Tips & Tidbits
Color and flavor is usually added to beer by choosing from a broad selection of specialty grains. From Biscuit to Black and Crystal to Chocolate, maltsters provide a wide array of products from which to choose.
There is another way to add color and flavor which can’t be duplicated in any other way: caramelization. Caramelization occurs when sugars (in the case of brewing, that’s malt sugars) are scorched during the boil. This generally happens in most flame fired kettles, but there are several techniques for achieving this effect.
The most common method of achieving caramelization is the long boil. When a wort is boiled for more than two hours, the caramelization effect begins to become noticeable. The effect is more pronounced in high gravity worts.
A second technique is to take a small pan of wort and boil it aggressively. A good deal of caramelization will occur by reducing 2 quarts of wort to a pint in a two hour vigorous boil. For all grain brewers, the first runnings from the mash, being higher in gravity, work great. One pound of dry malt extract in two quarts of water works equally well. Add the reduced wort back to the main boil just before cooling.
Finally, some brewers will heat their empty kettle. When the first wort comes in contact with the empty kettle, some of the sugar will instantly caramelize. Be careful, this technique produces a lot of steam and hot wort may come splashing out.
Caramelization can be used to produce any beer style. It is recommended in making Scottish Ales, as well as Old Ale, Brown Ale, Porter and Bock.