Crystal Malt Comparisons

I was refining the recipe for my next Bitter, and decided to give some from England a try in this beer.  Malts vary quite a bit not just in variety, but how they are processed and kilned, and this was one area where I thought I could improve on the “English” character of my beer.  I had a gift card for Northern Brewer, so I ordered some and crystal malt from Simpson’s to try out.  Once I got the malt, I decided to compare it to the other crystal malts I have on hand.  I tasted each one, and below are my notes.

Left: CaraAmber (Weyermann), Center: CaraMunich (Weyermann), Domestic 40L (unknown)

CaraAmber — 27L, Grainy, with some mild sweetness in the background

CaraMunich — 37L, Deep maltiness, but not very much caramel flavor.  I can see this being very helpful to boost the malt profile in the taste of a beer without much additional sweetness.

Domestic 40L — Nice, caramel taste, fairly straightforward

Left: English Medium (Simpsons), Center: Briess 60L, Right: Briess 80L

Simpson’s Medium — 50-60L, very complex compared to others.  Deep sweet aroma, cocoa and tobacco.  I really liked how this smelled.  Very sweet, with some suprising sharper bitterness at the end.

Briess 60L — Very clean, sweet, caramel taste, pretty straight forward

Briess 80L — Clean sweet aroma, but a distinct flavor of raisins.

Left: Briess 120L, Center Left: 150L (unknown), Center Right: Extra Dark (Simpsons), Right: Special B (Dingemans)

Briess 120L — Dark Caramel aroma, taste is not as sweet as the 60-80L, more bitter with a more toasted note

Unknown 150L — Aroma is dark caramel with some slight cocoa, initially started sweet, but finished slightly bitter and toasty, smoother then Briess 120L

Simpson’s Extra Dark — 160L, aroma is again the cocoa and tobacco notes, smells very sweet, but the taste is quite acrid and roasted.

Dingeman’s Special B — 145L, sweet, caramel aroma, tastes sweet and like raisins at first, finishes with a slightly roasted bitterness.

Comments:  I can see the caraMunich being very nice in beers that need a more pronounced maltiness without much sweetness, like a bock or dunkel.  The Simpson’s Medium was the most complex of all the sweeter tasting malts, and the one I decided to use in my next bitter.  The Simpson’s Extra Dark I could see being a nice note in a dark, roasted beer such as a stout, or an old ale.  The Briess 80L was my favorite of the domestic malts, which tended to be more one dimensional, but the raisin taste I enjoyed quite a bit.   The Special B also has a nice raisin flavor to it, and was much smoother then the Simpson’s Extra Dark.  This malt is used quite a bit in Belgian Dubbels, but I could see it finding a home in darker beers that are going to be more sweet and less roasted in flavor.

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