It’s the stuff stouts are made of, and a grain that can bring roasted coffee-like flavor complexity to porters and other dark beer styles. in this issue, we found two award-winning roasted barley brewers who share their advice for using this dark, unmalted grain in the brewhouse.
Gerald Wyman, Owner and Brewmaster, Gella’s Diner and Lb. Brewing Co., Hays, Kansas. Gerald started his brewing career as a homebrewer before co-founding the brewery in 2005. He won the gold for Liberty Stout at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, and gold for Oatmeal Stout at the 2010 World Beer Cup.
Roasted barley can be used in fairly large amounts. In our oatmeal stout, we use roasted barley for about 8% of the grist. The biggest percentage is, of course the 2-row base malt, then the oats. Then we add a little bit of wheat for head retention as well as a little bit of chocolate malt and black barley.
Roasted barley brings roasted, chocolate-y coffee flavors to a beer. For American-style stout you can use a lot of roasted barley (generally about double what we would use in an oatmeal stout). For this style you want a full-bodied, dry-roasted bitterness in an American-style stout.
However, if you use too much roasted barley, you can wind up with too much bitterness. In addition to the roasted barley, in our American-style stout, I add a little bit of Carapils®
for body, as well as a little wheat, and it is mashed with a high temperature alpha rest (158–159 °F/70–70.5 °C) to achieve the full bodiedness.
In contrast, you don’t want that dry-roasted bitterness in an oatmeal stout. Oatmeal stout should never finish bitter — it should be roasty with light hints of coffee. In fact, in our oatmeal stout, the first thing you perceive is the roasted flavor, finishing with a hint of coffee flavor. It’s not a bitter beer — it brings out the malt flavors.
I’ve tried different malts, but I’m pretty fond of Briess malts. I’ve brewed with German dark malt as well as British malts, and even though oatmeal stout is a British style, Briess malts make the kind of beer that I was looking for. Their quality is also very consistent — there are no surprises in color or other variations. When you start brewing, try out different malts from various maltsters to find ones you like.
When I developed these beers, I was already very interested in oatmeal stouts and experimented a lot, but it’s important to follow the guidelines for these styles first. For both styles of stouts, if you want to experiment at home, my advice is that it is always crucial to brew these beers to style — there’s no way to get around that. Brew to style and really research what you’re trying to brew. If you are just starting out, or you haven’t used roasted barley very much, don’t just grab any recipe and brew it. Read about the style and look for recipes that seem to be most like the guidelines. Once you brew it a few times you can always adjust the recipe to fit your taste, or you can try a different recipe if it doesn’t seem right.
Otherwise, I don’t think there are many other hard and fast rules when it comes to brewing with roasted barley except that you can use too much of it. This rule is also true with black barley — be careful, because you can make a beer too astringent if you use too much black barley. I don’t use a whole lot of it, but I do like to use black barley because it helps with the color. I want a beer’s flavors to come from roasted barley, however, not the black barley.
(Editors note: for some stellar stout recipes and more stout-brewing advice, turn to page 40 of this issue to read up on dry stout, and page 34 for foreign extra stout.)
Jay Wince, Head Brewer, Weasel Boy Brewing Company, Zanesville, Ohio. After jumping into homebrewing in 1995, Jay continued to homebrew regularly until starting work on Weasel Boy Brewing Co. with wife and co-owner/co-brewer Lori in late 2006. Jay has earned numerous awards for his Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout including a Bronze Medal in the Imperial Stout category at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival.
We use roasted barley in our Plaid Ferret Scottish, Bitter Sable Imperial Black IPA, Brown Stoat Stout and Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout. In the Scottish and black IPA it contributes hints of roasty dryness and a deep garnet red color. In the stouts it provides roasty, burnt, dry and coffee-like flavors — and even a touch of bitter chocolate. It dries out the finish a bit and at higher rates adds body and mouthfeel.
We use roasted barley 1.5 to 3 percent in the grain bill for color adjustments in the Scottish and black IPA. The stouts use more. Brown Stoat uses about 7% and Anastasia uses 8%, both in combination with chocolate malt for 10–15% of the total bill.
We mostly use Thomas Fawcett and Bairds malts. Experimentation led us to use the lighter Fawcett for some beers and the darker Bairds for others. We use a lighter roast in our Scottish to contribute color with less flavor. In the black IPA we use the darker roast for a drying finish and higher color contribution. In stouts where usage rates are higher we like the lighter roast for the smoother flavor profile.
When experimenting with roasted malt, “test the waters” applies. Using softer water allows a higher percentage of use and smoothes out the bitter, astringent edges of dark roasted grains while allowing the complexities of their flavors to shine. In small pilot batches of our Anastasia we used 100% softened water with dark roasted malts at 19% of our total grain bill. The result was a smooth imperial stout that was black as midnight with a full body and fantastic balance.
At home, substitute roasted barley for black malt. A maltster’s color range for black malt and roasted barley is generally the same; roasted barley could contribute a subtle flavor change compared with the black malt. This would allow for direct comparison. Also, throw a bit into a pale beer you make often. Try 0.5 to 1 percent in blonde ale to make a “dirty blonde” or 2–3 percent in an IPA and create a black IPA and see what the roasted barley does to change the base beer.