Special B malt is one of Belgium’s finest dark caramel malts. It has a very complex and layered flavor profile which is used to brew some of the most premium dark beers around the globe. Wondering what this Special B malt is all about? Read this complete guide to understand this exotic malt and start using it to make some exclusive homebrews.
What Is Special B Malt?
Special B malt is a type of dark, caramel Belgian aromatic malt. It is roasted twice to get the extra dark and heavy caramel essence, and the twice-roasted process sets it apart from other malts. That is why this is hardly used as a base malt but is mostly used to add flavor, depth and character to dark beer.
Special B Malt at a Glance
|Place of origin
|80 – 90 percent
|C209I, W209I, G209K
|140 – 155 L (250-300 EBC)
|2 -10 percent
|Caramel / Crystal / Cara Malt
|Brews to make
|Trappist brews, dubbels, dark ale, porter, stout
|Munich malt, Crystal 120 malt, Vienna malt, Extra Dark English Crystal malt
|Below 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celcius)
The Special B malt is very widely used in many different kinds of beers from ales to stouts and porters. With the advent of the craft brewing scene, this malt has seen many different uses. It is mostly used in dark beers like Dunkelweizen’s and Doppelbocks, Trappist ales, and dark Belgian Abbey. Here are some core characteristics of the Special B that sets it apart from other malts.
– Flavor Profile
The flavor profile of the Special B malt is quite complex. The dark caramel flavor is the first aroma and taste that hits you, but there are many other layers of flavor in it. You also experience layers of fruity flavor like plum, cherries, and other dark dried fruits. It also has subtle taste notes of roasted nuts and raisins.
Moreover, it has some similarities in taste with black or chocolate malts but without any of the aggressive bitterness. The roasted caramel smell is quite prominent and shines among the rest of the flavors. The bitterness of this malt is not too heavy because it is mostly used as a secondary malt to add extra depth of flavor and aroma.
Its overall appearance is small in size and light to dark brown in color, ranging between 140 – 155 L (250-300 EBC).
The Special B malt can be used in any of your beer homebrewing recipes if you plan to make a dark beer, but you must remember that this malt needs to be used in very small quantities. The flavor of this malt is intense and heavy and if you use it as a base malt, most expert brewers believe that it will make your beer very overpowering in taste.
A high Special B percentage can lead to a bitter and dark brew that would not taste very good. You need to be very subtle with the use to get the optimum flavors out of this malt. To let all the complex tastes shine, you must strictly follow the recipe you are using to understand this malt better.
The recommended usage amount is between 2 – 10 percent.
– Brewing Beer With Special B
Special B malt can be a little tricky to use for first-time homebrewers. It is a type of crystal or caramel malt and is extremely dark and twice roasted. If not used in the right amount, you can end up ruining your brew. Its flavor is quite dark and rich, so you need to use very little of this malt to get the right balance of flavors.
For first-time users of the Dingemans Special B® Malt, it is advisable to follow a pre-written recipe. After you get a better idea after the first usage, you can alter the amount of the Special B malt as per your flavor palate.
Storing your Dingemans Special B Malt is not much of a hassle. The process is easy, and homebrewers can store their malts for a long time.
- It needs to be stored at any temperature below 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celcius).
- You also need to ensure that this storage place is cool and dry and has no presence of any form of external moisture.
- Controlling the temperature below the advised limit and keeping it in an airtight container are the only two criteria to keep the malt nice and good.
However, if you end up increasing the temperature around the malt beyond 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celcius), it will form molds and fungus. This will make it unusable. Make sure you check your stored malt before using them to comply with all health guidelines.
Do not let the Special B® Malt come in contact with any sunlight. It is ideal to store this malt in a dark room to avoid any external light exposure and restore it to its original form. Typically, this malt remains good for about three months, but if you store it really well and avoid all contact with extra heat, light, air, and water, then you can probably use it for up to 18 months.
Popular Brews That Use Special B Malt
There are many craft beers that use the Dingemans Special B® Malt to make dynamic new dark beers. Here are a few of the most popular beers made with the Special B malt that you must try to form a better opinion about this malt.
– Speedway Stout – Boxcar by the Alesmith Brewing Company of California, USA
This is a premium dark imperial stout beer that is stored and aged in old bourbon barrels. The brewers use the Special B malt to get the additional depth of flavor. They also use Brazilian Forastero cocoa nibs and Madagascar vanilla pods to get a layered flavor profile.
It also has subtle taste notes of Colombian coffee and the caramel effects of the Special B enhance that flavor to make a rich and aromatic beer. They also add Hatch and Mulato chilis, which give this beer a spicy pop of taste and make it popular among beer lovers.
– Obsidian Dagger IPA Noire by the Dead Frog Brewing Company of British Colombia, Canada
This special IPA uses a mix of fresh tropical, earthen hops along with the roasted Special B malt, making it a very intense and dark beer. This is a very complex dark ale and the ingredients come together to form a luxurious flavor profile. The freshness of the hops balances out the bitterness of the Special B malt and strikes the right balance of taste for this craft beer.
Not all hops work well with the Special B malt because of its intense flavor and dark caramel taste. You can try using it with Simcoe hops to get an added fruity flavor and aroma. The Simcoe has taste notes of tropical fruits like apricot, passion fruit, grapes, and berries. These complement the caramel taste of the Special B and these two hops pair very well.
If you want to opt for a more sour and citrus flavor profile, you can use the Citra hop with the Special B to balance out the roasted caramel flavor with the lemon-like sourness of the Citra.
Special B is one of the most commonly found malts on online stores or homebrew stores near you, so you can readily use it in any recipe of your choice. But if you still want to find a close replacement for it, alternatives include the Caramunich malt and Victory malt.
Here are a few malt options you can try out. Make sure you read the customer reviews and product details before choosing one.
– Crystal 120 Malt
This malt gives a caramel and coffee flavor, similar to the Special B but not the same. The usage of this malt needs to be regulated as per your taste, but it is not as dark as Special B, so you probably have to use a little more of it.
– Munich Malt
This is another dark malt that can be used as an alternative to the Special B. It tastes sweet and bitter, but the roasted effect is slightly lower; hence the end result of the brew can be different.
The Dingemans Special B® Malt is a unique blend of flavors and is one of the most popular and widely used dark Belgian caramel malts. If you want to start using this malt to experiment with new homebrew recipes, it is advisable to use it in small amounts. Before you start using it, here is a quick recap of all that we learned about the Special B malt.
- Special B has a very dark, burnt sugar or caramel flavor profile. It is the darkest malt in the Belgian caramel range of malts.
- The bitterness of this malt is not overpowering when used in a controlled quantity. The advised usage amount lies between 2 – 10 percent. Overusing it will spoil your brew.
- It can be used to make all kinds of dark beers like dark ales, stouts, porters, and more. It goes well with coffee, chocolate, and other dark flavors.
- Beyond the caramel flavor, the Special B malt also has subtle taste notes of plum, cherries, and other dark dried fruits. It also has a hint of nuts, which adds an extra richness.
Try a few beers made with the Special B malt before you form an opinion and start using it in your own brew.