Craft Malts for Session Beers

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
I'm curious to hear opinions/experiences in using craft malts like Mecca Grade or Admiral malting. In particular, I want to primarily brew session beers and I know using more flavorful base malts is commonly given as advice for these lower-ABV styles. I've heard and seen a lot of talk about Mecca Grade malts from the guys at Brulosophy. Another one I've heard of but less so, is Admiral Malting. I live in California so I like the idea of finding and supporting a craft maltster in my general region if possible. Mecca Grade is from Oregon I believe, which is only one state away. I guess the one concern I do have is with just how distinctly different these malts taste compared to those from the big malting companies. Would there potential issues with trying to brew something somewhat to style but while using these local malts? Obviously, I'd still get most of my specialty grains from a bigger company like Briess or someone like that.

Any personal anecdotes would be great! Cheers!
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
Occasionally, I brew with Lamonta (base malt) and either Opal 22 or Opal 44 (character malts) to make session-able APAs (and beyond ;)).
I'm very curious about those Opal malts. I understand they can be mashed and have the diastatic power similar to typical base malts. However most of the usage rates I've seen tend to be fairly low. Are they somewhat in the crystal malt category as far as character they provide?
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,141
Reaction score
3,128
Location
_
those Opal malts
Generally, I have used them as a replacement for Crystal 20 / 40 - so the usage rate was low as well.

With DPs of 70-ish (Opal 22) and 40-ish (Opal 44), they are self-converting - so the may not be appropriate for a "proper" steep.

For water adjustment purposes, I found that treating them as crystal malts gave good estimates.

I have an unusual brown ale recipe that gets a lot of it's color from 20% Crystal 60 (yes, it's sweet, but occasionally I like a sweeter beer). I substituted Opal 44 in a batch and got a good beer.
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
I definitely won't knock C-60 like many seem to do these days. I'm still a pretty die hard Sierra Nevada fan, and C-60 seems to be their bread and butter in their classic offerings. (Pale, Torpedo, Celebration, Bigfoot... etc). All still wonderful beers in my book.
 

Brooothru

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2012
Messages
2,312
Reaction score
2,222
Location
Either in the brewery or on the road
I definitely won't knock C-60 like many seem to do these days. I'm still a pretty die hard Sierra Nevada fan, and C-60 seems to be their bread and butter in their classic offerings. (Pale, Torpedo, Celebration, Bigfoot... etc). All still wonderful beers in my book.
Not just Sierra Nevada, but Bell's with C-40. Even Russian River uses some crystal malt. Taste trends are drifting away from crystal malts, but these classic beers are still setting the standard. I can appreciate the new direction brewing is heading (lighter, drier, lower ABV) without throwing the solid classics under the bus. I'll leave all that to the hipsters with man-buns.:drunk:
 

jdauria

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 14, 2010
Messages
1,594
Reaction score
933
Location
Braintree
Mecca malts are great, I live in Mass and will order them a few times a year for various brews because they are that good. Usually I order them from F.H. Steinbart in Oregon, because you can order by exact amounts for a recipe.
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
Mecca malts are great, I live in Mass and will order them a few times a year for various brews because they are that good. Usually I order them from F.H. Steinbart in Oregon, because you can order by exact amounts for a recipe.
Have you found yourself having to make any adjustments recipe-wise using Mecca Grade? I’ve heard some say things like to back off the amounts specialty grains a bit because the Mecca Grade base malts are so much more flavorful than the bigger brands. Has that been your experience at all?
 

jdauria

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 14, 2010
Messages
1,594
Reaction score
933
Location
Braintree
Have you found yourself having to make any adjustments recipe-wise using Mecca Grade? I’ve heard some say things like to back off the amounts specialty grains a bit because the Mecca Grade base malts are so much more flavorful than the bigger brands. Has that been your experience at all?

They are definitely more flavorful, but I have not backed off at all, because the recipes I have brewed with Opal 22 and Opal 44, I was looking for a richer malt profile anyway.
 

Hopalong

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2018
Messages
91
Reaction score
24
Generally, I have used them as a replacement for Crystal 20 / 40 - so the usage rate was low as well.

With DPs of 70-ish (Opal 22) and 40-ish (Opal 44), they are self-converting - so the may not be appropriate for a "proper" steep.

For water adjustment purposes, I found that treating them as crystal malts gave good estimates.

I have an unusual brown ale recipe that gets a lot of it's color from 20% Crystal 60 (yes, it's sweet, but occasionally I like a sweeter beer). I substituted Opal 44 in a batch and got a good beer.
If the malt is self converting why won't a "proper" steep work? What is a proper steep, anyway? Isn't malt soaked at a certain temperature for a certain period of time to activate Alpha and Beta?
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,141
Reaction score
3,128
Location
_


a "proper" steep

@Hopalong : many ways to steep properly:
  1. overnight cold steep,
  2. steep from "flame-on" until wort gets to 160F,
  3. cold steep in a side pot while kettle is heating to a boil
  4. steep (at 150F) in a side pot while kettle is heating to a boil
  5. ...
  6. ...
Many of these techniques are not a "proper" mash.

Isn't malt soaked at a certain temperature for a certain period of time to activate Alpha and Beta?
If enzymes are involved, many people would call it a mash.



The point I was trying to make is that one should be aware of the characteristics of specialty / character malts. Some have names that suggest they can be steeped, but they need to be mashed for best results.

edits: formatting.
 
Last edited:

Hopalong

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2018
Messages
91
Reaction score
24
I'm curious to hear opinions/experiences in using craft malts like Mecca Grade or Admiral malting. In particular, I want to primarily brew session beers and I know using more flavorful base malts is commonly given as advice for these lower-ABV styles. I've heard and seen a lot of talk about Mecca Grade malts from the guys at Brulosophy. Another one I've heard of but less so, is Admiral Malting. I live in California so I like the idea of finding and supporting a craft maltster in my general region if possible. Mecca Grade is from Oregon I believe, which is only one state away. I guess the one concern I do have is with just how distinctly different these malts taste compared to those from the big malting companies. Would there potential issues with trying to brew something somewhat to style but while using these local malts? Obviously, I'd still get most of my specialty grains from a bigger company like Briess or someone like that.

Any personal anecdotes would be great! Cheers!
Everyone uses run of the mill malt, no pun intended, because it is recommended in recipes, and usually it is the least expensive malt on the market. Since recipes aren't needed for producing ale and lager because they are a given, it is not a bad idea to stray from the path and try other malts. Mecca Gateway malt is high quality, under modified, malt and it would be an interesting malt to use. The moisture content is on the high side, so the malt will sound different when it is run through a grinder. The mg/L Beta Glucan is high in the malt but it may be a misprint, I'd call the malthouse to see if the malt is high in Beta Glucan. When malt contains a high volume of Beta Glucan a rest at 55 should be used. Malt that is high in Beta Glucan should be avoided. You should use under modified, low protein, malt for making ale and lager because the malt is much richer in enzyme content and in starch/sugar content than high modified, high protein, malt.
Before buying malt a malt data sheet is used. A malt data sheet comes with every bag of malt, they are online, and they are used in brewing for determining the quality of malt before malt is purchased. Modification, protein content, and Beta Glucan are important numbers listed on a spec sheet. The higher the modification, protein content, and Beta Glucan content in malt, the less suitable the malt is for producing ale and lager. Weyermann and Gladfield produce under modified, low protein, malt. To soak the malt at one temperature for an hour doesn't take advantage of the rich, malt. Mecca's Opal 22 looks like interesting malt, as well. I'd mix some Gateway and Opal 22, step mash the malt, which produces pseudo, ale and lager or I'd use the Hochkurz or the triple decoction method which produces authentic ale and lager. I wouldn't buy the expensive malt and soak it at one temperature, I'd use run of the mill malt instead.
 

Beerstein

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 13, 2021
Messages
365
Reaction score
512
Location
Willamette Valley
I've used almost all the Mecca malts. Going out to Mecca Grade about once a year.

I think they are more flavorful. I used some Opal 22 last week. It's got a biscuit taste.

A member here said he reduced the amount of Mecca munich because it was so flavorful. I personally don't back the amounts down.

RE: Munich: I've found it to have some interesting darker fruit flavors than other munich malts.

Something about the cultivar of barley and the malting methods give their malts much higher diastatic power.

TL;DR, use it like you would any other malt.
 

Hopalong

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2018
Messages
91
Reaction score
24




@Hopalong : many ways to steep properly:
  1. overnight cold steep,
  2. steep from "flame-on" until wort gets to 160F,
  3. cold steep in a side pot while kettle is heating to a boil
  4. steep (at 150F) in a side pot while kettle is heating to a boil
  5. ...
  6. ...
Many of these techniques are not a "proper" mash.


If enzymes are involved, many people would call it a mash.



The point I was trying to make is that one should be aware of the characteristics of specialty / character malts. Some have names that suggest they can be steeped, but they need to be mashed for best results.

edits: formatting.
Thank you for clarifying. I wasn't aware that there are a few steeping methods. What determines whether malt/grain is steeped or isn't steeped?
Cold mashing is used for a reason, which has to do with the quality of malt. Steely malt is mashed overnight at 10 to 13 and lager malt is the malt that is rested overnight.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,141
Reaction score
3,128
Location
_
What determines whether malt/grain is steeped or isn't steeped?
At a very, very, very high level: steeping extracts sugars ; mashing converts starches to sugars.

Again, at a very, very, very level: if the malt was kilned so that the starches are converted to sugars, it can be steeped.

eta: clarification
 
Last edited:

AlexKay

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
1,020
Reaction score
2,416
Location
South Bend
I’ve used Mecca Grade, a bunch of their malts. I bought a full bag of Munich at one point. My experience was that it was strong stuff; for instance, I needed to cut it 50/50 with Pilsner to get a drinkable Doppelbock.

I’ve only used Admiral Pils, and frankly, all Pils malt tastes the same to me.

My favorite is the (local to me) Sugar Creek Malts. Good Munich, Vienna, and white wheat, fantastic English pale, and the best smoked malts I’ve found anywhere.
 

mashpaddled

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2018
Messages
965
Reaction score
754
Location
Denver, CO
I've had a lot of beer with grain from Mecca. All good stuff. I can't get Mecca as easily in Denver but I have easy access to Root Shoot here in Colorado which I like a lot. I only use their base malts these days. More flavorful than most of the big North American maltsters and a lot of what we get from Europe. I tend not to use too much specialty malts so I get a good impression of the base malt. Part of the reason why I keep scaling back specialty malts, especially in paler beers, is because the base malt brings plenty of flavor. It's a little more expensive than some of the other grains but worth it IMO.
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
7
Reaction score
3
My favorite is the (local to me) Sugar Creek Malts. Good Munich, Vienna, and white wheat, fantastic English pale, and the best smoked malts I’ve found anywhere.
Hey, my LHBS (Gnome Brew in Chicago) carries a decent selection of their stuff so I've brewed a few batches with simple malt bills that are 100% Sugar Creek. I'm pretty impressed so far. I've been browsing their page and thinking about pulling the trigger on some of their other malts. Since I can pick up their pilsner, standard 2-row, and some other basics locally I'm looking at the rest of their selection. Anything specific that you recommend? I already have their rye, wheat, munich, ye olde pale ale, and vienna in the cart and I am pondering their crystal dark. Though a 10lb bag of that would likely be a lifetime supply for me. I'd probably end up snacking on it so it doesn't go bad. Maybe a biscuit would make sense. I don't play heavy in the specialty malts but if there is something under their Grain + Fire or Oddities pages that I really need to try then I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

I'm curious to hear opinions/experiences in using craft malts like Mecca Grade or Admiral malting. In particular, I want to primarily brew session beers and I know using more flavorful base malts is commonly given as advice for these lower-ABV styles.
It might be slightly off topic but if you are looking for less alcohol with more flavor then you might also be interested in using middlings. Phil Jensen was on an episode of The Brew Files a while back. I haven't dived into using them yet but I found it really intriguing. If you find a reliable source for middlings then maybe it's something to consider. Especially if you're slanting low ABV. Here's the link.
 

AlexKay

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
1,020
Reaction score
2,416
Location
South Bend
Hey, my LHBS (Gnome Brew in Chicago) carries a decent selection of their stuff so I've brewed a few batches with simple malt bills that are 100% Sugar Creek. I'm pretty impressed so far. I've been browsing their page and thinking about pulling the trigger on some of their other malts. Since I can pick up their pilsner, standard 2-row, and some other basics locally I'm looking at the rest of their selection. Anything specific that you recommend? I already have their rye, wheat, munich, ye olde pale ale, and vienna in the cart and I am pondering their crystal dark. Though a 10lb bag of that would likely be a lifetime supply for me. I'd probably end up snacking on it so it doesn't go bad. Maybe a biscuit would make sense. I don't play heavy in the specialty malts but if there is something under their Grain + Fire or Oddities pages that I really need to try then I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
Among Sugar Creek's base grains, the real knock-your-socks-off standout is the Ye Olde Pale Ale. I've stopped using Maris Otter completely in favor of it. I also really like their Munich, white wheat, and Vienna.

I really, really like their crystal rye and find excuses to use it in all kinds of things -- instead of medium crystal in a pale ale, instead of Special B in a dubbel, you name it. And yes, it's good to snack on.

Their lavender-smoked malt is also special. The lavender is quite subtle; I use it at 50% in a pale lager and the competition judge said, "there's something spicy and floral here but it's faint and I can't put my finger on it. Unusual hop choice?" I also use it at >50% in a helles eisbock. Even if you're not a fan of smoked malts this might be a fun one to experiment with.

If you are fan of smoked malts, there seem to be their regular smoked malts, which are fine and comparable to smoked malts from anywhere else, and their sainnhus malts which are powerful, flavorful, and unlike anything I've found. In the latter category are their rauchmalz and Grodziskie, which are superb, though I had to tweak my recipes down to 10% smoked malt or so. (10% Sugar Creek Grodz. gives more flavor than 100% Weyermann oak-smoked wheat.)

I have their chocolate and chocolate rye, and they're good, but not better-than-anywhere-else good.

The only things I've tried so far that I haven't like are their biscuit (I prefer Briess Victory) and their C120 (which was just too bland.)
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
7
Reaction score
3
Among Sugar Creek's base grains, the real knock-your-socks-off standout is the Ye Olde Pale Ale. I've stopped using Maris Otter completely in favor of it. I also really like their Munich, white wheat, and Vienna.

I really, really like their crystal rye and find excuses to use it in all kinds of things -- instead of medium crystal in a pale ale, instead of Special B in a dubbel, you name it. And yes, it's good to snack on.

Their lavender-smoked malt is also special. The lavender is quite subtle; I use it at 50% in a pale lager and the competition judge said, "there's something spicy and floral here but it's faint and I can't put my finger on it. Unusual hop choice?" I also use it at >50% in a helles eisbock. Even if you're not a fan of smoked malts this might be a fun one to experiment with.

If you are fan of smoked malts, there seem to be their regular smoked malts, which are fine and comparable to smoked malts from anywhere else, and their sainnhus malts which are powerful, flavorful, and unlike anything I've found. In the latter category are their rauchmalz and Grodziskie, which are superb, though I had to tweak my recipes down to 10% smoked malt or so. (10% Sugar Creek Grodz. gives more flavor than 100% Weyermann oak-smoked wheat.)

I have their chocolate and chocolate rye, and they're good, but not better-than-anywhere-else good.

The only things I've tried so far that I haven't like are their biscuit (I prefer Briess Victory) and their C120 (which was just too bland.)
Wow! Very glad that I asked. I already had Ye Olde earmarked but after this I think I'm going to up the amount and just hold off getting another sack of MO. Munich, white wheat, and Vienna are all already on the list. I REALLY wanted to get their crystal rye but they just recently went out of stock. I will definitely have to keep my eye out for it when it comes back!

I'm not averse to smoked malts but I typically keep them more in the background just based on my own taste. My LHBS actually has that lavender-smoked in stock but I haven't got around to it yet. I will be picking some up the next time I'm there based on these notes. That's crazy that at 50% it still came through that subtly. I'm actually pretty excited about this one now and will make sure not to be shy with it. The minimum 10lb of rauchmalz might be a little much but a nice smoked German lager makes a great argument in favor.

I was already iffy about the chocolate rye and the biscuit so those are both out. Maybe I will get around to them some day. Perhaps when I get down there to take a tour. I should be in the area in the fall and really want to make that happen.

Cheers and thanks again!
 

natmartin

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 8, 2009
Messages
50
Reaction score
34
Location
Alameda, CA
Admiral makes fantastic malts. I've been seeing their malt used a lot more in local bay area brewers. I've been working my way through a 50lb bag of Gallagher's Best, and it gives a really fantastic malt character.
 
Top