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I've got some peated malt that a friend gave me, and I've been looking for some way to use it. My current idea is to brew an Irish Red Ale (OG 1.055, FG 1.012, IBU 21, SRM 16) with just enough peated malt to provide barely noticeable smoke taste and aroma.

I originally decided on 1% peated malt (2oz in a 5.5 gallon batch) based on this BYO article.

This forum thread suggests that 2% or 3% is provides light smokiness.

This thread seems to conclude that the proper amount of peated malt is zero.

Does anyone have first-hand experience brewing with peated malt? Should I omit it altogether (and perhaps use Rauch malt instead)? Is 1% a safe amount?

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Purism aside about whether peated malt belongs in an Ale, I used peated malt in a Scottish Ale - just 0.7% of the grist. While I can't say I noticed a specific smokiness, there was a lot more going on in the beer ingredients-wise, but it did lift the ale and add complexity. I was very happy with the result. So, I'd go for 1%.

Best to add too little and work upwards - you'll still have a drinkable beer, but not necessary so if you add too much!

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Since I don't enter my beers in competitions, I'm free to ignore style guides. It's very liberating! –  Tobias Patton May 21 '13 at 15:49
    
This Scotch ale recipe is awesome: popularmechanics.com/home/how-to-plans/… It ends up with 2.2% peated malt. You can definitely taste it but it doesn't overwhelm. So you can definitely go above 1%. –  Chris Plaisier May 21 '13 at 16:54
    
I'd say <1% complexity, %1 very light smoke, %2 balanced smoke, %3 stronger smoke, >=%4 who put out a fire in my beer. But it does depend upon what other flavors the peat is stacked up against. An Irish Red can be smooth and low in flavor so probably best to stick with the low end. –  mdma May 21 '13 at 20:36
    
I actually noticed with a dark porter I did that at 4%, it felt more like a 1% with mdma's measurements. Although I may have biffed something to give it a less profound flavor, I would no doubt say the amount of smoke has to do with what your grain bill consists of other than the peated malt. –  Scott May 21 '13 at 21:01
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I actually began to write up an answer to this question back when it was first asked, but I scrapped it because I didn't want to sound like an idiot. Now that I can confirm what happened, I feel more comfortable answering.

I pulled Stone's Smoked Porter recipe from their book, and brewed it a couple of months back. It calls for ~3-4% peated malt. Me being uneducated in the ways of peated malt biffed it and wound up with 4-5% peated malt in my brew. I went to keg it, and I was sorely disappointed. I didn't think I used enough. Then I started to hear everyone say that you want less than what I put in, and I was confuddled. I didn't know what I did wrong. Did I undershoot the percentage by accident when mashing in? I barely tasted any smokiness what-so-ever. I didn't hesitate to bottle off what was remaining in the keg a couple of weeks ago to make room in the keg for my next beer. Just now, I have the last remaining bottle (and the only bottle I've drank this from, the rest were readily given away to co-workers and friends) poured in front of me, and when I went to drink it, as mdma put it "Who put out a bonfire in my beer!?!"

Moral of the less than helpful but hopefully insightful in a different way answer, aging will have a profound impact on the flavor of peated malt. My beer wasn't matured by the time I took it out of secondary and kegged it (I don't have the records, but it likely sat in secondary for about a month and kegs for about 3 weeks after that before it went into bottles). After it sat still in bottles for a couple of weeks and the "green" flavors dropped out, it tastes entirely different. Hope this helps.

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Wow, I wouldn't have expected the smoke flavor to get stronger over time. That's really fascinating. –  Graham May 24 '13 at 12:05
    
I don't know if it's that the smoke flavor got stronger, or the other "greener" flavors dropped out, exposing the smoke flavor more. Even near room temperature it wasn't very recognizable back before bottling. I think it's just that it had to sit for another month or two before consumption in order to expose the smoke flavor properly. –  Scott May 24 '13 at 14:11
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