Used as the component in beer to deliver the sugars that the yeast converts into alcohol, while also delivering on flavour. Barley is the most common of all the malts used in beer production, but it doesn’t end there. Wheat, rice, sorghum and other grains can all be malted, but for use in beer, they are not widely used.

To malt a grain, the basic process is to let it start to grow to develop the enzymes that the yeast will eat. You then need to heat it to cut the growing cycle, and mill it to get access to the sugars.

Each Friday we’ll share some information on a different type of malt, how it can be used and what to expect from it. Some have varied histories, other’s are pretty plain, and others are given interesting names depending on which company produces it. For more information on the basics of malt, start here.

Maris Otter

Like all things, malt barley has many different varieties. Maris Otter is one such variety, and almost never was!

Produced by breeders who were testing varieties, their location was on Maris Lane. They would name each variety a different animal, so instead of Otter, we could have been using Maris Mink or Maris Puma instead.

Around the early 90’s, the variety was all but gone, as growers found it harder to produce than other barley. Luckily, a couple of people stuck at it and kept reintroducing only the best seeds from season to season. The crop is now well suited to growing commercially, and many beers would not be what they are today because of it.

Suitable for cask ales, English style bitters and all-round beers. A rich malty flavour that can be used in up 100% of the mash.

More information:

Red X

From Best Malz comes Red X, a malt that was “designed” specifically to make red beers. And red beers it does make.

Reading around a few sources, you can usually find some information on the malt itself, and this one is no different. Red X is most likely a combination of malts in a secret blend ratio. People are suggesting it’s Munich, Melanoidin and maybe Cara-Munich, but no one knows for sure.

What we do know for sure is that it makes malty flavoured red beers. You can use it in SMaSH beers as it’s fine up to 100% of the grist, and all the way down to 10%.

This is a super malt to use in many amber ales, red IPAs and others where a red tint is the goal.

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Special B

Special B, or Spec B for the common users, is a double dried malt that imparts a dark colour and exceptionally toasty and toffee/caramel flavour to any beer.

Used primarily in Belgian style beers like ales or Trappist, it can also be used in a lot of other dark style beers as a sub for chocolate or roast when dark colour without bitterness is needed. Be careful of adding too much though, as it can take over the beer and really become a driving force if you use more than 10%.

Best case scenario, aim for 1-3% of the grist and work your way up from there if you need more.

EBC: 300 – 350

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