Crystal Malt Comparisons

I was refining the recipe for my next Bitter, and decided to give some crystal malt 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 Medium and Extra Dark 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.


One Response

  1. Good review and very interesting. Glad you like our crystal malts the reason for the complexity in flavour is due to good conversion of the starch into sugar.
    Peter L Simpson

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