Frequently Asked Questions








What is Beer?

In the simplest terms, beer is a fermented beverage typically made from water, grain (primarily malted barley), hops, and yeast.

What ingredients are commonly used to make beer?

Common ingredients used for making beer include water, malted barley, dried hops and yeast. Adjuncts, such as corn and rice, may also be used depending on location and brewer preference.

Why is color important in beer?

Color is important because we eat and drink with our eyes as well as our mouth. Beer color is an indicator of flavor profile and beer type to the consumer. Malt typically contributes greater than 95% of the color to any given beer.

How can I get red color hues into my beer?

Red color in beer typically comes from roasted malt, and normally from crystal malt. Crystal malt comes in wide ranges of colors, so it is best to experiment to find the exact red hue you’re seeking. Some brewers use a small amount of dark dry roasted malt, like chocolate malt or black malt, to help reach a red hue.

What can I use to make my beer hazier?

Unmalted grains, such as raw wheat, are one option to make your beer hazier because they tend to have longer complex starch chains and more beta glucans than malted grains. These molecules can gum up your brew mash or stick your run-off, but they also cloud up your beer nicely. Another way to introduce haze into your beer is the use of flaked grains (like rolled oats) or even malted oats. Haze can be produced by proteins, as well as yeast, so do not use a protein rest with your mash.

What can I use to give my beer more body and increase mouthfeel?

If your beer needs more body and mouthfeel, you can try using a dextrin malt like Dextra Pils® or an unmalted grain like flaked grains, to see which ingredient will help you achieve your goals. Please note that using unmalted grains can also increase the haze in your beer. You can also experiment by increasing the mash temperature or shortening the length of the mash rest to achieve increased body and mouthfeel.

How do I choose a good malt for my beer?

Malt selection for a brewer depends on the type/style of the beer the brewer desires. Brewers understand the color, flavor, and physical characteristics of the beer they wish to produce, but may want to consult with their malt supplier on which malt specifications are important to achieve their goals. Maltsters are pleased to discuss their products, how they are made, and will welcome discussion on quality parameters and elements of their certificates of analysis.  Click here to contact us for more information.


What is malt?

Malt consists of seeds or grains that have been sprouted, grown for a few days and then dried. Malt is typically made from barley but can also be made from other grains such as wheat and rye.  See our selection of malts here.

What types of malt are there?

There are many different malt types based on grain selection and the processing conditions used in the malting process. Within each grain type, malt variation is primarily the result of selected germination and drying (or roasting) practices. Malts can vary in a number of ways, primarily in flavor, color, degree of starch modification and enzyme development. More information on malt types can be found on malting company web sites.

What is base malt?

Base malts make up the majority of a grain bill used to make beer. As the name suggests, base malts are the primary source of starch and enzymes that provide yeast with ample nutrition to multiply and create alcohol. Base malt also contributes to the malty flavor, color, and body/mouthfeel characteristic of beer.

What is specialty malt?

Specialty malt refers to a range of malts that vary based on processing and grain type. Specialty malts often undergo the same malting processes as other malts but have experienced treatments (typically heat and moisture conditions) designed to produce different flavor, color and functionality outcomes. Examples of specialty malts include crystal, Munich, Caramel Steam, biscuit….and other malt grains (wheat and rye), just to name a few.  

What is organic malt, and how is it different?

Organic malt is malt made from certified organic grain. It must be malted in an organic-certified facility using strict organic procedures, so that it maintains its organic certification from the farmer’s field to the malt buyer’s hands. It is typically used in the production of organic beers and spirits.

What is crystal malt?

Crystal malt is malt that has undergone a typical steeping and germination period followed by an additional moist heating procedure. These malts are not dried in a kiln but are roasted, often in drums. The roasting process allows for the formation of a crystallized endosperm and significant color and flavor development. Crystal malts have colors ranging from around 10 ASBC to close to 200. and can contribute an equally broad range of flavors from light sweet caramel to a dark roasted toffee. These malts do not contribute enzymes to the mash and are used for their color and rich flavor.

What is the difference between crystal malt and caramel malt?

The terms crystal and caramel malt have been used interchangeably, however, some use the term caramel malt to refer to crystalized malts with lighter colors and flavors. Caramel malts can be produced in a kiln or roaster, whereas crystal malts are produced only in roasting equipment.

What is Vienna malt?

Vienna Malt is a lightly kilned specialty malt that produces a golden colored, full-bodied beer. Its flavors are more malt forward than a standard base malt, and because of its relatively gentle stewing process, most of the enzymes are left intact. This allows Vienna Malt to be used as a functional base malt in beer recipes where more malt character is desirable.

What is Munich malt?

Munich Malt is a kilned specialty malt that provides a pale amber color and rich malty flavors. It undergoes a higher temperature kilning process than Vienna and develops more color and malt forward flavors. While Munich Malt can be used at 100% of a beer’s grist, it is most often used in conjunction with a base malt in beer recipes.

What is melanoidin or mela malt?

Mela® Malt is Great Western Malting’s melanoidin malt. It is kilned similar to a Munich Malt, but more robustly, resulting in more intense color and malt flavor. The additional kilning delivers ideal conditions to develop a robust malt complexity and deep amber-brown color. Since malt enzymes are denatured by the heat at these high temperatures, we recommend Mela(noidin) Malt be used in conjunction with a base malt in beer recipes.

What is aromatic malt?

Aromatic malt is a loosely defined category, but normally references a malt with aromatic character driven by an extended malt modification process and robust kilning cycle. Aromatic malts tend to have higher colors than base malts (similar to a Munich malt).

What is Brūmalt?

Brūmalt is an old style of malt that was described in German malting journals as having a “hoenig” or honey-like flavor. It is currently made by Great Western Malting under the Brūmalt name. Brūmalt undergoes a unique malting process different from other malts. It provides a sweet honey-like flavor and slight tartness that helps to showcase hop flavors.

What is honey malt?

Today’s honey malt is a modern interpretation of an old German malt called brumalt. In the modern era, see Brūmalt, above.

What is acidulated malt, and what is it used for?

Originally, acidulated malt was developed in Germany to allow German brewers to acidify their mash while still adhering to the letter of the Reinheitsgebot 1516 food purity law. The Reinheitsgebot was instituted to protect the supply of wheat for bread bakers and it stipulated that only malted barley, water and hops could be used in the production of beer. (Later it was expanded to include wheat and yeast.) No additives like distilled lactic acid could be added to the brew because of this law, but the law did not prevent additives to the malt. So clever German maltsters first acidified some malt with a longer lactic acid culturing rest, similar to Brūmalt (see “What is Brūmalt?” above). However growing lactic bacteria produced inconsistent levels of lactic acid in the malt, so commonly acidulated malt is made by the addition of distilled lactic acid to finished malt.

What malt do distillers use in whiskeys and other spirits?

Distillers use high quality sources of starch/energy including grains to create fine single malt whiskeys and spirits. Varieties of 2-row base and roasted barley malts and other malted grains provide high proteins and diastatic power for high fermentable extract straight out of the mash tun and optimum predicted spirit yield.  Typically, there are three categories of malts that are particularly appealing to distillers, including high-enzymatic malts, high quality base malts, and specialty malts used in small inclusion rates for flavor addition.  Distillers also use other grains such as rye.  View more about Great Western Malting’s distilling malts on our webpage.


What is roasted malt?

Roasted malt is any malt that has been processed in roasting equipment, generally a commercial drum roaster. Roasted malts include crystal malts, biscuit and brown malts, as well as chocolate and black malts. With crystal malts, the just-germinated still wet malt is put into the roaster see “What is crystal malt?” above.  For all other roasted malts, finished base malt (malt that has already been kiln dried and cured) is put into the roaster and heated until the desired color is reached.

What are roasted malts used for?

Roasted malts provide a dry flavor that can be as light as your Sunday morning toasted bread, or as dark as your espresso beans or French roast coffee.  It is all a matter of degree.  Roasted malts are used when you want more intense Maillard reaction derived flavors than what you would get with kilned malts in the Vienna – Munich – Mela(noidin) line.

What is chocolate malt?

Chocolate malt is a kilned and roasted malt with color in the range of 250-550 ASBC SRM. When used in a beer, it conveys notes of unsweetened cocoa. Chocolate malt can be used in any ale or lager from a dark red beer up to a black beer like stout.

What is black malt?

Black malt is a finished, kilned malt that has undergone the additional step of being heavily roasted in a roasting drum. It is roasted beyond the level of Chocolate malt with colors in the range of 550-650 ASBC SRM. The highly roasted flavors are important contributors to the flavor and color of beers like porters and stouts.

What is the difference between black malt and black barley?

Black malt is a finished, kilned malt that has undergone the additional step of being heavily roasted in a roasting drum.  Black barley is raw (unmalted) barley that has been directly roasted in a roasting drum.  Although both are highly roasted products, flavor differences exist between black malt and black barley and your choice between them is a personal one.  In general, the malting process leads to more complex flavors in black malt when compared to the flavor profile of black barley.

What is biscuit malt?

Biscuit malt is finished, kilned malt that has also been lightly roasted in a roaster.  It provides a nicely toasted dry flavor character to any beer and is traditionally used in English Pale Ales.

What is dextrin malt?

Dextrin malt is a lightly germinated malt that has undergone moist heating to crystalize the endosperm. It is not a crystal malt which is processed in a roaster, but is dried in a kiln. With their low color, Dextrin malts are not added to beer for color or flavor, but rather are added for their contribution to beer body and mouthfeel. Great Western Malting makes a dextrin malt called Dextra Pils®. Other malts in this category include Carapils® and Carafoam® malts.


Can grains other than barley be used for malt?

Nearly any seed can be sprouted outside of the ground with the right growing conditions replicated. However, traditionally only select grains, barley in particular, have been selected for beer, spirits or food production. It is not only the ability to malt a grain that matters, the value and functionality of the malted grain to the end user is what is of primary importance.

Why is barley malt preferred over other kinds of malt in beer?

Although all cereal grains can be malted, barley has a long tradition of being the main malted cereal grain used in beer. Malted barley is desirable because it provides a complete package of starch and starch degrading enzymes that brewers require.

What is the difference between 6-row and 2-row barley?

Six-row and 2-row barleys differ in the number of developed kernels on a stalk. In 2-row barley, 4 of the kernels in a row never develop.  To tell the difference, take a stalk of barley and turn it so that you are looking top-down along the length of the stalk.  You will see the kernels sticking out from the center like flower petals or leaves on a branch. When you look down the stalk from the top, for each row, if you see six kernels radiating out like flower petals, then it is 6-row barley.  But if you only see two kernels opposite each other running down the stalk, then it is 2-row barley.  Because they are crowded in, most 6-row barley kernels are smaller than 2-row barley kernels.

Where is the best barley grown for malt?

Barley is native to the temperate growing regions of the world. It does not grow well outside of the temperate zone, which means it is not typically grown commercially subtropical or tropical zones, nor in arctic or frigid zones. In the US, the major barley grown regions are Idaho, North Dakota and Montana, with lesser amounts grown in a number of other States. Great Western Malting sources a large portion of its supply from Idaho, with additional amounts from Washington, Oregon and Montana.

What varieties of barley are used for malt?

Different varieties are grown for malt worldwide. In the US, the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) provides a list of barley varieties that have been accepted by brewers and maltsters for their quality aspects. Please see AMBA’s web site for the recommended varieties list. (


What is diastatic power?

Diastatic power, known as DP, is a term used to describe a group of starch degrading enzymes from malt. The higher the DP value, the higher “potential” to convert starches into sugars. Malted barley and wheat contain enough DP to produce a sugar profile necessary for the end user to produce a desirable finished beverage or food product.

What is grain “modification”?

Modification is a term used to describe the changes undergone by a cereal grain during malting. Some of the changes are chemical (production of enzymes and enzymatic breakdown products) and some are physical (plant growth and changes to cell wall structure in endosperm). Modification of the grain ensures that production and physical changes to the kernel are adequate for its use during the brewing, distilling or food production processes.

Why is 2-row malt preferred over 6-row malt?

Two-row malt provides greater extract and a better overall brewing package for all-malt beers compared to 6-row malt. 6-row barley has relatively thinner kernels, more husk and less extract per comparative weight. The advantage of brewing with 6-row barley is that it can provide more diastatic power (DP) than most 2-row types. Diastatic power is basically “potential,” as in the potential to convert starch into sugar, in a useable form for yeast fermentation. 2-row barley is plumper than 6-row,contains adequate DP and yields higher extract, which is desirable by brewers and distillers.

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