil and stirred like crazy while boiling for about 15 minutes. Of course, this denatures all the enzymes.
-- The contents of mashtun 1 are then added to mashtun 2, stabilizing the whole mess at conversion temperatures.
The whole process gives great extraction on the cereal portion of the mash because the boil breaks up the particles and releases all the starch into the liquid where the enzymes in tun 2 can get at them. The temperatures actually work out pretty well if 1/3 of the mash goes in tun 1 and 2/3 in tun 2.
I was then thinking about the cereal side of the mash and realized that it's essentially a decoction. What would happen, then, if instead of cereal grains, I used malted barley for the whole grist? Would the boil of the first tun act like a decoction? That is, would malty flavors be increased? How would my extraction and efficiency be affected?
Therefore, I have come up with an experiment. I will make two beers using the same recipe but different mash techniques, and I will compare the resulting beers to see what differences I can find.
The first beer will be done with a pretty normal step-infusion mash with rests at 122 and 152. The second beer will be done with the cereal-mash method outlined above, with the single change that there will be no cereal grains and no gelatinization boil. The grists will be the same in composition and weight to provide some kind of control for flavor, color, and gravity.
The question, then, is: what kind of grist (and overall recipe) should I use?
I was considering using Pilsner malt as the basis for the beer since it is traditionally mashed by decoction, but I haven't done lagers yet and want to avoid that variable for now. I know Pilsner malt makes fine ales, too, but I already have a Kolsch on draught and don't really need any more golden beer at the moment. EDIT to clarify - I know I can also make amber and darker beers with Pilsner malt, and my mind is open on the matter. Feel free to suggest it as the basis for a beer.
2-row ale malt, of course, would be a delicious basis for a pale ale. I want to stay away from really hoppy beers for this experiment, since the focus is on the malt character. Belgian yeasts are probably out for much the same reason.
So please give me ideas on recipes I can make twice by these methods. A simple grist of about 20 pounds would be ideal (I do ten-gallon batches), and the emphasis should be on malt rather than hops or yeast.