Great Grain makes great beer

Russ is the best beer chef around.

Choose your grain wisely.

There are literally thousands upon thousands of beer recipes out there. They all have different types of grains, different ratios of grain, different special ingredients, they are cooked differently, ingredients are added at different points in the brewing process, they are fermented under different conditions, the list is endless. Yet they all have one thing in common.

The better your grain, the better your beer.

The mix of grain determines the flavor profile, the style and the quality of beer you are brewing. Every chef knows that the better the ingredients you start with, the better your finished product will be. Russ only stocks the highest quality grains available to ensure that every creative new recipe you try has the best chance of becoming amazing beer.

Swing by the store and check out his selection of top grains and other beer ingredients.


Coming up with your own unique beers is the second most rewarding thing for innovative brewers, right behind drinking it. However, it can be tricky to come up with a recipe that works. Russ has brewed thousands of batches in hundreds of styles. He has helped hundreds of people create their own signature beer recipes. Some are even commercially available.

The next time you have an idea for a new beer, stop by the shop and pick his brain. The results are almost always intoxicating. 

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Grain Basics

Here's what you need to know about common beer ingredients and how to use them. Barley is by far the most commonly used ingredient in beer, but there are many others such as wheat, corn and rye. There are two types of barley used in brewing, and each gets their name from the way in which the barley grows on the stalk. 2-row barley has 2 rows of seeds on each of the stalk heads and 6-row barley has six rows of seeds on the head of the stalk. But what are the real differences?

2-Row Barley
2-row seeds are traditionally plumper as they are less crowded when growing. Because of this, they also have thinner husks which means that they have fewer proteins. They also tend to have a smoother and cleaner flavor profile as compared to 6-row base malts.

6-Row Barley
6-row barley has developed a reputation for not being as tasty as 2-row. It is true that 6-row is a bit grainier than its predecessor, but this is not very noticeable in most beers, especially when mixed with specialty grains and/or hops. So why use 6-row base malt? It has a much higher amount of enzymes or diastatic power.

This makes 6-row especially useful when making a recipe that utilizes a lot of adjuncts or specialty grains with little to no diastatic power. Diastatic power refers to a malted grain’s enzymatic content and its ability to convert starches into fermentable sugars during mashing. This is less important when your recipe has a large amount of malted grain, but is very important if you are using mostly adjunct grains or other starchy ingredients.


What is the difference between grain and malt?
Malt is germinated cereal grain that has been dried in a process known as "malting". The grain is made to germinate by soaking in water and is then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. Various cereals are malted, though barley is the most common.

The process of malting generates enzymes that convert starch stored in the grain into sugar. That sugar is consumed by yeast to create alcohol through the process of fermentation. Grain becomes malt, which becomes beer. 

There are a wide variety of malts,  but they all of which fall into two broad categories: malts which can be steeped (good for extract brewing), and malts which need to be mashed (all-grain brewing required).

Base Malts

Base malts make up the majority of the grist in all-grain beer. Base malts are often named based on the formation of corns on the barley stalk (2-row vs. 6-row), the variety (e.g., Maris Otter, Golden Promise, etc), or the region in which it was grown or malted.

  • Barley malts: pale malt, Pilsner malt, Vienna malt, Munich malt, mild ale malt, and more
  • Non-barley base malts like wheat malt and rye malt
  • High-kilned malts are heated to a higher temperature at the end of the malting process. These darker colored malts are responsible for the dark, malty lagers of Europe and have also found a home in some ales because of their unique character. Munich and Vienna malts are the prime examples.
  • American base malt is generally mild and fairly neutral;
  • British malts tend to be maltier, bready, and biscuit-like.
  • Continental barley  grown in Europe gives your beer a clean, "elegant" character.
  • Pilsner malt has a soft, delicate maltiness that practically defines pale lagers.

Caramel / Crystal Malts

Crystal malts are steep-able and generally used to add sweetness and color to both extract and all-grain brews.

Crystal malts do not go through the drying process and are instead moved to a roaster after they are germinated. In the roaster, the starches within the grain are converted to sugars. After the starches are converted, the temperature is increased to create the color and flavor. Some of the sugars in crystal malts caramelize during kilning and become unfermentable and will increase the final sweetness of a beer.

As a general rule, the lighter-colored crystal malts are more "sweet," while darker crystal malts add roastiness or nuttiness in addition to sweetness. On the extreme light end sit dextrin(e) malts. They also add dextrins, which bring body and a thicker mouthfeel. But broadly speaking, anything labeled crystal, caramel, or cara-something are crystal malts.

Adjuncts or Unmalted Grains

Adjuncts are unmalted, starchy things. They are normally understood to be a cereal grain, but creative homebrewers have been known to use things like pumpkin and potatoes, too. Adjuncts are often used for such purposes as increasing or lightening the body and color of a beer, increasing head retention and adding additional flavors.

Adjuncts don't have sugars available like crystal malts, so they can't be steeped for extract brewing. They also don't have enzymes like malted grains, so they need to be mashed with base malt to extract their sugars. This will cause the raw grains to begin to gelatinize. Flaked grains have already been gelatinized and are then rolled out, so no processing is necessary.

Examples of Adjuncts:
  • Flaked barley and flaked oats
  • Corn
  • Torrified wheat
  • Pumpkin/squash
  • Potatoes
  • Rice... 
  • and more - any starchy vegetable/grain can be an adjunct

Kilned & Toasted Malts

Toasted malts are completely dried and then kilned at high temperatures in order to increase their color and cause less caramelization. This gives the grains a nuttiness or toast flavor. Toasted malts are usually used in low quantities to contribute unique flavor (half a pound or less for a 5 gallon batch). Biscuit malt contributes a light, "saltine cracker" flavor, while aromatic malt is deeper and maltier.

Brown and amber malt are similarly toasted, but brown is darker and more toasty/bready and amber has less of a pretzel-like flavor.Victory malt is another light option that sits between biscuit and amber, with characteristics of both. Special roast is fairly unique and will impart a slightly darker, reddish color and has a fairly strong tangy berry flavor.

Roasted Malts

Roasted malts are any malts or grains that are roasted to a very high degree. Dark, deep, bready, delicious. Can be steeped for extract brewing or mashed for all-grain, and add a lot of complexity and color in very low quantities. The three most common varieties are: Black malt , chocolate malt, and roasted barley.

Weyermann® range of Carafa® malts
Kiln-coffee malt
Distaff cousins like de-bittered black malt and pale chocolate. Roasted malts can be steeped for extract brewing or mashed for all-grain, and add a lot of complexity and color in very low quantities.

Some brewers get gun shy about roasted malts, but fear not. Roasted malts are delicious, provided you don't go completely overboard: 10% (or roughly one pound in an average-gravity 5 gallon batch) is about the most you would usually use. Stay below this amount and it's hard to go wrong.  

Other Malts

Some malts do not come from barley: oats, rye, wheat, etc. These malts are essentially processed like, and can be treated as, their barley cousins. The difference is in how they're crushed.

Wheat malt can be crushed at the same setting as barley malt, but you will want to test before running a whole batch's worth of rye malt or oat malt through a mill. 

Brewer's Grain List. 

This is a list of most of the grain and malt available at Steins and Vines. Russ tries to keep most of this on hand, including a large selection of bulk grain. Come by the shop and he can fulfill your custom grain bill to create that perfect beer.

Brewing Grain Maltster Region Flavor Descriptors  Grain Type Lovibond Rating Diastatic Power
Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt Briess United States clean, sweet, mild malty Base Malts 1.8 140
American Honey Malt Briess United States subtle honey & bread flavors Lightly Kilned and Toasted 25 -
Briess Aromatic Malt Briess United States smooth, clean, rich intense malty Lightly Kilned and Toasted 20 20
Briess Ashburne Mild Malt Briess United States slighty sweet, subtle toasty Base Malts 5.3 65
Briess Black Malt Briess United States dry roasted, sharp to neutral Roasted Malts 500  
Briess Bonlander Munich Malt Briess United States slightly sweet, rich malty Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 10 40
Briess Caramel 10L Malt Briess United States Sweet, almost honey like Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 10  
Briess Caramel 120L Malt Briess United States Caramel, slight roasty/toastiness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 120  
Briess Caramel 20L Malt Briess United States sweet, caramel Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Briess Caramel 40L Malt Briess United States caramel, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 40  
Briess Caramel 60L Malt Briess United States caramel, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 60  
Briess Caramel 80L Malt Briess United States caramel, burnt sugar, raisin Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 80  
Briess Caramel 90L Malt Briess United States caramel, burnt sugar, raisin Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 90  
Briess Caramel Vienne 20L Malt  Briess United States Soft toffee, caramel, malty Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Briess Carapils Malt Briess United States gives impression of fullness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 1.5  
Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt Briess United States Rich, sweet smokiness Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 5 140
Briess Chocolate Malt Briess United States Rich roasted, coffee, cocoa Roasted Malts 350  
Briess Goldpils® Vienna Malt Briess United States Rich malty flavor, hint of biscuit Base Malts 3.5 80
Briess Light Roasted Barley Briess United States Coffee, intense bitter, dry Roasted Malts 300  
Briess Midnight Wheat Malt Briess United States starts slightly sweet, hints of roasted flavor, finishes exceptionally clean Roasted Malts 550  
Briess Organic 2-Row Malt Briess United States mild maltiness Base Malts 1.8 140
Briess Pale Ale Malt Briess United States hints of biscuit and nutlike flavors Base Malts 3.5 85
Briess Pilsen Malt Briess United States clean, sweet, delicatly malty Base Malts 2.7 140
Briess Rye Malt Briess United States spicy rye Base Malts 3.7 105
Briess Special Roast Malt Briess United States toasty, biscuity, sour, tangy Lightly Kilned and Toasted 40  
Briess Victory Malt Briess United States bread-like, nutty, toasty Lightly Kilned and Toasted 28  
Cargill Salzgitter German Pilsner Malt Crisp Germany clean, full-bodied base Base Malts 1.6 110
Crisp English Amber Malt Crisp United Kingdom biscuit, coffee Lightly Kilned and Toasted 29  
Crisp English Brown Malt Crisp United Kingdom dark roasted flavor, slight bitterness Roasted Malts 65  
Crisp English Crystal 77L Malt Crisp United Kingdom caramel sweetness, mouthfeel, roasty notes Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 77  
Crisp English Pale Malt Crisp United Kingdom balanced sweet, malty flavor Base Malts 3 50
Crisp English Roasted Barley Malt Crisp United Kingdom bitter, roasty Roasted Malts 192  
Crisp English Torrified Wheat Crisp United Kingdom smooth, bready Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 2  
Dingemans Belgian Aromatic Malt Dingemans Belgium Rich maltiness Lightly Kilned and Toasted 38.1  
Dingemans Belgian Biscuit Malt Dingemans Belgium biscuity, 'saltine cracker' flavor Lightly Kilned and Toasted 23.4  
Dingemans Belgian Cara 8 Pils Malt Dingemans Belgium light caramel Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 6 70
Dingemans Belgian Cara 20 (Caravienne) Malt Dingemans Belgium light, sweet Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 19  
Dingemans Belgian Debittered Black Malt Dingemans Belgium mild dark malt flavor, harsh in high quantities Roasted Malts 406.6  
Dingemans Belgian Special B® Malt Dingemans Belgium Sweet, caramel, dark fruit Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 116.8  
Flaked Barley Adjunct United States grainy, creamy Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.8  
Flaked Maize Adjunct United States neutral, moderate sweetness Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.5  
Flaked Oats Adjunct United States creamy, full-bodied Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.6  
Flaked Rice Adjunct United States leave beers drier Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.3  
Flaked Rye Adjunct United States dry, crisp, slightly spicy Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 3.9  
Flaked Wheat Adjunct United States increases head retention and body Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 1.7  
Franco-Belges Belgian Pilsen Malt Franco-Belges Belgium clean, light flavor Base Malts 1.7  
Gambrinus Canadian Honey Malt Gambrinus Canada intense malt sweetness, honey Lightly Kilned and Toasted 25  
Rahr 2-Row Malt Rahr United States clean, smooth Base Malts 2.1 138
Rahr 6-Row Malt Rahr United States neutral, slightly grainy Base Malts 2.4 163
Rahr Pale Ale Malt Rahr United States slightly toasty and full Base Malts 4 109
Rahr Premium Pilsner Malt Rahr United States light, smooth Base Malts 2 131
Rahr White Wheat Malt Rahr United States Full, slightly sweet Base Malts 2.5 171
Rice Hulls Adjunct United States N/A Adjunct, Flaked & Unmalted Adjunct Grains 0  
Weyermann® German Acidulated Malt Weyermann Germany sour Base Malts 3.2  
Weyermann® German Bohemian Pilsner Malt Weyermann Czech Republic traditional, Bohemian-style malt flavors Base Malts 2.2  
Weyermann® German Carafa I Malt Weyermann Germany deeper aroma for dark beers Roasted Malts 350  
Weyermann® German Carafa II Malt Weyermann Germany deeper aroma for dark beers Roasted Malts 425  
Weyermann® German Carafa III Malt Weyermann Germany deeper aroma for dark beers Roasted Malts 550  
Weyermann® German Carafoam Malt Weyermann Germany delicate maltiness, improved body Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 4.5  
Weyermann® German Carahell Malt Weyermann Germany full, round malt flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 10  
Weyermann® German Caramunich I Malt Weyermann Germany sweet malty aroma and flavor Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 36  
Weyermann® German Caramunich II Malt Weyermann Germany toasty, sweet malt Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 45  
Weyermann® German Caramunich III Malt Weyermann Germany toasty, intense maltiness Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 59.5  
Weyermann® German CaraRed Malt Weyermann Germany full body Caramel & Crystal Malted Grains 20  
Weyermann® German Dehusked Carafa II Malt Weyermann Germany smooth, slight roastyness Roasted Malts 425  
Weyermann® German Vienna Malt Weyermann Germany full bodied, smooth Base Malts, Lightly Kilned and Toasted 3.3  
Weyermann® German Melanoidin Malt Weyermann Germany intense maltiness Lightly Kilned and Toasted 70