Grain Flights are they a thing?

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jcrawford

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I am just getting into brewing and I would love to buy a grain flight from somewhere so that I can
choose the grains and have an ounce or so of each sent. This is basically so that I can use them to
understand the flavors and colors that would come from the grains without having to buy pounds
of them at a time never knowing if I will use them.

Has anyone seen a grain vendor offering up a flight package of say 5-100 different grains?
I have not been able to find anything through Google and figured I would ask here.

If this is not a thing and there is a better way how do you suggest someone new to the hobby
explore different grains without having to spend a ton of money.
 

MaxStout

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You could take it a step farther and buy some base malt (or extract), then make small batches with the addition of an ounce or two of a different specialty malt in each. Brew some 1 gallon beers, bitter all with a hop you like, pitch a little neutral dry yeast into each and ferment in gallon jugs.
 

AlexKay

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As was said, BrewHardware.com sells by the ounce. Adventures in Homebrewing (homebrewing.org) and Great Fermentations (greatfermentations.com) sell less-than-pound quantities as well.

After discovering it for myself, I'm a big fan of eating malt straight to figure out what it tastes like. Just be careful to take small amounts of roasted malts. Also, don't eat oats that still have husks.
 

IslandLizard

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Buying an ounce or so of a variety of grains, to chew, will give you indeed a good idea of what different grains taste like and contribute to the mix that becomes beer eventually.

Just don't forget, once they get mashed (converted to fermentable sugars), boiled, then fermented into beer, they will taste and smell quite differently, even at each stage of the whole process. IOW, there's a substantial transformation of flavor (and aroma) taking place during those processes while other products are formed at the same time (alcohol, carbonation, and flavor/aroma transformation products, etc.).

You could make small volumes of very low hopped SMASH-type beers (Same MAlt Same Hop), so you can taste what each of them will yield to the beer. For that, an ounce of grain is not enough, you'd need about a 8-16 oz or so, to make between 1 and 2 quarts of beer in the end.

I brewed a small tasting set like that for a malt (tasting) presentation, and it was a whole lot of work to make 6 all-grain beers, 2-3 12oz bottles each. The one issue I encountered early was finding suitably sized small fermentation vessels (I used 48-56 oz PET mayonnaise jars).

Brewing 1-2 gallons batches of various SMASH beers will take about the same amount of time, with something decent to drink and enjoy in the end. ;)
 
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how do you suggest someone new to the hobby explore different grains without having to spend a ton of money.
Chewing on a couple of kernels of malt is one way. With local home brew stores, this is a practical way to learn about a couple of grains over time. Compare Crystal 40 vs Crystal 80 from the same brand. Compare an American crystal malt vs a European crystal malt of the same °L.

One can "chew on a couple of kernels" while brewing a recipe. Assuming you have a grain mill, you can sample each of the malts before milling them.

Study similar beer styles. Compare a "strong bitter" to a "pale ale". Compare an "amber lager" to an "ambler ale" to an irish red.

If you like amber ales, find an Amber Ale recipe that uses just Crystal 60; that uses just Crystal 40/60 & Chocolate malt; that uses just Crystal 40/60 and black malt; that uses just RedX. Brew the recipes that interest you (and sample the various malts along the way).

Compare base malts: brew a pale ale with a "2 row brewers malt" from two different brands. Compare a pale ale made with "2 row brewers malt" to "Pale Ale" malt (same brand).

Before SMaSH, there were a number of published "base" recipes for pale ales (or IPAs) for taste testing hop varieties. Find the various recipes and look at the grain bill. Base malt + crystal 40? base malt + munich + victory? Base Pale Ale Recipe for Single hop Beers (link)?

If you have a $20-$40 budget for ebooks, I can offer some titles that may be of interest.
 

bracconiere

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Chewing on a couple of kernels of malt is one way. With local home brew stores, this is a practical way to learn about a couple of grains over time.

i still think posting in for sale/wanted is a good idea. when i was brewing with store bought malt i kept 5lbs each of crystal 20L, 40L, 120L, Black patent, chocolate, special B, roast barley, and a couple others...and i wouldn't have minded grabing a hand full of each and throwing them in sandwich bags. as long as recipient paid shipping...

i'm sure there are other people similar here....

but as others have said it's just a start....
 

beernutz

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I was listening to a few year old Beersmith podcast this week and I think the guest was Randy Mosher. He was telling a story about one of his first homebrew batches where before he came up with the recipe for it he had tasted some Special B grain and thought it was a fantastic grain. So he loaded up that mash with a large portion of Special B and the result was awful.

Food for thought.
 

bracconiere

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I've never been against (or for) the idea. Seems like it would work, even as a one time event.

you're very right all though i'd do it once...i'm not going to let become my job....but someone new, just learning is worth it!

edit: speaking of that i'm game....what malts do you want to try @jcrawford ? i'm down to buying them from morebeer by the 5lb qty, stocking up my inventory and sending you a care package? i'm getting bored with what i can make myself anyway!
 
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he had tasted some Special B grain and thought it was a fantastic grain. So he loaded up that mash with a large portion of Special B and the result was awful.
Product information sheets for malts typically contain information about expected flavors. With some malts, those expected flavors change based on the amount / percentage used in the overall recipe.
 

AlexKay

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I made a stab at putting together a tasting list, with all the malts I wish I'd known well when I first started putting recipes together. Y'all can chime in with additions or deletions.

2-row
Pilsner
Maris Otter
Rye
White wheat
Red Wheat
Vienna
Munich
Red X (Best Malz)

Crystal 40 L
Crystal 120 L
English light crystal
English medium crystal
Special B

Victory (Briess)
Extra Special (Briess)
Honey (Briess)
Blonde RoastOat (Briess)

Pale chocolate
Chocolate
Carafa Special (I, II, or III)
Midnight wheat
Chocolate rye
Roasted barley
 
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@AlexKay : what order would you suggest for learning more about them?

(FWIW, back in #10, I sketched out a style / recipe based approach for understanding malts).
 
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jcrawford

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Do you have a local home brew store? Most of them will sell grain by the ounce. Of course, you'll probably be the one weighing them all out.
Unfortunately my closest store is > 1 hour each way and it's hard to find time for a trip that benefits myself and not the entire family.

If you have a $20-$40 budget for ebooks, I can offer some titles that may be of interest.
I definitely could in the future and am making a list of things I should read/buy so please suggest anything.
edit: speaking of that i'm game....what malts do you want to try @jcrawford ? i'm down to buying them from morebeer by the 5lb qty, stocking up my inventory and sending you a care package? i'm getting bored with what i can make myself anyway!
That is quite generous of you, let me get my gear and maybe I will take you up on that.

My initial thought was to do something like this to gain the flavors that would come from the malts.
 

AlexKay

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@AlexKay : what order would you suggest for learning more about them?
Depends on the approach. If the idea is to buy an ounce of everything, then get everything and try it all! I feel sorry for the shop that has to weigh out 24 1-ounce packages of grain, but that's their call, I guess.

If one were looking to slim the list down, but still take the eat-the-raw-grains approach, I'd start with Pilsner and Maris Otter (to see the large difference in base malt choice), Vienna and Munich (because they are wonderful), English light crystal and Special B (to get a general idea of what crystal malts taste like), and Victory. The roasted malts taste strong and may all come off as generic astringently roasty, so while there's a world of difference between roasted barley and chocolate rye, it might not be so apparent from just tasting the grains.

But I like the idea of coming at this from the recipe side, too. With that approach, I'd recommend paring down the recipes you find to as few grains as possible while still retaining their character. When you find a recipe, ask "what can I drop from this, so I can get the best idea of how the ingredients each contribute?" You could totally post "how do I simplify this recipe?" topics on this Recipes sub-forum.

All that said, I generally don't like full-on SMaSH recipes for evaluating grains. (Hops are a different matter. It's my opinion that your first 50 recipes should only have one flavor/aroma hop.) You've got to enjoy the beer you make, and a Pilsner SMaSH just tastes much better with a pound of Munich thrown in.
 
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If you have a $20-$40 budget for ebooks, I can offer some titles that may be of interest.
I definitely could in the future and am making a list of things I should read/buy so please suggest anything.
If brewing is both "science" and "art", these two books are a good start:
  • How to Brew (Palmer) for the "science"
  • Mastering Homebrew (Mosher) for the "art".
Both authors also write articles (some free) and are involved in podcasts (host / guest).

Occasionally, Mastering Homebrew (ebook) will go on sale for less than a pint of beer. If you can get it for that price, buy it.
 
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[...] English light crystal and Special B (to get a general idea of what crystal malts taste like) [...]
Interesting. I wouldn't have thought about paring the relative extremes of crystal malts. But I can see value in doing that.
 

AlexKay

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Interesting. I wouldn't have thought about paring the relative extremes of crystal malts. But I can see value in doing that.
Heh, I just think those two are particularly tasty and like using them (moderately in the case of Special B) in lots of recipes. Bog-standard 60L leaves me cold.
 

AlexKay

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I made a stab at putting together a tasting list, with all the malts I wish I'd known well when I first started putting recipes together. Y'all can chime in with additions or deletions.

2-row
Pilsner
Maris Otter
Rye
White wheat
Red Wheat
Vienna
Munich
Red X (Best Malz)

Crystal 40 L
Crystal 120 L
English light crystal
English medium crystal
Special B

Victory (Briess)
Extra Special (Briess)
Honey (Briess)
Blonde RoastOat (Briess)

Pale chocolate
Chocolate
Carafa Special (I, II, or III)
Midnight wheat
Chocolate rye
Roasted barley
I know bracconiere has already offered, but I will too. I’ve got most of what’s on this list (plus a few stranger things) sitting in little airtight containers in my garage, and would be happy to send you a box of grain-filled Ziplocs.
 

VikeMan

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Ah, what the hell... if someone posts a list of what @bracconiere and @AlexKay send, I'll send an ounce each of whatever else I have. It would probably be good to include the name of the maltster for each, so @jcrawford can also compare maltster to maltster for the "same" malt where available.
 
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jcrawford

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you guys are awesome, I am still saving for some of the gear before I can really get started, I want to bypass bottling at all costs as I have done some small batches and that seems to be the largest pain point. Once I get my gear I will refresh this thread with some discussion about costs/shipping, etc and may take one or a few of you up on your generosity! I have not found any place local where I could buy a bunch of small amounts to test with but I certainly want to learn as much as I can about the ingredients rather than using some LME.
 

tracer bullet

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I did somethign like this a while back. Local shop prices malt by a colored sticker so they know the right price, and care next about how many pounds you have. So I brought about 2 dozen ziplocs and scooped a little grain into each, and of course labeled them with a marker. I weight the total yellow grains and jotted that down. Then the same for the blues, then the yellows. When I checked out I just had to tell them the total amount of each of the 3 colors. Was pretty easy.

And yes, super educational.
 

VikeMan

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Once I get my gear I will refresh this thread with some discussion about costs/shipping, etc and may take one or a few of you up on your generosity!
For my part, don't worry about any costs. They'd be really small anyway, and not worth coordinating a payment.
 
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