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Does anyone use a standard base malt to build your recipes from? What are the advantages?

A couple of obvious advantages would be having the ability to buy large bags of the base malt (and ensuring that it's still fresh when you use it) and having a consistent base to build from.

I've always built my recipes using different base malts for flavor. For example, if I want a malty British style beer, I tend to use Maris Otter as my base. If I brew a Belgian beer, I use a Belgian pale or pils as the base. Etc.

I've been thinking about trying to convert all of my recipes to use a readily-available pale malt (e.g. Briess), but trying to match the flavor profiles provided by the other base malts has prevented me from doing so thus far.

The thing that has stopped me is that I have dozens of recipes I've brewed multiple times and adjusted for taste and a good 5 or so that I'm already extremely satisfied with (I'd say that I've "perfected" them but that's not possible when you like experimenting as much as I do).

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3 Answers 3

I received a couple hundred pounds of free base malt a few years ago and used it in a lot of different styles of beer. What I found is that it did fine in beers that had a higher percentage of specialty grains or was less malt focused. Styles like American barley wine, American Stout, IPA, and Blond ales it seemed to work well because it just needed to provide sugar. In malt focused beers or single malt beers such as Scottish, Bocks, and Belgians it left the beers more one dimensional and fairly uninteresting. If you brew enough it's pretty easy to justify a 50# grain purchase as long as you have enough styles you can use the base malt with. I wouldn't however change my existing recipes just to use one particular base malt unless you get a bunch of free malt.

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I keep 600-1K lb. of malt on hand usually. For American styles, Rahr pale is my standard. For German or Belgian styles, my standard base is Best pils. For darker German styles, it's Best Munich. I've experimented with many different malts over the years and these have become my favorites. I don't use Maris Otter since I don't brew British styles and I don't care for it for American styles.

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What?? How much do you brew? Even with 10-gallon batches twice a month, I'm only going to use about 500 lbs a year. –  Dustin Rasener May 27 '11 at 14:00
    
Do you not brew bitters, porters or IPAs? Surely these are all British styles. –  Poshpaws Jun 17 '11 at 11:31
    
I brew American porters and IPAs. No bitters...just don't care for the style. –  Denny Conn Jun 19 '11 at 1:16

I've come to use Weyerman Pale Malt as the base of a lot of my beers, and I'm happy with it. As Chris mentions, if you use a plain Pale malt as the base, then there are some beer styles that will come across as a little one-dimensional, but I'll add that you can do things like kettle caramelization, decoctions or oven toasting to get more flavor out of the base malt.

Also, if you know the flavor of your base malt, then it makes experimenting with specialty malts much more effective, since you can pick out the new flavor much easier. For example, I've got an experimental brown ale fermenting now that's Weyerman Pale as a base with a pound of a new malt, "CaraBrown" thrown in because I want to know what this new malt brings to the table.

Here's the base malts I've used and their flavor:

  • Weyerman Pale: good base for most ales, neutral malt flavor, the US-05 of malts
  • Vienna: slightly toasty/nutty, very under-appreciated as a base malt, IMHO
  • Pilsner: clean, sweet, hay-like (in a good way).
  • Marris Otter: malty, slightly biscuity, can be too rich for some styles

As a side note, wheat malt can be used as 100% of the base, but be careful of stuck sparges!

Here's some that I haven't used by themselves as 100% of the base, but feel like I know enough to make a guess as to their final character:

  • Munich: malty, rich, good for more than just German beer (100% munich American IPAs are great)
  • Mild Malt: Similiar to 2-Row Pale
  • Golden Promise: like Marris Otter in its richness, but more "sweet" than "toasty". Classic Scottish malt.
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