What's the deal with peat malt?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by hopsbreath, Oct 8, 2012.

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  1. hopsbreath

    hopsbreath Initiate (0) Aug 28, 2009 Oregon

    Just something I've been pondering and have a little time now to start the discussion. Peat malt is a malt that seems to have very little usefulness. Jamil says never to use it in Scottish ales or Wee Heavy's in Brewing Classic Styles and virtually nobody ever talks about how to use it otherwise. Most of the time, a reference to peat is a deterrent and smoked malt is encouraged instead. I question this because a HotD Adam clone I brewed (link follows) used a substantial amount of peat and tastes just fine. Is it simply a personal taste thing for most folks or is the aversion to peat just a widespread groupthink? Thoughts, insight, and knowledge dropping all appreciated. http://www.homebrewchef.com/HOTDAdamBeer.html
     
  2. DrewBeechum

    DrewBeechum Meyvn (1,305) Mar 15, 2003 California
    Premium Member

    Peat malt is a definite fault line for brewers. There are a number of commercial beers that use it, like Stone Smoked Porter, that do just fine.

    I think the problem is that many homebrewers overdo it and that turns people off. I also think a challenge is the variability of the malt from "meh smokey to holy hell that's a lot of smoke!"

    ETA: I'm of the camp that you can use peat malt, but... man, it's an unforgiving malt and so therefore I usually recommend against it
     
  3. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,346) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I don't like the phenolics it has. Stone Smoked Porter is one where I pick it up, and it is fairly restrained and they do use the low phenolic peat malt.

    Growing up there were muck fires in the area. If you ever had to live with the smokey haze of burning organic soil over a summer, you don't want anything to do with a smell like that agian.
     
  4. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I love properly done smoked beers, but I can't take the peat malt phenolics. I drainpoured Stone Smoked Porter -- the smell alone almost sufficed, but I did manage to take one sip.
     
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  5. bgramer

    bgramer Initiate (174) Feb 10, 2006 Washington

    When used sparingly and in the right balance to the rest of the grain bill, Peat malt can definitely aid in creating complex flavor profiles. I used just a little bit for my Old Ale, and it came out great. Wisp of smoke, but not a dominant part of the flavor's profile. Aging it over time has mellowed it out too, and it now has a nice balanced complexity.
     
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  6. marquis

    marquis Crusader (758) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    There is clearly a case for using it simply because many people enjoy drinking the result and that's after all what beer is all about. The problem is that it's become entangled with Scottish brewing where it's inappropriate.The Scots deserve better understanding of their brewing heritage.
     
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  7. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    Way to tough it out :slight_smile:
     
  8. mjryan

    mjryan Zealot (581) Dec 22, 2007 Minnesota

    I love it, but a little bit goes a long way. I've found it to be particularly suited to porter/stout, but it works really well in strong British styles, such as Wee Heavy and Old Ale.
     
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  9. hopsbreath

    hopsbreath Initiate (0) Aug 28, 2009 Oregon

    Curious how much you guys determine to be "a little bit" in your Old Ale's. Would just a couple ounces show well in a high gravity beer? The Adam clone i provided above used a whole pound in a five gallon batch. That seemed like too much when I read it but went for it anyway. Definitely some prominent phenols and likely contributes that leather and tobacco character that always seems to show up in reviews. I wouldn't mind it being a little more subtle though and am wondering how much to use in other recipes.
     
  10. gtermi

    gtermi Meyvn (1,214) Apr 21, 2010 Texas

    I made a Scottish Ale with Peat malt and the peat malt completely took over and it was not pleasant. I am not a huge fan myself.
     
  11. premierpro

    premierpro Aspirant (278) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    I would not use any more then 3oz in 5 gallons. I used 4oz in a scoth ale and thought it was too much. I will probably never use it again.
     
  12. bgjohnston

    bgjohnston Initiate (0) Jan 14, 2009 Connecticut

    I made a wee heavy with a very small amount (2 oz for a 5 gallon batch) of peated malt, and also added Scotch-soaked oak cubes as it finished fermenting. To date, it is only beer I am absolutely hoarding all to myself.

    If you like those sorts of flavors, then it can work out very well, as long as you are judicious as to how much you use.
     
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  13. bgramer

    bgramer Initiate (174) Feb 10, 2006 Washington

    I used .5 oz. Bought the peat malt separately at the LHBS and kept it in a different bag. I just measured it out like how I measure out hops on my scale. That fits my personal taste, and really, thats how it should be... everyone should tailor their recipes to their personal tastes. Omit it, add a little bit, add more, or add a whole bunch... all up to you. :-)
     
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  14. MaltyHoppyGood

    MaltyHoppyGood Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2009 Wisconsin

    I used 1% Peated malt in a 10 Gallon batch of Scottish 70 shilling. The beer has a nice peat flavor to it, but it melds well with the under-attenuated malt bill, which consisted mostly of pale malt, roasted barley, flaked barley and invert sugar. Each keg had only 1 oz, or . 5% of the grain bill. Plenty for that style, which mine came to 4% abv. It has been almost 7 weeks and the beer appears to appreciate with age, even at such a low abv. Literature I read claimed low abv Scottish ales to be drunk fresh, while it may be true, I disagree for my particular recipe. I enjoy the peaty notes and they are present but not overpowering. I could've gone 1oz/8 oz for 10 gallons and gotten a similar result, but decided to double the amount to 2oz. Aging is a beautiful thing, even on these low abv little guys. To each his own, but I disagree with the vehement rejection of Palmer/Zainasheff rejection of peated malt. Hell, even the BJCP label peat malt "incorrect"... Try it once, at 1% or lower, IMO for best results for a restrained smoky effect of peat. If you think you're sensitive, .5% of grain bill at most.
     
  15. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,077) May 21, 2010 Texas

    That's quite odd. I love stone smoked porter, and it's not nearly as smoky as certain other smoke beers I've had. The local mesquite beer from Ranger Creek, Mesquite Smoked Porter, (85 on BA) is far smokier. Another one I've had is Schlenkerla, which I also find smokier than stone's. These aren't beers I seek out often (smoke beers in general, that is) but I do enjoy them when I get a hankerin' for something smoky. Cedar Creek's Smoked Alt is another I've tried and enjoyed.

    There must be something very specific about "peat malt phenolics*" that some people are predisposed (for whatever reason) to dislike.

    *I am pretty sure I am completely unqualified to pick out these specific flavors, unless it's to say that it 'tastes like stone smoked porter.'
     
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  16. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,077) May 21, 2010 Texas

    That sounds fantastic. Scotch smoked oak cubes with an ounce of peat malt in an altbier, that's my goal for a somewhat near future beer. Better get some scotch and some oak cubes going now...
     
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  17. bgjohnston

    bgjohnston Initiate (0) Jan 14, 2009 Connecticut

    I think those flavors would play well in an altbier. I did a couple of alts this past year, but went with the German purist attitude with them. German malts, German hops, German ale yeast. Looking back on it, I can imagine a lower-hopped version of the alt making a nice playground for some flavor additions.
     
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  18. MrOH

    MrOH Crusader (754) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    I'm guessing that the people who don't like peat malt also don't like Islay whiskeys. The easiest way to see if its for you is to go to a bar with a good selection of scotch and work your way through the Hebrides.

    I picked up a pound of the stuff a couple of weeks ago. The better half's favorite dram is Laphroaig, so I figured she'll enjoy whatever I do with it. I don't plan on using more than 4oz in any one beer, 1 or 2oz will be the norm, so it'll probably be around for a while.
     
  19. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (479) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    . . . maybe I should have been a fireman . . . I love Stone's Smoked Porter and have cloned it near perfectly. I used the published amount of 2% peated malt and it tasted identical. And I'm not a big fan of Islay whiskys, usually make my Laphroaig-drinking friends sip outside to save the house. Because the smoke aroma gradually fades I'm gonna go wild next time and use 3% peated malt.

    Currently lagering a Rauchbier (true lager) which used smoked malt from Bamberg which is a completely different animal (beechwood smoked). This style recommends 40-80% smoked malt . . . I used 50%. On kegging the aroma/taste was so mild I was worried. After 45 days the smokiness is growing and haven't added the bubbles yet.

    Both peated and smoked malt are subject to lots of variables in the production/shipping process. Fortunately my supplier has a good handle on this. Now where's that fire helmet . . .
     
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  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,448) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    There was a discussion about smoked beers in the Beer Talk forum and this topic is very polarizing.

    FWIW, I enjoy drinking Stone Smoked Porter. I think the smoke character is restrained and what is there does not offend me.

    I have been offended by other smoked beers.

    Cheers!
     
  21. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (407) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    I brewed what was supposed to be a Smoked India Black Ale (Black IPA, Cascadian Dark, whatever you want to call it) last year using a pound of peated malt. It's almost not drinkable - and I now call it a smoked porter, LOL.
    In smelling the malt in the store, it seemed to be what I was looking for, but in the actual brew, the phenolics really came through and gave it that almost Band-Aid taste and smell.
    I do want to try again, using less of a different smoked malt - probably cherrywood or some such and tweaking my hop schedule.
    IMO, peat malt can be used in very sparing amounts and in the right brew. It can easily overwhelm anything else going on in there.
    a couple ounces in a fairly dark, malt-driven beer could be interesting, like a Scotting Shilling, or again, porter or stout.
     
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