Over the past few weeks, we’ve been highlighting the three special ingredients that are part of the current Iron Brewer competition that I am competing in. First we took a look at using ginger root in your beer, and last week we discussed how agave nectar/syrup can be used, and this week we get to take a look at one of my personal favorite ingredients, biscuit malt.
Biscuit malt comes in many forms. The Breiss version is called Victory malt, and you will sometimes see some belgian biscuit malt labeled as kilned amber malt. But whatever you call it, biscuit malt is a very versatile malt that that provide some great characteristics to your brew.
Biscuit malt is a very lightly roasted malt that is usually in the 25-30 SRM color range. As Northern Brewer points out in their profile of the malt, it falls somewhere between a high-kilned malt like Munich malt, and a roasted malt like pale chocolate, which might give you some idea of its characteristics and usage.
Biscuit malt is known for it’s toasted bread-like flavors. Think of it more as an English biscuit – in America we would think of it as more of a cracker taste.
Traditionally, biscuit malt is a type of Belgian malt, but it has found a place not only in Belgian beers, but also in a wide range of English ales. I use it in almost all of my English ale recipes (bitter, mild, porter, nut brown, golden ale, etc.). It can also provide some great depth to American ales, though biscuit malt is rarely used in lagers.
As far as it’s usage in your beer, I would consider using this malt for subtle complexity in your darker ales, or a good malty depth of flavor in your lighter ales. It can help give a little more perceived body in your lower-ABV% session ales as well.
The typical guideline is to not use biscuit malt for more than about 10% of your grain bill, or it can become over-powering or cloying. This is a good recommendation, but also take into account your recipe. For the Iron Brewer competition, I am using about 13% biscuit malt because I want to make sure it can stand out among all of the other strong flavors such as the ginger, lemongrass and Sorachi Ace hops. But this is a rare instance.
As little as 4-8 oz in a typical five-gallon batch of normal-strength ale can provide some great characteristic, and a pound or more can be used to really drive home that “saltine cracker” flavor, but it can be overdone, so be responsible with your malt usage, as you are with any specialty malt.
Next time you’re brewing up a beer that could use a little malty kick or some toasty complexity, consider using some biscuit or victory malt to add some delicious bready notes to your brew. And if you do, be sure to let me know how it turns out!