Second, he speaks of the use of crystal malts as almost heresy to German brewers and that they would use little to no crystal malt. He repeats this several times in the book, however, in all of his recipes (minus the one from a German brewer) he uses 5-10% crystal malt. Sometimes he even uses multiple kinds of crystal malt in a single recipe. How do you interpret and/or reconcile this?
Below is the text of an email from Dornbusch that Denny posted on the Northern Brewer forum back in 2005.
"Thank you for your two inquiries about Alt and Sticke.
Let me first respond to the Sticke question about replacing carared with melanoidin malt.
Carared is one of the typical malts used in Germany to impart ¡°reddishness¡± to Alts, Vienna lagers, and similar brews. Carared is slightly aromatic and contributes a relatively mild maltiness as well as some body to the finished beer. I recall having been told by a maltster that a grain bill should contain no more than 25% carared or 20% melanoidin malt, but I do not know why this limitation.
Replacing the carared with melanoidin malt is perfectly OK, but I would use a little less melanoidin than carared, if you are looking for a comparable result. This reason lies in the different specs:
Melanoidin malts tend to be slightly darker (the Weyermann product, for instance, comes in a color range of 23 ¨C 31¡ãL/SRM, compared to the Weyermann Carared at 16 ¨C 23¡ãL/SRM). Melanoidin malts tend to be slightly more acidic than carared malts. This enhances flavor stability, but you should check you mash pH. (Perhaps this is the reason for the 20%-limit on melanoidin malt? If the mash becomes too acidic, the diastatic enzymes won¡¯t work!) Melanoidin malts also have excellent friability and fairly low ¦Â-glucan values. This enhances lautering performance. They are more malt-aromatic (which is OK in an Alt. including a Sticke) and add more body and mouthfeel to the finished beer (also OK). Importantly, however, melanoidin malts (as opposed to carareds) add deep-amber to red-brown, rather than brilliantly reddish, color values to the beer. For the Sticke, therefore, mostly because of the color contribution, I would use no more than perhaps 15% melanoidin malt (instead of the 20% carared in my Zymurgy recipe).
As for the amount of crystal malt I mention in some of the Alt recipes in my book, the answer is more complex:
I tried to cover the wide range of Altbiers that I have tasted both in Germany and in the US. At one end of the spectrum is the Schmalz¡¯s Alt from Minnesota, for instance (see p. 114 -- not sure if it is still available nowadays). It seems to contain a TON of highly roasted malts. At the other end of the spectrum is the Schumacher Alt, which is made from just one type of Munich malt (which I happen to know is Weyermann Munich Type I producing a wort of 5.1 - 7.3¡ãL/SRM ). The Enderlein Alt recipe (pp. 105/106) is based entirely on this brew.
The crystal quantities I mention in some of the recipes are deliberate. No typos. In D¨¹sseldorf, there are clear differences between, say a F¨¹chschen or Uehrige Alt, on the one hand, and a Hannen or Diebels Alt, on the other. The former are lighter-copper in color with very little residual sweetness in the finish, while the latter are more reddish-brown with a much maltier aftertaste. I happen to know that the color in the darker D¨¹sseldorf Altbiers comes from the addition by those breweries of a malt-essence coloring agent called SINAMAR. This is a patented tincture made by the Weyermann Malting Company of Bamberg. It was invented n 1903. It is made entirely made from a vacuum-evaporated, unhopped beer brewed just from dehusked Weyermann Carafa malt. Because the grain base of this product is dehusked, there is no bitterness associated with this liquid, just dark concentrated color. Because it is made entirely from barley, it meets the requirements of the German Reinheitsgebot, which makes it a legal ¡°additive¡± to beer.
When I wrote the manuscript for the Alt book in 1997/8, SINAMAR was not available in North America, so I did not mention it then. For the darker versions of Altbier, therefore, I resorted to crystal malt for color in the book. To avoid roasty notes, though, I kept the color value to no more than 60¡ãL. Now, since last year, SINAMAR is available in the United States, where it is imported and distributed by Crosby & Baker. Of course, I would mention SINAMAR as an option today.
The grain bill of my own commercial Alt, which won a bronze medal at the 2000 GABF, contained about 15% crystal from Briess, at 60¡ãL. As a test, I once made the same Altbier by replacing the Briess crystal with an equivalent amount (calculated on color value, not weight) of Carastan Malt. This malt is roasted at about 300¡ãF (150¡ãC). The mathematical color value of the two brews was supposed to be identical, but visually the Carastan beer turned out almost as dark as a Porter, compared to the brilliant copper-red color of the Briess crystal beer. The two beers also tasted completely differently. The Carastan Alt tasted too acrid and toffee-toasty to be an Alt. The Briess Alt, by contrast, was even identified in a blind taste test by the best-known German-language beer writer, Conrad Seidl, as being an authentic Alt.
From this I conclude that you can both succeed and fail in making an authentic Altbier with crystal. What I was after in the recipes in which I used crystal (and I tested them all!), was color without roastiness. If you rely on crystal for color, they key, at least in my experience, is to get the right BRAND of crystal. You want a crystal malt that is stewed longer at lower temperatures rather than faster at higher temperatures. Also, you want a crystal malt that is produced in a roasting drum, not in a kilning box. For these reasons, I disclosed on p. 34 of the book, that I had used Briess malt for all the test batches. I did not disclose the brand to give Briess a plug, but because I knew the recipes worked with this brand. Weyermann malts work well too, by the way.
I understand why some people do not believe I should have used crystal at all (or up to 15%) in the recipes, but the reality is that these critics may not be sufficiently familiar with ALL the varieties of Alt that are and have been brewed in and around D¨¹sseldorf, as well as in Westphalia (with lots of wheat in the grain bill), Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hanover (with lots of crystal!), and even Bavaria (with plenty of residual sweetness). My goal was to be both authentic and comprehensive, while supplying recipes that could actually be made in North America with the ingredients available (then!).
I hope this explains, why there is crystal in some (though not all!) of the Alt brews in my book. The explanation I am giving you here is probably something that I should have included explicitly in the original book manuscript. If you could rewrite the book today, I certainly would do so. Please, feel free to disseminate this information to everybody in your discussion group, and keep me in the loop.