In our Special B Malt guide, we will explore the reasons why this dark malt is so widely used in many beers, ales, and stouts. Offering a rich flavor with a dark complexion, you will find Special B Malt in many Belgian Abbey and Trappist Ales, Dubbel’s, and it even works great in some IPAs.
We will take a deeper dive into the flavor profile of this malt, look at how you use it to create some fantastic tasting ales, and outline some hops and malts you can use alongside Special B.
What is Special B Malt?
You will usually find this malt in several dark Belgian Abbey and Trappist ales as well as Dunkelweizen’s and Doppelbocks, and it is typically used sparingly to add character, flavor, and aroma. Special B is made with the same process as other Belgian caramel malts; however, the main difference is that Special B Malt is roasted twice.
Some well-known brews that use Special B Malt include:
- AleSmith Speedway Stout – Boxcar from the AleSmith Brewing Company
- The Obsidian Dagger IPA Noire from the Dead Frog Brewery
- Samuel Adams (Barrel Room Collection) Tetravis from the Boston Beer Company
- Jubel 2015 from Deschutes Brewery
The flavor profile of Special B Malt is complex, and its dark complexion and rich aroma give off a myriad of different tastes.
Some of the flavors that you can expect to find with Special B Malt include:
- A rich caramel taste
- Hints of nut
- Roasted aroma
As the flavors of Special B Malt can be pretty intense and heavy, you usually only need to add a very small percentage when brewing with this malt. However, there can be bitter notes that may be overwhelming if you add too much.
How to Brew with Special B Malt
Special B malt is a type of Crystal or Caramel Malt, and brewing with it can be a little trickier than some other malt varieties. The reason for this is that it is pretty heavy and rich in flavor, so getting the balance right is vital otherwise, you might spoil your homebrew.
When to Add Special B Malt
You only need a small amount of Special B malt in most homebrew recipes. Typically between 2 – 10% of the malt is used to add flavor, aroma, and character to ales, beers, and stouts. This malt has a very assertive presence, and adding too much to the brew can massively overpower it and ruin the taste.
Less is definitely more with this malt.
Storing Special B Malt
Storing Special B Malt is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require any complex process.
You should store malt at a temperature lower than 59°F (15°C) and ensure that it is kept in a cool, dry place. If malt gets wet, it can produce mold and fungus, while insects can spoil the malt if the temperature exceeds 59°F (15°C).
Special B Malt should also be kept in a sealed bag or container to ensure that it isn’t exposed to the air, and it should be stored away from direct sunlight.
Typically malt can be stored and used for three months, although it can most likely be used after this time, and some malts can be kept fresh for up to 18 months.
Complimentary Malt Varieties
Even though just a small amount of Special B Malt is enough to add a darker complexion and strong aroma to ales, stouts, and beers, you can use it with different hops. Many homebrewers have had great success using a limited amount of Special B Malt to make IPAs.
If you want to make a red ale, Special B is ideal for this.
Simcoe Hops offers refreshing flavors such as Apricot, Passion fruit, Pine, Mixed herbs, Citrus zest, Grapefruit, and Berry. This hop provides a nice contrast to the darker and fuller Special B and has worked well to create some great tasting brews. If you wanted a more striking contrast in taste, a hop such as Citra could be used for an incredibly lemony finish.
Kent Goldings, often used to create English Pale Ales, can be used with Special B. You will find this combination in Belgian Dubbel’s with pilsner malts, Munich malts, and Liberty hops.
Special B can also be used to create German wheat beer such as Dunkles Weissbier. For this, you need to use a base malt such as Vienna or some Munich Malts alongside Special B and a pilsner and wheat malt.
|Usage||Typically between 2 – 10%|
Special B Malt – Alternatives
Special B malt is a popular malt, so it isn’t that difficult to find. However, if you want some alternatives that provide distinct tastes and aroma, these are some good malts to use.
Crystal 120 Malt
Crystal 120 Malt can be used as a replacement for Special B Malt. It isn’t the same; however, it is pretty similar. Crystal 120 Malt is used to add darker colors and flavors to beers, ales, and stouts. Some of the flavors you can expect from this malt include caramel, coffee, earthy, and a roasted aroma. You can use a bit more Crystal Malt than Special B Malt (up to 15%, whereas it is recommended to use more than 10% of Special B Malt).
A malt that can be used as an alternative to Special B is a Munich Malt. Munich is often used in Oktoberfest beers and ales and produces a deep taste with hints of sweetness and bitterness. Munich Malt is not usually used as a base malt as it has low diastatic power(Vienna is a better malt to use for this). Still, it is widely utilized for adding a darker complexion and rich aroma to beers, and it is perfect for brown beers, wheat beers, Doppelbocks, stouts, porters, and Dunkels.
Extra-Dark English Crystal Malt
Extra-Dark English Crystal Malt offers a deep amber color, and you will experience dark-fruit flavors similar to Special B. You will also find notes of caramel, toffee, and sweetness to this malt. Extra-Dark English Crystal Malt usage is similar to Special B as you usually only need between 3 – 10%; otherwise, it will start to spoil the brew. This malt can add a darker shade to brews, and it is an excellent alternative to use if you can’t get any Special B Malt.
Vienna Malt is very similar to Munich Malt; however, Vienna has higher diastatic power, so it can be used as a base malt. The flavor of Vienna Malts is more grainy. While Vienna Malt can add a darker complexion to your beers, it isn’t as dark as many Munich Malts, and indeed, it isn’t dark as Special B Malt; it is more akin to a pale English malt. You can add a lot more Vienna Malt to your homebrew ingredients with some recipes using up to 70%.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What does Special B Malt taste like?
Answer: Special B Malt offers a range of flavors that create deep, rich, and dark brews. Some of the flavors you can expect from a Special B Malt include caramel, dark fruits such as plum, cherries, raisins, toffee, and a roasted aroma.
Question: What beers use Special B Malt?
Answer: Special B Malt helps to create a wide variety of different beers, ales, stouts. Some beers that use Special B Malt include Belgian Abbey and Trappist ales, Dunkelweizen’s and Doppelbocks. Some IPAs use a very small amount of Special B Malt in their recipes.
Question: How much Special B Malt should I use?
Answer: Each recipe will let you know how much Special B Malt you should use in the brewing process. As Special B is very rich and deep malt, the grain usage is usually between 2 – 10%. Any more than this will overpower the flavor and can easily ruin your ale.
Question: Does Special B Malt work in an IPA?
Answer: It can do. Some IPA recipes use a small amount of Special B Malt alongside different types of fresh hops to contrast the flavor. Some hops that can be used with Special B Malt include Simcoe, Amarillo, and Citra.
Question: How do I store Special B Malt?
Answer: Special B Malt should be stored at a temperature lower than 59°F (15°C) in an air-tight container or bag. The malt needs to be kept in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight as mold can form if the malt gets wet. Most malt is good for three months, although it usually is fine to use far beyond this, with some malts being OK for up to 18-months.
Question: Where can you buy Special B Malt?
Answer: Special B Malt is very popular for many commercial and homebrewers, so getting a hold of this malt isn’t challenging. If you want to begin adding some rich and deep flavor to your beers, ales, and stouts, we recommend going with Brewmaster Special B – 1 lb Milled Malt.
Special B Malt is a homebrewing ingredient that should be used very sparingly. This malt is perfect for creating Belgian and dark European ales and beers; however, its versatility means it can be added to IPAs with refreshing hops too.
Even a small amount of this malt can help darken beers, ales, and stouts offer a rich flavor and aroma. With Special B Malt, you can start experimenting with different craft recipes and create some fantastic tasting brews that provide flavors of dark fruit, caramel, toffee, and a roasted aroma.