Crystal 60 in hoppy 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 seem to keep seeing things written about crystal 60 lately saying that it tends to promote oxidation character in hoppy beers more so than other malts. My question is then, how is it that Sierra Nevada’s beers like Pale and Torpedo still taste so damn good even at 3+ months old? I even had some of last year’s Celebration ale recently and it was still very good. C60 seems to be the backbone of each of these beers, but in my opinion these beers hold up way better than just about any others out there. Especially a lot of these modern uber dry-hopped pils malt based IPAs. I understand SN still does some bottle conditioning so I’m sure that’s part of the story. But otherwise, I don’t know how they seem to defy everything people say nowadays about C60 with hops. -🤷‍♂️
 

kingmatt

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 26, 2010
Messages
1,397
Reaction score
1,422
Sierra Nevada has the benefit of being a professional brewery with state of the art technology and decades of experience in minimizing oxidation with their beers.

Nobody says you can't make a good hoppy beer with 60L but you have to really know what you are doing.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
@Pehlman17 : what have you been reading - beyond forum posts where people repeat what others have said in forum posts?

eta: IIRC, in some of the discussion I've scanned, there is a reference to a pro brewer. I'm curious about this topic and willing to read (or listen to) those original sources.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
I suppose it has mostly been anecdotal yet from published sources. A Craft Beer and Brewing article as well as one of their podcasts with a pro brewer. I think I’ve heard the same on a Brewing Network podcast once or twice. I assume it’s just one of those things now that people say as fact. That’s what got me wondering how one of the highest quality breweries could use this ingredient with such success while so many other seems to be avoiding it like the plague.
 

day_trippr

Structural Duct Tape Sales Engineer
Joined
May 31, 2011
Messages
38,656
Reaction score
21,850
Location
Stow, MA
When 75% of my brews were New England IPAs my crystal/caramel malt usage plummeted to near zero.
I only use them now for classic English styles (warmers, pales, porters/stouts, etc).
I do believe they tend to detract "fresh" character...or at least confuse the appreciation of such...

Cheers!
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
When 75% of my brews were New England IPAs my crystal/caramel malt usage plummeted to near zero.
I only use them now for classic English styles (warmers, pales, porters/stouts, etc).
I do believe they tend to detract "fresh" character...or at least confuse the appreciation of such...

Cheers!
I think you may be onto something there. I wonder if we taste the flavors that come with those mid-to-high-level crystal malts and just associate them with things we also associate with oxidation. Sherry, caramel, dark fruits, etc. I think when handled correctly I also get a lot of grainy fresh-baked bread quality from these malts that, at least to me, plays out as fresh tasting.
 

MaxStout

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 29, 2013
Messages
13,625
Reaction score
14,256
Location
Inside a Klein Bottle
I can believe that crystal malts, especially when overused, can muddle the flavor. I don't believe that has anything to do with C60 directly promoting oxidation. Perhaps in a few cases it just mimics some undesirable flavors and the brewers made a leap of faith.

A more likely explanation behind these anecdotes floating around the internet might be a few brewers using old, stale malt.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
As I was gathering links for the initial review / read, I came across this: (Internet Archives capture for SNPA [Aug 13, 2006 - link]):

1650670301923.png


Lots of delightful adjectives in the description.
 

OleBrewing

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2013
Messages
575
Reaction score
430
Location
Jamestown
If you ask me c60 or at a minimum 40 is a must in American pale ales. It balances everything out. These light bitter versions are only there to exploit the hop only. A true pale ale IMO brings the malt and hop together in harmony just like cooking. I wouldn't want a dish with so much cilantro it makes it one bitter mess.
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
If you ask me c60 or at a minimum 40 is a must in American pale ales. It balances everything out. These light bitter versions are only there to exploit the hop only. A true pale ale IMO brings the malt and hop together in harmony just like cooking. I wouldn't want a dish with so much cilantro it makes it one bitter mess.
I couldn’t agree more. I like to look at beers the same way as I would a dish I was cooking. A little salt, some acidity, or an herbal garnish can do wonders to really make a meal pop. But any of those things used in excess could totally ruin the dish. However, without them at all, the dish would be bland and boring. I worry we are in a phase where we think all beers are better off with no crystal malts just because they may have been overdone in the past. Too much or none at all can both be bad. There’s got to be a Goldilocks zone I assume.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
Here's the basic brewing radio episode where Mitch Steele talks about this it's the Dec. 13, 2012 episode. He doesn't mention oxidation but that it takes away from the hops.
I definitely get what Mitch is talking about, particularly when it comes to DIPA. Once you get into the 9%+ ABV range Crystal malts can really create a divergence between Barleywine and DIPA. Plus the alcohol gives so much body and character in and of itself that I can see that you might not need/want crystal malts in that case.

As a west coast guy, I definitely get it. I remember the old days (before hazy) when east coast IPA was something I thought was still holding on too tightly to the English roots. Too much malt and “sweetness” is what I thought at the time. But now I’m concerned the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. IPAs now seem so delicate and fragile relative to where they once were. Of course the IBU wars were ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean bitterness itself was bad. Same with Crystal malts. Sure they may have been overused, but that doesn’t mean taking them down to zero is the solution. It might actually just cause other issues.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
26,417
Reaction score
6,361
Location
Whitehouse Station
If you ask me c60 or at a minimum 40 is a must in American pale ales. It balances everything out. These light bitter versions are only there to exploit the hop only. A true pale ale IMO brings the malt and hop together in harmony just like cooking. I wouldn't want a dish with so much cilantro it makes it one bitter mess.

There are many other ways of bringing malt complexity to a pale ale that does not involve crystal malts including Vienna, Munich, Victory/Biscuit and blending American and British pale malts. You can control the body via mash temp to make your own dextrines. I'm partial to a good portion of Vienna because it adds a candy like character without being overly sweet and that plays quite well with hops. I've actually done a SMASH pale ale with 100% Vienna and Mosaic hops and that was one of my best pale ales.
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
There are many other ways of bringing malt complexity to a pale ale that does not involve crystal malts including Vienna, Munich, Victory/Biscuit and blending American and British pale malts. You can control the body via mash temp to make your own dextrines. I'm partial to a good portion of Vienna because it adds a candy like character without being overly sweet and that plays quite well with hops. I've actually done a SMASH pale ale with 100% Vienna and Mosaic hops and that was one of my best pale ales.
I had a SMASH pale not too long ago of Vienna and Centennial, and it was glorious.
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
For what it’s worth I’m not trying to make the case that Crystal malts are essential to good beer. I’m just wondering if maybe they aren’t quite the boogeyman they’ve become lately.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
This was captured in the Internet Archives in Dec 2007.

1650711511333.png


Everyone tastes beer differently. With experienced (and opinionated) home brewers, those test preferences will up in recipe design, equipment, and process. Compare this list to ideas in Brewing Better Beer and Modern Homebrew Recipes.

edit: replaced image with a cleaner copy.
 
Last edited:

jrgtr42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
Messages
1,831
Reaction score
1,171
Location
Metrowest, Massachusets.
I definitely get what Mitch is talking about, particularly when it comes to DIPA. Once you get into the 9%+ ABV range Crystal malts can really create a divergence between Barleywine and DIPA. Plus the alcohol gives so much body and character in and of itself that I can see that you might not need/want crystal malts in that case.
But keep in mind that many barleywines are just pale malt, no crystal / caramel at all. It’s just boiled for a couple hours to concentrate the flavors and promote Maillard reactions. Many barleywines fresh are almost indistinguishable from a dipa/ tips.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
I haven't listed to the Mitch Steele podcasts, but I did revisit his IPA book. There is discussion about the use (and misuse) of specialty malts (munich, crystal, black, ...) in IPAs and other hoppy beers. Bring the hop flavors to the forefront. Yeast flavors, if any, complement the hops. Malt flavors, if any, complement the hops.

With regard to the slowing changing definition of "hoppy beers", "IPA", (etc), Michael Tonsmeire wrote an interesting article: "The Evolution of IPA) in the May-June 2020 of BYO Magazine (link).

Historical IPA, Classic IPA, east coast IPA, west coast IPA, New England IPAs, milk-shake IPA. attach a timeframe (1980s, late 1990s, late 2010s, ...), ...

eta: hoppy beers: different time periods, different places, different taste preferences, different results.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
SNPA: clone recipe, from AHA's Big Brew Day 2000 (link). It's similar, yet different, from other "clone" recipes from the 1980s (Microbrewed Adventures), BYO Magazine (2008-ish?), SNPA's web site, ...

Nearly Nirvana Pale Ale
Official Recipe of Big Brew 2000
[...]​
All-Grain Recipe for 5 gallons:
6.5 gallons water (2.5 mash, 4 sparge)​
1 T Gypsum (unless using hard water)​
9 lb U.S. two row malt​
1/2 lb U.S. crystal malt 60 L​
1/2 lb U.S. dextrin malt​
1 oz Perle hops (bittering)​
1oz Cascade hops (flavor)​
1/2 t Irish moss​
1/2 oz Cascade hops (aroma)​
1oz Cascade hops (dry hop)​
Wyeast 1056 liquid ale yeast​

Extract with Grain Recipe for 5 gallons:
[... follow the link if interested ...]​

90% base malt, 5% dextrin, 5% Crystal 60.
 

BeerAndTele

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 1, 2021
Messages
208
Reaction score
432
Location
Pittsburgh
I suppose it has mostly been anecdotal yet from published sources. A Craft Beer and Brewing article as well as one of their podcasts with a pro brewer. I think I’ve heard the same on a Brewing Network podcast once or twice.
I also heard mention of it in an interview with Vinny Cilurzo from Russian River. I started a thread about it in the Brew Science forum recently; if you’re interested in the Cilurzo interview, there‘s a link to it in the linked thread below. I think I saw the same Craft Beer and Brewing article you referenced, as well. Not a lot of details to be found, it seems.

 

Alan Reginato

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2021
Messages
160
Reaction score
127
Location
Brazil
I used to brew with crystal malt in my earlier brews. They probably tasted like a strong bitter and I tried the full range of malt colours.

And I found out that I don't like the sweetness that they leave behind. Also, to me, they mute hops and yeasts flavours.

Just kilned and roasted for my now. Eventually I could use it again, but in lower proportions.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
I seem to keep seeing things written about crystal 60 lately saying that it tends to promote oxidation character in hoppy beers more so than other malts.

Urban Dictionary offers one definition of shenanigans: 'feisty fun with jokes & rowdy behavior.' Using this definition, I stand with @MaxStout, and call shenanigans.

I leave open the possibility that some one, some where, actually referenced the science that supports the often repeated claim.

My question is then, how is it that Sierra Nevada’s beers like Pale and Torpedo still taste so damn good even at 3+ months old? I even had some of last year’s Celebration ale recently and it was still very good. C60 seems to be the backbone of each of these beers, but in my opinion these beers hold up way better than just about any others out there.

A starting point for some ideas on the science can be found in the book, The New IPA. There is some information on crystal malts, including some references to scientific papers. The crystal malt discussion in The New IPA appears to be in the context of low usage (5% or less) of crystal malts. Early in the book (p 22) there's a parenthetical: "... mash hopping (which chapter 14 suggests may help improve beer stability)...".

For valid claims that C60 promotes oxidation, there may be techniques that mitigate the impact. Or maybe not. 🤷‍♂️

A true pale ale IMO brings the malt and hop together in harmony just like cooking.
+1!
 

jjmak

Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2017
Messages
5
Reaction score
4
There are many other ways of bringing malt complexity to a pale ale that does not involve crystal malts including Vienna, Munich, Victory/Biscuit and blending American and British pale malts. You can control the body via mash temp to make your own dextrines. I'm partial to a good portion of Vienna because it adds a candy like character without being overly sweet and that plays quite well with hops. I've actually done a SMASH pale ale with 100% Vienna and Mosaic hops and that was one of my best pale ales.
Your SMASH sounds tasty. What yeast did you use?
 
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
Urban Dictionary offers one definition of shenanigans: 'feisty fun with jokes & rowdy behavior.' Using this definition, I stand with @MaxStout, and call shenanigans.

I leave open the possibility that some one, some where, actually referenced the science that supports the often repeated claim.



A starting point for some ideas on the science can be found in the book, The New IPA. There is some information on crystal malts, including some references to scientific papers. The crystal malt discussion in The New IPA appears to be in the context of low usage (5% or less) of crystal malts. Early in the book (p 22) there's a parenthetical: "... mash hopping (which chapter 14 suggests may help improve beer stability)...".

For valid claims that C60 promotes oxidation, there may be techniques that mitigate the impact. Or maybe not. 🤷‍♂️


+1!
After thinking about it some more, I’m wondering if the problems many see with C60 could be a product the way the beer was hopped. Perhaps maintaining a heavier hot-side hop load, as I’m sure these more classic Pales/IPAs did, created some more long-term stability. Nowadays with hopping being so cold-side heavy I can see how the flavor of Crystal malts could just exacerbate any oxidation issues. As far as them actually promoting oxidized flavors, I’m unsure but definitely curious.
 

bwible

I drink, and I know things
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 31, 2017
Messages
2,163
Reaction score
4,294
Location
Oxford, PA
I'm calling shenanigans on this. I'd like to see the science behind this assertion that C60 is more prone to promoting oxidation character.
Yeah how is Crystal 60 any different than Crystal 40 or Crystal 80 or Crystal 120 and if 60 was super oxidative somehow due to the process of making it then why wouldn’t 40 or 80, one direction or the other, be worse?

I’ve taken to blending cyrstal malts of different colors, like 40 and 60 or 20 and 60, or 80 and 20. The reason to do this is I can get more crystal malt percentage of the grist for the same or less color value. 1/2 pound of 60 with 1/2 pound of 20 for example gives an average color for the pound of 40, but its different from using a pound of 40 because you get a blend of the lighter and darker crystal flavors.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
P

Pehlman17

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2022
Messages
89
Reaction score
140
Yeah how is Crystal 60 any different than Crystal 40 or Crystal 80 or Crystal 120 and if 60 was super oxidative somehow due to the process of making it then why wouldn’t 40 or 80, one direction or the other, be worse?

I’ve taken to blending cyrstal malts of different colors, like 40 and 60 or 20 and 60, or 80 and 20. The reason to do this is I can get more crystal malt percentage of the grist for the same or less color value. 1/2 pound of 60 with 1/2 pound of 20 for example gives an average color for the pound of 40, but its different from using a pound of 40 because you get a blend of the lighter and darker crystal flavors.
Same here. My LHBS always has C-15 and C-75 on hand. I’ve found these balance each other well and there’s a lot of different ratios to try out depending on what color I’m shooting for. I typically keep my total crystal malt load at 5% of the total grist. I’ve tried pulling them out completely and replacing them with things like Munich and/or Victory (like many recommend), but I always end up feeling like something is missing or the flavor just isn’t what I wanted.
 

jcfontario

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 16, 2021
Messages
52
Reaction score
68
There are many other ways of bringing malt complexity to a pale ale that does not involve crystal malts including Vienna, Munich, Victory/Biscuit and blending American and British pale malts. You can control the body via mash temp to make your own dextrines. I'm partial to a good portion of Vienna because it adds a candy like character without being overly sweet and that plays quite well with hops. I've actually done a SMASH pale ale with 100% Vienna and Mosaic hops and that was one of my best pale ales.
That Vienna-Mosaic SMASH Pale ale sounds yummy, Bobby M. What was your mash temperature and hops addition profile? I haven't had a good Vienna since I was last in Austria.
 

OleBrewing

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2013
Messages
575
Reaction score
430
Location
Jamestown
There are many other ways of bringing malt complexity to a pale ale that does not involve crystal malts including Vienna, Munich, Victory/Biscuit and blending American and British pale malts. You can control the body via mash temp to make your own dextrines. I'm partial to a good portion of Vienna because it adds a candy like character without being overly sweet and that plays quite well with hops. I've actually done a SMASH pale ale with 100% Vienna and Mosaic hops and that was one of my best pale ales.
Well very true. I was typically speaking of American. A rich Munich or straight maris otter would be excellent choices.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
26,417
Reaction score
6,361
Location
Whitehouse Station
Well very true. I was typically speaking of American. A rich Munich or straight maris otter would be excellent choices.

I actually mean that there is more flexibility in malt selection in beer styles than many people suspect. American Pale Ale is primarily driven by laying American (not noble) hop bitterness, flavor and aromas on top of a neutral malt base fermented with some kind of ale yeast. There are of course limits to how far you can stray but malt is probably the most flexible in that particular style. Bottom line, you can make an APA that passes as "in style" to an experienced judge with or without caramel malts. I'm not talking about some session version of a NEIPA that some craft breweries are calling pale ale either.
 
Last edited:

OleBrewing

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2013
Messages
575
Reaction score
430
Location
Jamestown
I actually mean that there is more flexibility in malt selection in beer styles than many people suspect. American Pale Ale is primarily driven by laying American (not noble) hop bitterness, flavor and aromas on top of a neutral malt base fermented with some kind of ale yeast. There are of course limits to how far you can stray but malt is probably the most flexible in that particular style. Bottom line, you can make an APA that passes as "in style" to an experienced judge with or without caramel malts. I'm not talking about some session version of a NEIPA that some craft breweries are calling pale ale either.
Very true. I kinda posted a rant about the invasive light grain hopped "pale ales". Give me a summit epa any day for a standard. Of course the original post about crystal malt is ludicrous in high hopped ales.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
Vinnie from Russian River discussing (at 8 minutes)

A similar video apparently from the same video channel was mentioned earlier as part of a related thread here at HomeBrewTalk

I also heard mention of it in an interview with Vinny Cilurzo from Russian River. I started a thread about it in the Brew Science forum recently; if you’re interested in the Cilurzo interview, there‘s a link to it in the linked thread below. I think I saw the same Craft Beer and Brewing article you referenced, as well. Not a lot of details to be found, it seems.


Was there anything in the video that offered a possible answer to the original question?

My question is then, how is it that Sierra Nevada’s beers like Pale and Torpedo still taste so damn good even at 3+ months old?

edits for better formatting.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
4,156
Reaction score
3,148
Location
_
This, from an article at Craft Beer and Brewing ("Paint the Town Brown - link" - Jun 26, 2021) on brown ales (including Janet's Brown Ale),
Cilurzo’s preferred approach to a brown ale layers in malt flavors from a blend of crystal and chocolate, to push from sweet caramel to slightly bitter toffee and finally to a dry chocolate with a firm bitterness. He combines midrange crystal malts (such as 40L) and chocolate malt to get that effect. If you’re worried about the complexity you’d get from just the two malts, you could always combine several crystal malts to boost complexity. Cilurzo makes a point to differentiate between crystal (drum roasted) and caramel (kilned at higher temperature) because he senses higher roast notes in the crystal, which he prefers for a brown ale.
may suggest that crystal/caramel malts are appropriate for many styles of beer.

This article doesn't directly answer OPs question, but (as I mentioned earlier) if oxidation is a factor, there may be some mitigation techniques in The New IPA (or in other resources). Or hop processing and packaging (or lack there of) may be a factor. Or roasting vs kilning may be a factor. Packaging is certainly a consideration.
 
Top