Sam Adams University: dark beers
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 13, 2006
By Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor Lew Bryson
You have to roast them to get them dark and brown, and the darker the roast – Vienna, French, Satanic – the longer you roast them. But no matter how long you roast the beans, it's still coffee, just a bit more flavorful.
Dark beers are made the same way.
Ever seen barley, the grain used to make beer? It's actually a very light tan in color. It gets a little darker when it's put through a kiln, a drying oven, as part of the process that turns it from raw barley into barley malt ... unless the maltmaker decides to make a dark malt.
And if he does, it's like coffee, literally: They shovel the malt into a drum roaster, the same kind of machinery used to roast coffee beans, and they roast it.
If you want dark beer, like brown ale or a deep, dark stout, that's how you do it: Roast your malt longer. It doesn't take that much dark malt; a little bit goes a long way. Something like a schwarzbier, a German lager whose name literally means "black beer," has a dark black color but hardly any roasted flavor at all. It's a smooth, easy-drinking black lager.
Dark beers are not necessarily "heavier" or stronger in alcohol than other beers – just like toasted bread isn't any "heavier" than plain old bread. Dark beers are simply made with more darkly roasted malts, which gives them more flavor.
You can darken a beer somewhat by adding more malt, which will give you a stronger, heavier beer. You can darken a beer a little by cooking the malt harder in the brewing process, a technique called decoction, which will give you a darker, smoother beer.
But by far the easiest way to get a dark beer is the Juan Valdez method: Just roast it.
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