Why so much pale/pils malt?

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Sixbillionethans

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This post could be highly mis-understood so bear with me please...

I'm trying to understand why so many brewers (commercial and homebrewer's alike) use so much pale/pils malt in their recipes when a darker malt would work.

To illustrate what I'm getting at, let me use an example (I'm not saying it's the greatest example in the world, just AN example):

Porter (20-30 SRM per BJCP guidelines)
You could go with say 9 lb of 2-row, 1 lb crystal, and 0.5 lb chocolate: ~24SRM & $16 in malt.
OR
You could use 6 lb Mild Ale, 4 lb Brown, 0.25 lb chocolate: ~27SRM & $17 in malt.


It seems like the 2nd option (no pale malt) would be significantly more complex and unique than the first.

If I'm a brewery, I can understand using the first recipe. I've only got to keep one base malt in inventory and I get a lot of bang for the buck on my specialty malts. Plus I probably buy base malt by the ton and save $0.10/lb over some other malts.

But I'm not a brewery, I make beer in my garage...I get my stuff from the HBS down the street and I don't care if I spend $1 more on my malt bill.

So when I look at a recipe that calls for 95% pale malt plus 4 oz of this and 2 oz of that, should I assume they are taking the commercial brewer's approach?

An analogy would be that Randy Mosher basically says to never use an ounce of hi-alpha hops where 2 ounces of noble hops will do. Is the same true for malt? Never use 0.5 lb black patent where 4 lb of brown will do?
 

Alamo_Beer

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Well, I think a lot of folks buy in bulk so thats deffinatly one reason (the commercial approach).

But then your right that we're homebrewers and no real laws apply. You want to ferment with a lager yeast at 80*? Sure, go ahead. It's your beer.

the two examples you posted will make two totally different beers. It's just up to you to figure out where your tastes lie.

Happy Brewing
:mug:
 

Bobby_M

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There are many ways to skin a cat. Most people take tried and true recipes and brew them as is or make judgment call substitutions or modifications. If you think you found an alternative way of making a beer, give it a shot. It's only time and money. When you stumble on a great recipe, share it with everyone (both the beer and recipe). Better yet, enter into some competitions.

As many recipes that I completely make up, they're always heavily based on large portions of base grain because I get whole sacks relatively cheaply compared to specialty malts that I mail order. The difference is literally 75 cents per pound and that adds up when you're brewing 10 gallons. By the way, I have like a 40% success rate on my made up recipes.
 

The Pol

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I skinned a cat once... got grounded... that sucked.
 

Iordz

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I have made a stout using mild ale as the bas malt, and it turned out good but a little too malty on the backbone. I just prefer the "cleaner" flavor of pale/pils malt, it creates a very solid foundation for the beer and the flavors can be built up from there. I look at it like this: if you used mild ale as the base you would be starting with a light brown canvas, if you used pale malt you would have a white canvas. It's all about preference; I tried both and ended up liking pale malt more. You should try both ways and see what you like.
 
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Sixbillionethans

Sixbillionethans

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Interesting feedback. Thanks for the posts.

Since I enjoy a richer, maltier, more complex beer, I think I will pursue this as my "brewing philosophy" on some of my next planned brews.

These decisions will be made in the context of the style of beer I'm brewing or its intended lack of style.
 

CBBaron

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One of my first AG beers I did was a recipe for a porter I found with 33% pale, 33% amber and 33% brown malt. Now being a new brewer its possible I screwed something up, but that beer still has a harsh, grainy, astringent taste 8 months later.
I like complex full bodied beers and usually use maris otter and some victory or munich as my base malt but it will be a while before I experiment with a large amount of dark malts again.
I think is is easy to get a large amount of complexity in a beer given the large variety of specialty grains available. I do tend to use a larger amount of lighter roasted grains instead of a smaller amount of darker grains (300L vs 500L) but I need to do some experiments to see what kind of difference it makes.
Also quite often base malts can be purchased for much less than specialty malts. Especially because I can justify buying 55# bags of a base malt. This makes a big difference in the final cost of the beer.

Craig
 

Brewsmith

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Sixbillionethans said:
Porter (20-30 SRM per BJCP guidelines)
You could go with say 9 lb of 2-row, 1 lb crystal, and 0.5 lb chocolate: ~24SRM & $16 in malt.
OR
You could use 6 lb Mild Ale, 4 lb Brown, 0.25 lb chocolate: ~27SRM & $17 in malt.

So when I look at a recipe that calls for 95% pale malt plus 4 oz of this and 2 oz of that, should I assume they are taking the commercial brewer's approach?

An analogy would be that Randy Mosher basically says to never use an ounce of hi-alpha hops where 2 ounces of noble hops will do. Is the same true for malt? Never use 0.5 lb black patent where 4 lb of brown will do?
You are forgetting that the different ingredients taste different and give different amounts of fermentables and dextrins. In the examples you gave, the first one would be closer to a brown ale than a porter. Getting the color right does not make it a porter. You need to have the ingredients to make it taste like a porter. Add about a half pound of black patent and you'll be getting closer.
Your second recipe would have lots of unfermentables and would result in a beer with lots of body because the mild and brown malts have been kilned higher, making some of the sugars in the grain unfermentable.

Manipulating all of these different ingredients for taste, color and body is what the recipe is all about.
 

TheJadedDog

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At the risk of alienating everyone I'm going to say it is because people like to make their recipes more complicated than they need to be. As you delve into the recipe database you'll see recipes calling for 5-6 different malts (more than half of these will be various crystal malts), you'll see recipes calling for WAY too much crystal, chocolate, and roasted barley; I could go on and on.

The first recipe you posted will make an excellent English porter (black patent could be used if you're making a robust porter, but that's a different beer), no need to get crazy with your ingredients. Ultimately I think it is the Beer Advocate / Extreme Brewing factor that has people making overly complicated beers. It's not that the beers they make are bad, it's just unnecessary.

Of course, personally, I like to make my beers as traditionally as possible rather than get all fancy (and I've never dry hopped anything) so maybe it's just me.
 

Iordz

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I agree with Jaded, some brewers do complicate their brews, including me when I started. At first you want to try lots of malts to create complex, interesting flavors. As you brew more and more you realize that simplicity is better, you go for cleaner beers, maybe allow the yeast to create the complexity, etc. I think it all takes experience, and preference, as time goes on you determine what you like and how to get it.
I look at brewing like a chef looks at cooking; you like parsley, but aren't quite sure how to get the most out of it or you don't know if you will like it in certain dishes. So you try it and keep cooking with it, using it here and there, you get to know it and that's when you really start cooking with it. You can make your own recipes because you know how to use it, where to use it, what to expect. That's when you can become artistic with your recipes. It's like this with beer and all of the ingredients, it takes experience and experimentation.
 

jdoiv

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+1. I see tons of recipes that have way too many different malts in them. Some of my best recipes have only a couple of malts in them.
 

the_bird

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My Belgian recipe (which was very well recieved) was pretty complicated; a couple crystal malts, special B, wheat, candi sugar, all kinds of stuff. But, that was designed to be pretty complex. Most of my stuff recently has been simpler; one kind of crystal malt, maybe a character grain like Munich, maybe some wheat for head retention. Depends on what you're trying to accomplish.
 
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