Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Home Roasting (or toasting) Your Malts Part 3

It’s here! Roasted: the Homebrewer’s Guide to Home Roasting Grain written by yours truly ( Click Here for the Amazon Kindle Version)! It’s available as an Ebook Download through Amazon for only $2.99. The book covers a lot of the information contained in my posts, but also has additional information on base malts, and reading a malt analysis sheet. It’s not the longest book, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of books that cover how to brew and brewing science. This book focuses solely on the art of home roasting grain for beer. If you don’t have an Ereader, CLICK HERE to download the PC version of the Kindle App. You can then read the book on your PC.

Since my last installments on home roasting ( Part 1 which is an introduction and Part 2 which gets into experimentation and I make Special B ), I have been doing some more experimentation as well as research on the reactions of home roasting. The experimentation I focused on was working on comparing oven roasting to roasting the grain in a nut roaster (A drum roaster or something similar will give you the same results as my nut roaster). Each has a trade off, the nut roaster has more control and is a bit faster. The tradeoff for this is that things can quickly and very easily go beyond the point you intend. The second, is that at a specific point, the grain will start to smoke. The smoke can get very heavy very fast. I do find that the color in the nut roaster seems to be a bit more even. The oven is a much slower, but offers much better temperature control. There is also a bit less smoking. However, the roast appears to be a bit more uneven, and to keep the roast even you have to take the grain out and stir it, which will increase your roast time. You are also limited to being able to do the much deeper roasts because you need the control and high heat of a nut roaster, or other roasting vessel. Below you will see examples of several grain types for comparison in color and even texture. I must note that I did some experimentation with wheat malt and pearled (dehusked) barley and found the nut roaster to be a much better option for those types of grain.

Roasting Grain-The Reaction.
I covered this briefly in part 1 of my home roasting segment, but I will cover it a bit more in-depth here. Don’t worry, I will not be going into formulas and chemistry, I found that very boring. But understanding the reaction a bit more will help you come up with your own roasting varieties and experiments. The only process you really need to concern yourself with in home roasting malt is the Maillard reaction, which is not a single reaction but rather a grouping of complex chemical reactions between acids and carbohydrates. In short is a non-enzymatic browning by heat. During the Maillard reactions there are many different flavor compounds created, the number and type of compounds created depend on the food type being heated. In most cases what we get when we roast/toast grain is actually the formation of Melanoidins, which often bring a degree of caramelization-like flavors and aromas to the grain, even though it is not true caramelization of the sugars.

Nut Roaster or Oven?
So Below you will fin a bunch of pictures of what I am talking about in this segment, so if you want to skip this part, feel free. In a side by side comparison, I found that I was easily able to reproduce any grain in the nut roaster that I was in the oven. The key is to keep the grains moving and keep a close eye on the changes in color of the grain. Because the roasting goes so fast in a nut roaster (less than 5 minutes in most cases) it is very easy to get beyond the point you wish to get to, for example while making chocolate malt I easily went past my point and charred a few grains. I lost focus for only about 30 seconds as I stirred and watched what my son was doing for just a second. You also get a considerable about of smoke past a certain point, so if you don’t have a fan above your stove, you may be better off doing this outside. I found the best temperature to roast my grains in the nut roaster to get a decent even browning and not to over burn the grain or take forever to get to the browning point was at medium heat on my stove. I cannot stress enough that you really need to keep the grain moving. I did notice that you have 5 easily definable stages. The point you notice the grain starts to brown slightly, a slight crackled of the grain every now and again, a heavier crackle of the grain as it roasts, a light smoke, and a heavier smoking stage. The problem with using these stages though is that there is a lot of color change between each one, so you really need to mainly gauge the stage of the grain by your eye, unlike the oven where you can rely on time and temperature. I also found that the darker grains were much more even and had better flavor in the roaster than in the oven, even though it is much easier for the grain to get away from you once you hit that higher roasting stage. Below is a quick Pros and Cons of each roasting method.

Pros: Easy Temperature control, time is easy to control, Roast/Toast is consistent with your system, easy to provide instruction to others (toast grain at 350 degrees for 30 minutes is easy instruction to pass on).
Cons: Roast can be uneven at times if you don’t stir often, stirring often can increase roast/toast time, takes a long time to achieve roast, darker roasts are near impossible.
Pros:Faster Roast Time, Roast/Toast is more even, easy to get darker roasts not achievable in oven, visual gauging of the grain can give you a wider variety of roasts, handles dehusked or husk free grains a bit better.
Cons: Easy for the grain to get away from you (too dark or burned), grain can start to smoke, consistent roasts are hard when based solely on visual gauging, if roaster is too hot you will only brown the husk and not the starches inside.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. Below are pictures of a few recent roasts as well as Marris Otter and White Wheat experiments. Note that in each picture I included a small amount of the unroasted grain for change comparison.

Now on to the photos

This is just a picture of the nut roaster. You could probably use a drum roaster, clean wok, or even a clean pat if you can keep the grain moving.


Golden Malt, in the oven (300 Degrees for 25-30 Min)


Deep Amber in the Oven (375 Degrees for 40-45 Min)


Brown Malt (400 degrees for 45-50 Min depending on you oven)


White Wheat in the oven (400 degrees for 15 Minutes) You need to remember that grains without husks will brown the starches faster and more direct.


White Wheat in the Nut Roaster till the grain starts to crackle.


I call this a stout roast. It’s beyond brown malt and quite black. It was too bad a some of the grains got charred, You need to be careful to avoid charring too many grains.


The How’s and Why’s of beer with food

There is a lot of info on the web and in books about pairing beer with food, and what beer styles to go with what specific dishes. Generally I find the books to be a lot more in-depth than the websites, but that is to be expected. In one of my earlier posts, I briefly gave some insight and pairing suggestions that were listed in on of my favorite books, The Brewmaster’s Table. This is an excellent book for anyone remotely interested in beer and food pairing. But what I want to do today is touch on the how’s and why’s of beer and food pairing. The reason is, you may have some beef stew you are looking to pair with a particular beer, but your beef stew will more than likely have a different flavor than the way I make it. You may add chili powder, or other spicy components. Maybe you add a lot of fresh ground pepper, and I don’t. Having the ability to figure out what is in your dish, and what beer to pair it with is not a static skill. What I mean, is that you can’t always pair a chocolate cake with a stout, and expect the combination to be the same each time. Generally, a sweet stout is a sweet stout, but they all are a bit different. These differences, and knowing them, can be the difference between a so-so pairing, and a spectacular pairing.

The first step is a bit dry. You have to become familiar with beer styles and generally flavors, aromas, and mouthfeel you can expect from these generic styles. There are a few sources for this information and they are all free. First you have the BJCP style Guidelines, but you also have the Brewer’s Association’s Style Guidelines. I find the Brewer’s Association’s guidelines a little less detailed, but those would work great for a quick reference of what to expect. For a more detailed breakdown, go to the BJCP styles guide. Also, you will find some slight differences in the naming and grouping of the styles, but both will get you what you need to know. Without having a general knowledge of these generic styles, it will be very difficult to figure out beer pairing on your own. So, as boring as it may be. Read at least one of these guidelines and become familiar with at the very least, the major styles.

The second thing you need to be familiar with is the ingredients, at least the key players, in the food you are pairing. Let’s take something I simply love, BBQ. I mean the real deal. Low and slow pulled pork. How would you go about pairing a BBQ meal with your favorite beer? It is a bit easier to pair if you are also the cook. You will know what ingredients and what type of food you are making. If you are asked to bring a beer to pair with someone elses dish that takes a bit of investigation. So you have to dissect what you are making. The base of your food is going to be a pork shoulder, slightly salty, a touch sweet, and sort of fatty. But chances are that is not going to be the key flavors of the dish. There, you look at your rub, your sauce, and consider the smoke. Is your rub going to be salty? Is it going to have some spice? What type of spice? Is your sauce going to be vinegar based or tomato based? Sour or sweet? Maybe spicy? How is it cooked? Is it roasted, charred, boiled? What type of flavor does this cooking method add? All these factors are going to have some influence on your choice of beer, but whatever your main flavor component is going to be, that is probably going to be your biggest factor. Just don’t forget the supporting flavors and aromas of your dish. This holds true for every dish you want to pair. Even something simple like roasted chicken. Are you going to use rosemary or just basic salt and pepper?

Now you want to put it all together. Looking at the pairing from a very high level, you have two basic interactions, balance or accentuate. Here is where you do have some easy to remember rules. Some attributes help balance others. Here are the three rules of thumb to live by when pairing.

1. Roasty, Bitterness (hops), alcohol, and carbonation in the beer will balance fat, sweetness, and Umami in the food (for more on Umami please refer back to my article “Being Honest with the Beer“.)

2. Sweetness and Malt in the beer will balance acidity and spiciness in the food.

3. Bitterness (hops) in the beer will accentuate spiciness in the food.


here is the dish we want to pair. Here is my pulled pork sandwich which is some Slow smoked BBQ pork shoulder, Sweet Salty and Spicy Rub, and homemade BBQ sauce. Topped with a bit of creamy cole slaw.


Now, one last stage of pairing is putting it all together. Generally, you probably want to balance. With balance comes haromony….most of the time. There may be times you want to accentuate a flavor or aroma. Both of these can be obtained by using the rules above, and combining it with finding common ground in steps 1 and 2 above. By understanding the flavor and aroma components of the beer, you can find flavor and aroma components that compare to your dish. You can have earthy, citrusy, roasted, burnt, sweet, caramel, Spice (like clove, vanilla, chocolate, allspice, ect), spice (heat, think pepper beers), and so on. Almost any flavor in food you can find a close match or at lease a balancing component in beer.

So now you want to think about what you want to do as far as finding balance or accentuate the flavor of the dish. So using our example above of the BBQ pork shoulder, let’s find a type of beer that may pair well with it. In my pork shoulder, I use my own rub (See the bottom of this post for my Rub Recipe) which is a bit salty, sweet, and spicy. I tend to use a vinegar based homemade sauce with sweet onions, and hard rolls baked here at a local bakery. So I have a dish that is fairly balanced between the salty, sweet, and spicy, has some  acidity from the vinegar. Since the meat is sweet, there is some sweetness to the rub and sauce, I want to work on balancing the sweetness of the dish with the beer. Since it is smoked (I use maple, cherry, and applewood), I have some earthy and woody tones I can use as well.

Since I want balance, Look at rule #1 above. I may want something with a bit of roast, some carbonation, and maybe some alcohol or bitterness. Yet, I don’t want an overly roasty beer because I want some malt and sweetness to balance the spiciness from the rub. So here I am looking at a beer that is slightly roasty, has some malt depth and sweetness, a mild amount of bitterness, decent carbonation and/or alcohol. Since I don’t want to accentuate the spiciness of the food, I want to avoid highly hopped beers.

You want to match the intensity of the food. So it wouldn’t make sense to pair this pulled pork with a a heffeweizen or cream ale type of beer. I also want to match up the woodieness of the smoke. The smoke flavor is a key attribute to traditional BBQ. So I am thinking of getting a beer with some wood or smoke character. Although a Rauchbier is smokey, it is probably too smokey for my taste….although by all means it would pair nicely. Scottish ales may be a bit too sweet or not bold enough to stand up to our dish.  A Marzen/Oktoberfest would fit the bill nicely. It has the malt, with a toasty character (toasty is not roasty, but can help match up well with grilled food), not a lot of hops, but it does have decent carbonation. It would be  a good pairing, but we can do better. What Marzen is lacking in this case is the earthy woody character I am seeking. In this case I am looking at a porter, perhaps a brown ale. Some barrel aged English browns may work and pair nicely, Barrel aged American Browns may also work, but in some cases may be a bit too hoppy for the amount of heat in the dish. What I am looking for is a safe bet. So I am looking to the porters. A robust porter may provide too much roast. So here I have narrowed it down to a barrel aged brown porter or a barrel aged robust porter. If you look at the style guidelines for these two styles and add some wood from the barrel aging, you may have a very nice pairing for what we are looking to do in our dish.

That is the basic process and probably sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. But if you follow these simplified rules, this will get you into the right process for creating your own pairings. Just remember, it’s all about planning and understanding your ingredients, understanding your beer, and coming up with a plan on what you want your pairing to do. Balance and harmonize, or accentuate and showcase. Ido want you to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong pairing when it comes to food and beer. There are just some that are better than others. With my dish here, you could have easily gone with a Belgain Dubbel, where the malt, yeast, and alcoholic strength also would have enhanced the dish. For my taste perspective, I wanted a bit more roast than that. Also, you will need to consider the specific brand of beer. Some may appeal to you more than others. But finding this generic range, will help you narrow down your pairing. If you don’t know what is available at your local beer store, having this information will help one of the employees point you in the right direction. If you are able to tell them you are looking for a barrel aged porter, or a Belgian style dubbel, they should be able to steer you in the right direction (if they are good store and have somewhat educated people working the counter). You can also quickly deduce a good pairing based off the offerings in a resteraunt by knowing generally what you want to order, and a broad range of style that may go with the dish. That is if the resteraunt you are at offers a bit more than the big three and one or two other offerings.

As always, feel free to contact me if you feel I’ve missed something, have any questions, or just want to talk beer!

Barleypopmaker’s Triple “S” Rub

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Kosher Salt
1 1/2 tbsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp Paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp Chipotle Pepper Powder
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Cinnamon