Grain on the Brain

If you make the transition from extract
to all-grain brewing, you have a lot of options to consider when
building a recipe. That’s not a bad thing — in fact, that’s the
reason some brewers make the switch. You can use different kinds of
grain, different ratios of grain, different mashing temperatures and
mashing methods. The possibilities are endless. And they can be
Along with these options come a lot of new ingredients
… and new terminology to describe them. In this article, we’re
going to get down to basics — literally. When brewing beer from
grain, most recipes start with the group of malts known as “base

Base Malt: What Is It?

Beers are differentiated from each
other by their color, flavor, alcohol content, hopping and many other
factors. But they all have one thing in common before they become an
individual beer style — fermentable sugars that form the “base”
of the beer. This base of fermentable sugars comes from the starches
in the base malts. They’re called base malts precisely because they
form the base of the beer. They typically comprise anywhere from 60
to 100 percent of the grist.

Once you have this base, changing other
things in the recipe, like hops and specialty malts (specialty malts,
for the purposes of this article, I define as dark and crystal malts)
make the beer what it is. For example, all cakes consist mainly of
flour. That’s the base. What makes it into chocolate cake is
chocolate flavoring.

The base malt has several functions in
a recipe. The first, as I mentioned, is to provide the base of
fermentable sugars for the beer. The majority of the alcohol content
of the beer is established by adjusting the amount of base malt in a
recipe — the more malt, the more alcohol. The second function is to
provide the base flavor profile for the beer. This is most important
in beers that don’t use a lot of specialty malts in addition to the
base malt. In other words, if you use a lot of flavorful specialty
malts, their flavor will tend to mask the flavor of the base malt.
Conversely, if there are little to no specialty malts in the recipe,
the flavor of the base malt is more important. Last, the base malt
provides enzymes to convert its starches into sugars. It also
provides extra enzymes to convert specialty malts (like carapils) and
adjuncts (like corn or flaked barley) that lack enough enzymes of
their own to do the job.

Types of Base Malt

In this article, I will discuss five
common kinds of barley base malt: pale, pilsen, pale ale, Vienna and
Munich. There are other kinds of barley malt that can form the base
of a beer, like stout malt. And some brewers might not consider
Vienna and Munich to be bona-fide base malts, because they’re
usually used in conjunction with pale malt and rarely comprise more
than 30 percent of the grist (I’ll address this later). By and
large, however, these five malts provide the base for a wide range of

1. Pilsen malt is used to brew
traditional Czech or German pilsners.

2. Munich malt is used in Oktoberfests
and many German lagers, like dunkel. It also shows up in ales, from
IPA to porter.

3. Pale ale malt is like two-row, but is kilned at a
higher temperature. This flavorful malt is used to make ales,
especially traditional English ales.

4. Vienna has a malty
profile. It’s used in Vienna lagers.

5. Pale malt, often called “two row,”
is the most common base malt. It’s used as the sole base malt in 95
percent of all beers.


Basic Pale Malt

This is the most common type of base
malt, and it is used as the sole malt for 95 percent of all beers. It
is very light in color — usually about 1.8 to 2.1 degrees Lovibond.
If your beer was made strictly from this malt, it would be a medium
yellow color. Pale malt typically has lots of enzymes — enough to
convert its own starch and the starch from good deal of adjuncts, up
to 50 percent of the total grist. Pale malts are well modified, which
means it’s easy to convert their starches into sugars. Any type of
mashing schedule can be used with them, single-step infusion being
the most common.

Pale malt is sold in two forms —
two-row and six-row. The most common form used by home and craft
brewers is two-row, while big commercial breweries will typically use
a lot of six-row. The names come from how the grain actually grows on
the stalk. Two-row has two kernels that grow opposite each other on
the stalk. They tend to be large and uniform in size. Six-row, as you
might guess, has six kernels that are slightly smaller than two-row
kernels. Six-row has even more enzymes than two-row, which is
important to megabreweries that use a high percentage of adjuncts,
like rice or corn, in the beer. Six-row also yields better in the
field, which tends to make it a little cheaper than two-row. Again,
this is only important in megabreweries, where saving a few dollars a
batch can really add up. For small-scale and homebrewers, the savings
would never be enough to bother with. Six-row is also reported to
have a sharper flavor by some brewers. Two-row lends a rounder flavor
to your beer. So the take-home advice here is this: Always use
two-row, regardless of what the recipe calls for or what someone may
tell you.

Pale malt is often called other things.
The most common nickname for it is two-row, but that really is a
misnomer since almost all malts available to homebrewers are made
from two-row barley. Still, I call it two-row myself. It’s also
known as “lager malt,” not to be confused with pilsen malt
(described later). Two-row is also sometimes referred to by the name
Klages (pronounced like “claw guess”). Klages is the name of a
variety (technically a “strain”) of barley. Many years ago, the
most common two-row available in North America was Klages, and if you
bought two-row you stood a good chance of getting 100 percent Klages
barley. Hence “Klages” became another nickname for two-row. But
that was long ago. Klages still makes up a
tiny percentage of available two-row malts, but almost all are now blends of Klages and
other malts. Harrington is common, but new varieties are being
released all the time. So my advice to you is not to worry about what
specific varieties of malt are in your two-row. You have to trust
your maltster to give you a blend that will make good beer. (Some
North American homebrew suppliers still sell their malt as 100
percent Klages or just Klages. This is either due to ignorance, being
too lazy to change the catalog from a few years back, or they want
you to believe you are getting something you’re not.) In England
you can buy unblended varieties of malt, such as Maris Otter.

Pale malt can be used to make all types
of beers. In fact, it should be used to make almost all kinds of
beers. It’s the least expensive type of base malt and if your beer
uses a lot of specialty grains to change the flavor, the base malt
hardly matters. Is pale malt basically the same from supplier to
supplier? No, but the differences tend to be extremely subtle. Some
have a more pronounced maltiness or fuller flavor profile than
others. If you’re making a pale beer that is essentially all
two-row, these subtle differences will be apparent in the final beer.
So here it may be wise to use the base malt that has a flavor that
you like, or that you want in the final beer. But if you are making a
stout, for example, the flavors of roasted grains in the finished
beer will overpower any subtle malt effects from the two-row.

Pilsen Malt

Sometimes just called “pils,” pilsen is a special kind of pale malt that is used to
make — you guessed it — pilsners. Pilsen malt is typically very
light in color (anywhere from 1.1 to 2 degrees Lovibond). This malt
typically tastes thinner and crisper than regular two-row, which
carries over into the beer. Getting this flavor is usually at the
expense of maltiness and aroma, but that’s what typifies a real
pilsner. To get this flavor profile, the maltster will typically keep
this malt less modified than regular two-row. Some would say it is
under-modified, but that is rarely actually the case. It is modified
well enough so that a single-step infusion mash presents no problems
(this is the simplest kind of mashing, conducted at a constant
temperature in a single vessel). Sometimes pilsner malt doesn’t
have a lot of enzymatic power to spare, so it can’t convert itself
and a load of adjuncts. But you really don’t want anything else in
a true pilsner anyway, so it’s of little concern.

Pilsen malt is used to make one type of
beer — traditional German or Czech pilsners. Those beers usually
consist of 100 percent pilsen malt and nothing else but hops, yeast
and water. If you have pilsen malt on hand and nothing else, you
could use it to make almost any other beer style, but standard
two-row would be a better choice. I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve seen a recipe call for 90 percent two-row and 10 percent
pilsen as the base malts. That’s a complete waste of pilsen and a
complication in the recipe that makes no sense. Just use all two-row
— you’d never taste the pilsen in that recipe. I’ve also seen
pilsen malt called for in a lot of other German beers, like Munich.
This is not a good choice. (It is more than likely an example of
choosing a malt because it sounds right, rather than thinking about
what the beer should actually taste like.) Use pilsen malt for
brewing pilsners and that’s it.

Pale Ale Malt

This malt is basically the same as
standard two-row, but it is kilned at a slightly higher temperature.
This results in a darker color (it measures about 3 to 4 degrees
Lovibond) and it also changes the flavor profile. Pale ale malt can
be very flavorful and malty, with a good malt aroma. It tends to be
the most modified of all the base malts and it works well with any
mashing schedule, from single infusion to step mashing. It has a fair
amount of enzymatic power and can convert itself and some extra
adjuncts, up to 50 percent of the total grist. As the name implies,
this malt is primarily intended to make ales, especially traditional
English ales. It’s too dark for a pilsner. It can also be an
excellent choice for Belgian-style amber ales.

It’s common for this malt to be made
by specialty maltsters in the United Kindgom. It’s also common for
the specific barley variety to be featured. Maris Otter is a British
variety of barley commonly associated with this type of malt. (Maris
is the name of the company that markets the barley seeds to growers,
while Otter is the variety. Yes, there is a barley called Maris
Beaver, and other varieties named after small furry creatures, but
they aren’t used in brewing.) This malt is also sometimes sold as
ESB (Extra Special Bitter) malt. Darker versions are known as Amber
and Mild malts.

Vienna Malt

This is a very special kind of base
malt. It is more highly kilned than two-row and is typically around 4
degrees Lovibond. Vienna’s flavor profile is very malty but can
have some grassiness to it. Most Vienna has just enough enzymatic
power to convert itself, but some strains may have as much enzymatic power as two-row. Vienna is
well-modified and can work with any kind of mash schedule.

The primary purpose of Vienna is to
make Vienna-style lagers. These beers are similar to Oktoberfests
(also known as Märzen) but have a lower alcohol content. Trying to
find a true “Vienna” these days is hard. Samuel Adams Lager is
actually a good representation of a Vienna-style lager (it’s
probably a tad too hoppy to be a real Vienna), but they don’t
market it as such. Even if you don’t want to brew a Vienna, Vienna
malt has other uses. It’s typically used as part of the grain bill
in Oktoberfests and other German lagers (but not pilsners). You can
also use it in any other recipe in which you want the flavor of
Vienna malt. You also could make a beer out of 100 percent Vienna
(some brewers use this to make an amber beer), but I wouldn’t
recommend it. Five to ten percent Vienna is a good starting place
when used as a specialty malt for flavoring. A Vienna lager, on the
other hand, might use 30 to 40 percent Vienna as one of its base
malts, with regular two-row comprising the rest of the grist.

Munich Malt

Munich is a very useful malt for the all-grain brewer. It is
more highly kilned than Vienna malt and runs the gamut from 6 to 30
degrees Lovibond. The most typical range, however, is 8 to 9 degrees
Lovibond. When someone refers to Munich malt, they usually mean the
lighter versions that measure 9 degrees Lovibond or less.

The flavor of lower color or “standard”
Munich malt is malty with a slight toasty edge. This toasty edge
increases with color, becoming the dominant flavor in the high-color
Munichs. The low-color Munichs have enough enzymatic power to convert
themselves, but above 15° Lovibond, Munich starts to lose enzymes
at a rapid pace, so it must be used in conjunction with two-row
(which you’d usually do anyway). Munich malts are well modified and
require no special attention during the mash.

Traditionally Munich was used to make
Munich-style lagers, which hardly exist commercially today. The
closest you’ll find in modern times is an Oktoberfest. (A
historical perspective: These lagers were common centuries ago
because Munich malt was one of the lightest malts that was available.
It’s not until relatively recently that maltsters have been able to
make malts much lighter in color. It’s reported that the “death”
of the Vienna and Munich styles can be attributed to the introduction
of pale malts and the resulting pilsner style.)

All that aside, Munich remains a very
popular malt with brewers. It’s always part of every Oktoberfest
recipe, often in conjunction with some Vienna. A typical Oktoberfest
grain bill might be 75 percent two-row malt, 15 percent Munich, 5
percent Vienna and 5 percent crystal malt (ranging from 60 to 90
degrees Lovibond). You should consider Munich for any German lager
that’s not a pilsner. The classic Munich lager is dunkel, and 100
percent medium-color Munich malt can be used to brew this style. It’s
also a common ingredient in many ales. My IPA recipes will typically
call for 5 to 10 percent Munich. I also use it in bock, dopplebock,
porter and many other styles. It adds a nice maltiness to the beer,
but be careful not to overdo it, or the toastiness will start to
become apparent.

Dark Munichs really shouldn’t be
classified as a base malt, but we’ll cover them anyway to show you
how they differ from the lighter Munichs. The dark Munichs can be
used anywhere you want their flavor. It’s used by one famous
brewery, for example, in their porter (I’d name the brewery, but
I’m sworn to secrecy). The really dark Munichs have a very
pronounced toasty flavor and can be used as a substitute in recipes
that call for toasted malt. DeWolf-Cosyns produced a malt called
Biscuit, which is similar to the high-color Munichs, but the company
is supposed to be closing its operations in 2002. Should Biscuit
disappear from the market, a high-color Munich would be a reasonable,
but not an exact, substitute for that malt.

Why Are Vienna and Munich Base Malts?

Good question, since they rarely make
up more than 30 percent of the malt bill. Part of the answer is
historical — Vienna and Munich used to be the only base malts! But
part of the answer lies in how much fermentability they contribute to
wort. For all practical purposes, Vienna and the light Munichs
contribute the same amount of fermentables per pound as the other
base malts (as opposed to specialty malts, which contribute less).
So, at least for purposes of this article, we can still consider them
base malts.

Other Base Malts

The focus of this article has been base
malts that are made from barley, but we should mention that other
grains would qualify. Wheat malt would be the most common
alternative. Spelt, millet, sorghum and other grains are used in
parts of the world where barley is scarce.

Evaluating Malt

If you buy your supplies from the local
homebrew shop, you may not have much choice when it comes to base
malts. They may carry only one two-row and one Munich, and might not
carry pale ale, Vienna or pilsen malts at all. But if you’re lucky,
your local shop will have a good selection. I used to own a homebrew
shop in California, and at one point we carried three different
two-rows, two pale ales, two pilsens, two Viennas and six Munich
malts! On the Internet and by mail-order, you can find a similar
range of selections at some of the better sites, and you can
certainly get a wider range if you don’t mind buying from a few

So how do you evaluate the malts?
Ideally it would be nice to brew a batch of beer with every grain
type. (Check out the recipes on pages 33 and 35; each recipe is
designed to highlight the flavor of one of the five base malts we’ve
covered in this article.) Besides brewing with each base malt, the
simplest way I know to evaluate grain is simply to chew some and
taste it. The enzymes in your saliva will “mash” the grains for
you, so after chewing, let the grains sit a while. The enzymes will
work on the grains, and starchiness will be replaced with sweetness.
Pay attention to the flavors. Then choose what you like. Sometimes
it’s hard to project those flavors into the finished beer, but with
practice, you will be able to do that. If you record your perceptions
of the malt, then compare them to your perceptions of the finished
beer, it will help you put the two together.

If your local store has a selection,
chances are they’ll let you graze in the grain bins for a while. If
you are ordering online, then order a pound or the minimum of several
different types. This will be a little expensive for a test, but it
will be worth it.

Once you have picked the grain that tastes the best to you (ignore the marketing hype; your taste buds
are the ultimate judge), then order enough to do a batch and brew with it.

Caring For Base Malt

Base malts require more care in storage
than specialty malts. Specialty malts can be stored for long periods
of time, because in most cases they are kilned to such a high degree
that there is no longer any starch or enzymes left. The starches have
been converted to sugars or burned to a crisp. It makes little
difference if specialty grains are stored cracked or whole, as long
as they are kept cool and dry. (Some specialty malts have some starch
and enzymes left, so find out about your malt when considering
storage options.) But base malts are a different story. They contain
lots of starch, and starch absorbs moisture much more readily than
the sugars in the kilned malts. And the enzymes need protection. So
it is crucial to store base malts in their whole, uncracked state for
as long as possible. Ideally, you should crack the grain just prior
to mashing. If kept cool and dry, cracked base malts are good for at
least a month, sometimes three or four. Uncracked base malts can be
stored for at least a year or more, if stored cool, dry and sealed so
pests can’t infiltrate.

Again, you can use your taste buds (and
eyes and touch) to check your base malt for freshness. If the malt is
crushed, it should still be dry and powdery. Any sign of gumminess is
a sure sign of trouble. Taste the malt, too. It should be dry and,
again, not at all gummy. You should be able to detect any stale or
moldy flavors. If you taste any of these, toss the grain. It has gone
“slack” and you can’t brew with it.

One thing to be especially careful of
is pests. All grain is susceptible to grain moths, grain weevils and
rodents. But they particularly love starchy base malts. Rodents don’t
care if your grain is crushed or not, but weevils and moths just love
crushed grain. Keep it in a tight container.

Crushed or Whole?

Many homebrewers wonder whether they
should buy malt that’s already been crushed, or invest in a grain
mill. Ideally you should get a mill and crush your grain just before
you use it. But that can be expensive and time consuming — not to
mention a lot of work and mess. So a smart way to go is to buy your
malt by the batch and have the shop crush it for you. You just have
to be ready to brew soon after you get the grain. Unless you can pick
up a bag of grain from your local shop, my experience is that you
won’t save a lot of money by buying your base malt by the bag. One
thing I do not recommend is buying base malt by the bag pre-crushed,
unless you intend to use it all right away.


Now we’ve covered all the bases! What
are the important points? Pale malt (two-row) is used for just about
every beer you brew. It’s the primary base malt. When selecting
your pale malt, use two-row. There’s no reason a homebrewer will
need six-row. When you want to brew a pilsner, use pilsen malt
exclusively. Don’t muck it up with anything else. And don’t
bother with it anywhere else. Pale ale malt is useful if you want to
brew traditional English ales. You can use it in other recipes, but
be prepared for the extra color it will add. Vienna has a limited
range, but experiment. Watch out for its grassy flavors. Munich has a
lot of uses. Consider it for all German lagers (except pilsners) but
don’t try to use it for the sole malt. Use it in amounts of up to
30 percent in conjunction with two-row. It’s a good all-around malt
for adding malty flavors and aroma. But be mindful of its toasty
edge. Play with the darker Munichs, especially in dark beers. The
best way to understand base malts is to brew with them!


Barley Basics

Barley, whether raw or malted, plays an
important role in the global economy. The majority is grown in
cool-climate countries, although some is grown on the hillsides of
Mexico, Latin America and beyond. Most barley is used as animal feed
and an ingredient in food. Malted barley, either as flour or an
extract, is used in cereals, snacks, crackers, candy, health drinks
and many more products.

Barley malt is the basic ingredient in
beer. Why barley? For starters, it’s a win-win situation for
everyone. The supply and demand is fairly consistent, as is the
price. The farmer gets to plant the crop early in the spring and
harvest in early summer. It is an “in-between” crop; it is
harvested after oats and winter wheat and before spring wheat. Yields
are good, and it is friendly to the soil.

As every maltster knows, barley
contains everything needed to produce a quality product for the
brewer. The kernel has all the necessary enzymatic power to convert
the flint-hard barley kernel to a soft, modified kernel of malt.
Barley has a fairly neutral flavor and color, so the maltster can
create the precise characteristics needed by the brewer. The brewer,
in turn, can blend malts and adjust his procedures to develop
whatever beer style he selects. Because of its husk and natural pH
adjusting, barley malt is the easiest grain to brew with.

What barleys are available and which
ones should be used in beer? Until recently, within the last eight to
ten years, most of the barley grown in the United States was a
six-row variety. The main growing area for six-row is western
Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, a region known as the Red
River Valley. Each of the Western states also grow some six-row.

By far the largest crop of six-row is
Robust. More than three-fourths of the acreage planted in the Red
River Valley is Robust, because it is preferred by the big brewers.
The barley has excellent enzymes and produces a clean, sweet, mild
malt flavor, making it very versatile in creating beer styles. The
Stander variety is rather widely grown but is not very popular with
either the maltster or brewer. It is what is described as “hot,”
which means it has excessive levels of the alpha and beta amylase
enzymes. The next most-popular strain is Excel. This tends to have a
little higher protein level and a sharper, more husky flavor. If the
homebrewer buys a six-row base malt, he can expect that Robust would
be the majority, if not all, of the product, with maybe a little
Excel, Foster or B1602.

In the United States, two-row varieties
have become very popular. Two-row is grown mostly in the Western
states and much of it is on irrigated land. Irrigation allows the
farmer to control nature and control the quality of the barley, at
least to some extent. Moisture — or lack of it — during the
development stage determines the kernel plumpness, color,
starch-to-protein ratio and brewing quality.

Up until 1997, Klages was the primary
two-row variety. The maltsters and brewers loved it. It was easy to
work with, had good brewhouse yields, a nice color and flavor, and
low protein, but the farmer was not happy with his agricultural
yields. In 2001 there was very little, if any, Klages grown in this
country, except under contract. It is doubtful that any Klages malt
would find its way into a homebrew shop.

Harrington is the most widely grown
two-row malting variety. It has many of the Klages characteristics
but a big disadvantage — the husk is very loose. During malting,
far too much husk is lost. We all know how important husk is for
lautering during all-grain brewing!

Moravian is grown in Colorado, Idaho
and Wyoming, under contract to Coors. The original Moravian variety
has undergone many generations since the barley was brought over from
Czechoslovakia. It is very difficult to malt and requires changes in
brewhouse procedures. It has a distinctive flavor, regardless of how
it is malted. If you can get some, try it. It makes an interesting brew.

Metcalf is grown in Canada. The flavor
is a bit different from Harrington, and the husk stays on the kernel.
A bit of Alexis also is grown in the States. This variety is popular
in the UK. It tends to have low protein, usually in the 9 percent
range, and low enzymes, so it takes careful time and temperature
control during mashing.

Each barley will give slight flavor
differences and may perform a little differently in the brewhouse.
Trying new base malts can be a challenge, but that’s what makes
homebrewing fun!


Base Malt Extract Essentials

Let’s see a show of hands. Everyone
who was brewing when Blue Ribbon malt extract was the only
“beermaking” extract you could find, raise your hand. OK. Now
let’s see how many of you know what base malt was used to make Blue
Ribbon. No hands? I didn’t think so. It’s only been within the
last 20 years that most homebrewers developed a desire to know not
just whether their products would make beer, but exactly how those
products are derived. In his article on base malts, Mark Garetz walks
you through five malts that are used as a base in all-grain brewing.
Which begs the questions — what are the base malts used to make
malt extract, and if you want to work with one of the malts Mark
mentioned, which extract do you use?

By starting with an unhopped, 100
percent malt extract, a skilled homebrewer can create almost any beer
style in existence. Today’s high-quality malt extracts — the
well-known “name brands” that are formulated specifically for
brewing — have a high degree of fermentability, sufficient FAN
(free amino nitrogen) for yeast nutrition and mid-sized proteins for
a creamy, long-lasting head. These top-of-the-line extracts are made
with choice base malt, usually from the barley variety that’s
dominant in the country where the extract is produced. In the United
States, for example, that would be Harrington two-row pale malt.
Depending on the extract type, specialty malts also may be included.
No manufacturer is going to release their recipe, but with careful
tasting and experience, it’s possible to make an educated guess
about what malts your favorite brand includes.

The most important thing to remember
when selecting an unhopped malt extract is this: If you are not
working with a high-quality extract, it does not matter what base
malt produced it. Stick with extract producers who have been
recognized as making high-quality extracts intended primarily for
beer making. Next, seek out technical information on the malt extract
you’re considering. This will tell you if the base malt used in
producing the extract is the same as, or similar to, the base malt
you would use in all-grain brew. All the better producers include
this information on their Websites, so read the spec sheet

The age of the malt extract is also
important. It doesn’t matter if the base grain used in producing a
malt extract was a lightly kilned pilsner malt if the extract in the
can is two years old. It will be dark. Look for the “use by” date
or the production date on the bottom of the can. If there is no date,
either try a different brand, or look for a brand that seems to be
selling through well at your local shop. And always purchase a malt
extract that specifically says “100 percent malt extract.” If it
doesn’t specify that, the extract could be cut with cheap corn syrup.

Let’s run down each of the five base
malts in the article and see how they translate to unhopped malt
extracts. I mention a few brand names by way of example, but this
list is not meant to be comprehensive. If you have a favorite extract
brand, simply do a little research and learn about the base malts
that are used to produce it.

Two-Row Pale & Pale Ale Malt

Two-row pale malt is the base for
almost all ales, and is also the base grain used in almost all malt
extract production. As long as the malt extract is from a quality
producer, you can substitute “Light” or “Extra-Light” malt
extract for just about any recipe that calls for two-row or pale ale
malt. This includes liquid or dry malt extract.

Pilsen Malt

Coopers uses two-row Schooner, an Australian pilsner barley, in the
production of its extracts. To my knowledge, Coopers is the only
company that uses pilsner barley in the production of malt extract.
Many producers offer an “Extra-Light” malt extract in both liquid
and dry form that will work well also.

Vienna Malt

Vienna malt is rarely used by
commercial brewers these days and is not used at all in malt extract
production. You can best simulate the body and color of Vienna malt
by combining in equal quantities a relatively light Amber DME, like
Muntons Amber, with a Light DME.

Munich Malt Briess Amber contains
between 15 to 50 percent Munich malt. You can substitute it for
Munich, but you’ll be guessing a bit on the ratios. St. Patrick’s
of Texas has a proprietary product, Maries malt extract, that is 50
percent Munich. If your Oktoberfest recipe calls for up to 25 percent
Munich malt, then a 50-50 mix of either of these two extracts with a
good Light malt extract will put you in the right ballpark.
– Mark Henry


The Base Malt Recipe File

Now that you understand base malts,
how do you use the knowledge? The best advice I can give you is to
brew and see what happens. Brewing is like cooking. You taste your
ingredients. You think about what the ingredients taste like and what
the finished beer should taste like. Then you put together a recipe
and see what happens. With that in mind, I’ve put together a
starter recipe file. These simple all-grain recipes should give you
some ideas about how base malts can be used and how each malt will
taste in the finished beer.

All of these recipes are for five
gallon batches and all use a single-step infusion mash at about 154°
Fahrenheit. Mash in all the grains together. To each recipe you can
add a quarter-pound of flaked barley for head retention. I also
recommend one tablespoon of Irish moss added at the beginning of the
boil. (Most homebrewers add it near the end of the boil. That works
as long as you rehydrate the Irish moss first, which most homebrewers
don’t do. Adding it at the beginning eliminates the need for

Some of these recipes are ales, some
are lagers. You can brew the lagers as ales if you don’t have any
way to control the fermentation temperature. All the ale recipes (and
lager recipes made as ales) should be fermented at 70° to 72° F. If
you use lager yeast for the lagers, start the fermentation at 70° to
72° F, then lower it to 54° once the fermentation has started in

I’ve given you the bittering hops for
these recipes in IBUs, or International Bittering Units. This is a
measure of how bitter the final beer should be. IBUs take into
account hop utilization, which is an expression of how efficiently
you use the bittering compounds during the boil. It also accounts for
losses during fermentation. To calculate the weight of hops you need,
use the following formula:
hop weight in ounces =

Gallons x IBUs
Util x % Alpha Acid x 0.749

If you know your approximate
utilization, great. If you don’t, here are some guidelines: For the
novice brewer, you’ll probably get 24 to 26 percent utilization for
the one-hour recommended boil. Most all-grain brewers will probably
get 26 to 28 percent utilization. Advanced brewers or brewers with
really great kettles and burners are more likely in the 30 to 33
percent range.

Using the Extra Pale Ale recipe as an
example, I call for 30 IBUs of bitterness in a five-gallon batch. The
top half of the equation looks like 5 x 30, which equals 150.
Assuming your utilization is 28 percent and your Galena hops are at
13 percent alpha acid, then the bottom equation looks like 28 x 13 x
0.749, which equals 273 (rounded up). Now divide 150 by 273 to get
about 0.55 ounces of hops. Note that these calculations only apply to
the bittering hops (in the example recipes, always a single addition
of a single variety). All other hop additions should not be adjusted
based on alpha acid. Just use the weight listed.

Two-Row Extra Pale Ale
OG = 1.048 FG = 1.012 IBU = 30

This recipe is very simple, but it makes an excellent beer. It’s a great way to evaluate two-row


8.5 lbs. pale malt (two-row)
30 IBUs Galena hops (bittering)
1 oz. Cascade hops (5 minutes before the end of boil)
1 oz. Cascade (steeped for 10 minutes after the boil or dry-hopped)
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or
White Labs WLP001 (California)

Step by Step:

Mash in 10.6 quarts of water to bring
the mash to a temperature of 154° F. Let stand 30 minutes. Sparge
with 180° F water to collect 6 to 7 gallons of wort. (The exact
amount will depend on how much you boil off. The idea is to end up
with 5 gallons of wort.) Bring the wort to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon
Irish moss and the bittering hops. Boil for 55 minutes, then add 1
oz. of Cascade, stirring in well. Boil another 5 minutes. Shut off
the heat, stir in another ounce of Cascade and cover the kettle. Let
stand 10 minutes, then cool to 72° F. Transfer to the fermenter and
pitch the yeast. Ferment until done (gravity has stopped dropping).
Bottle or keg.

German Pils

OG = 1.045 FG = 1.011 IBU = 25

Another simple recipe, but you will really taste the pilsen malt.


8 lbs. pilsen malt
25 IBUs Tettnanger hops (bittering)
1 oz .Tettnanger hops (5 minutes before the end of boil)
*Wyeast 2278 (Czech Pils)
or White Labs WLP800 (Pilsner) to
make as a lager;
*Wyeast 1056 (American)
or White Labs WLP001 (California)
to make as an ale.

Step by Step:

Mash in 10 quarts of water to bring the
mash to a temperature of 154° F. Let stand 30 minutes. Sparge with
180° F water to collect 6 to 7 gallons of wort. Bring the wort to a
boil. Add 1 tablespoon Irish moss and the bittering hops. Boil for 55
minutes, add 1 ounce of Tettnanger,
stirring in well. Boil another 5 minutes. Cool to 72° F.
Transfer to fermenter and pitch the yeast. Ferment until done
(gravity has stopped dropping). Bottle or keg.


Extra Special Bitter
OG= 1.050 FG = 1.013 IBU = 25

This recipe shows a typical use for
pale ale malt. The small amount of chocolate malt will give this beer
a nice copper color.


8 lbs. pale ale malt
1 lb. crystal malt (15° Lovibond)
0.10 lbs. chocolate malt
25 IBUs Galena hops (bittering)
1 oz. Willamette hops (5 minutes before end of boil)
Wyeast 1968 (Special London)
White Labs WLP002 (English Ale)

Step by Step:

Mash in 11.4 quarts of water to bring
the mash to a temperature of 154° F. Let stand 30 minutes. Sparge
with 180° F water to collect 6 to 7 gallons of wort. Bring the wort
to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon Irish moss and the bittering hops. Boil
for 55 minutes, then add 1 ounce of Willamette, stirring in well.
Boil another 5 minutes. Cool to 72° F. Transfer to the fermenter and
pitch the yeast. Ferment until done (gravity has stopped dropping).
Bottle or keg.


OG= 1.067 FG = 1.017 IBU = 18

This recipe makes a traditional Oktoberfest. It uses basic two-row for most of the fermentables, with
Vienna and Munich for flavor, aroma and color. Carapils adds body.


9 lbs. pale malt (two-row)
0.5 lbs. Vienna malt
1.5 lbs. Munich malt
1 lb. carapils
0.5 lbs. crystal malt (95° Lovibond)
18 IBUs Tettnanger or Mt. Hood hops (bittering)
0.5 oz. Tettnanger or Mt. Hood (5 minutes before end of boil)
2206 (Bavarian)
or WLP820 (Oktoberfest) to make as a true lager;
*Wyeast 1056 (American)
White Labs WLP001 (California) to make as an ale

Step by Step:

Mash in 15.6 quarts of water to bring
the mash to a temperature of 154° F. Let stand 30 minutes. Sparge
with 180° F water to collect 6 to 7 gallons of wort. Bring the wort
to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon Irish moss and the bittering hops. Boil
for 55 minutes, then add 0.5 oz. of Tettnanger or Mt. Hood, stirring
in well. Cool to 72° F. Transfer to the fermenter and pitch the
yeast. Ferment until done (gravity has stopped dropping). Bottle or

India Pale Ale
OG = 1.063 FG = 1.016 IBU = 35

This is definitely a West Coast, hophead IPA. It uses Munich malt for body, color, flavor and aroma
(something has to compete with those hops to balance the beer!). I
included this recipe so you could see a non-traditional use of Munich. Try it, you’ll like it!


8.5 lbs. pale malt (two-row)
1.5 lbs. Munich malt
1 lb. carapils
0.5 lbs. crystal malt (15° Lovibond)
0.25 lbs. crystal malt (95° Lovibond)
35 IBUs Galena hops (bittering)
1.5 oz. Cascade hops (5 minutes before end of boil)
1 oz. Cascade (dry hop)
0.5 oz. Columbus (dry hop)
Wyeast 1056 (American) or
White Labs WLP001 (California)

Step by Step:

Mash in 14.7 quarts of water to bring
the mash to a temperature of 154° F. Let stand 30 minutes. Sparge
with 180° F water to collect 6 to 7 gallons of wort. (The exact
amount will depend on how much you boil off. The idea is to end up
with 5 gallons of wort when you pitch the yeast.) Bring the wort to a
boil. Add 1 tablespoon Irish moss and the bittering hops. Boil for 55
minutes, then add 1.5 oz. of Cascade, stirring in well. Boil another
5 minutes. Cool to 72° F. Transfer to the fermenter and pitch the
yeast. When fermentation starts to slow down (characterized by the
vigorous activity starting to subside) add 1 oz. of Cascade hops and
0.5 oz. of Columbus. Stir in well with a sterile spoon. Ferment until
done (gravity has stopped dropping). Bottle or keg.


Super Smooth Porter

OG = 1.049 FG = 1.012 IBU = 25

This will give you a nice, smooth
porter with a good deal of flavor and body. Both light and dark
Munich are used in this recipe. Normally I’d use more chocolate
malt, but I’ve cut it down to allow for the use of the dark Munich,
which will add a lot of toasty flavor on its own.

5 lbs. pale malt (two-row)

1 lb. light Munich malt
1.5 lbs. dark Munich malt
1 lb. carapils
0.5 lbs. chocolate malt
0.25 lbs. black patent malt
25 IBUs
Willamette hops (bittering)
Wyeast 1056 (American) or White
Labs WLP001 (California)

Step by Step:

Mash in 11.6 quarts of water to bring
the mash to a temperature of 154° F. Let stand 30 minutes. Sparge
with 180° F water to collect 6 to 7 gallons of wort. (The exact
amount will depend on how much you boil off. The idea is to end up
with 5 gallons of wort.) Bring the wort to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon
Irish moss and the bittering hops. Boil for 60 minutes. Cool to 72°
F. Transfer to the fermenter and pitch the yeast. Ferment until done
(gravity has stopped dropping). Bottle or keg. Enjoy! —M.G.