The Key Grains Used in Beer Brewing

grains play a crucial role in the flavor, aroma, and overall character of . From the base to specialty grains, each type contributes its unique characteristics to create a diverse range of beer styles. In this article, we will explore the different types of brewing grains and their significance in the brewing process.

Barley is the most commonly used grain in beer production and serves as the base for most beers. It provides the fermentable sugars necessary for to convert into . Barley also contributes to the beer's body, mouthfeel, and head retention. Different types of barley, such as two-row or six-row varieties, can impact the beer's flavor profile.

Wheat is another popular grain used in brewing, particularly in wheat beers. It adds a distinctive smoothness and creamy texture to the beer. Wheat is also known for its high protein content, which can contribute to a fuller mouthfeel and improve head retention.

Corn is often used in American lagers and light beers. It brings a subtle sweetness and light body to the beer, resulting in a crisp and refreshing taste. Corn is prized for its ability to produce a clean and neutral flavor, allowing other ingredients to shine.

In addition to these base grains, brewers also utilize specialty malts to add complexity and depth to their beers. These specialty malts are kilned or roasted to varying degrees, resulting in different flavors, colors, and aromas. Some common specialty malts include caramel malts, chocolate malts, and roasted barley.

Caramel malts add sweetness, depth, and a caramel-like flavor to the beer. They range in color from light to dark and can contribute to both the beer's color and flavor profile. Chocolate malts, on the other hand, impart a rich, dark color and a roasted, chocolatey flavor. They are commonly used in stouts and porters.

Roasted barley is heavily roasted, resulting in a dark color and a robust, roasted flavor. It is often used in stouts and adds a , -like taste.

Other grains, such as oats and rice, are also used in brewing. Oats can contribute to a smooth and silky mouthfeel, while rice is often used to lighten the body and create a crisp, clean taste, commonly found in American-style lagers.

It's worth noting that different beer styles require different grain combinations to achieve their desired characteristics. For example, a traditional German Pilsner would typically use German Pilsner malt, while an American might utilize a domestic 2-row barley malt.

Brewing grains are essential ingredients in the beer-making process. They provide fermentable sugars, contribute to the beer's body, mouthfeel, and head retention, and add unique flavors and aromas. From the base malt to specialty grains, each type plays a crucial role in shaping the beer's overall character. So, the next time you enjoy a pint of beer, take a moment to appreciate the grains that went into creating its distinct taste.

What Grains Can Be Used In Brewing?

Various grains can be used in brewing to create different flavors and characteristics in beer. The most commonly used grain is barley, which serves as the base of the beer. Barley provides fermentable sugars that yeast can convert into alcohol, giving beer its alcoholic content.

Another popular grain used in brewing is wheat. Wheat is known for its high protein content, which contributes to a fuller mouthfeel and a creamy head in the beer. Wheat beers, such as Hefeweizen and Witbier, are known for their refreshing and light characteristics.

Corn is another grain that can be used in brewing. It brings a smooth and neutral sweetness to the beer, resulting in a clean and crisp taste. Corn is often used in American lagers to create a light and refreshing beer.

Base malts, which are typically made from barley, are used to provide the majority of the fermentable sugars in beer. These malts are responsible for the beer's body, sweetness, and overall flavor profile.

Unmalted barley can also be used in brewing. It adds a unique flavor and mouthfeel to the beer, often described as grainy or biscuity. Unmalted barley is commonly used in traditional Scottish ales and stouts.

Oats are sometimes used in brewing to enhance the beer's smoothness and creaminess. They contribute to a silky texture and can add a subtle sweetness to the beer.

In addition to these grains, specialty malts are often employed to add complexity and unique flavors to the beer. These malts are typically roasted or caramelized to create flavors ranging from nutty and toasty to chocolatey and caramel-like.

Lastly, rice can also be used in brewing, especially in lighter lagers, to add a crisp and dry character to the beer.

The choice of grains used in brewing plays a crucial role in determining the flavor, body, and overall character of the beer. Brewers carefully select and combine different grains to achieve the desired taste profile for each specific beer style.

brewing grains

What Grains To Use For IPA?

When it comes to choosing the grains for brewing an American IPA, there are several options available. The most common choice for a base malt is domestic 2-row barley malt, which provides a solid foundation for the beer. However, there are other grains that can be used as well, each adding their own unique characteristics to the final product. Here are some options to consider:

1. English Pale Malt: With a color of around 2 °L, English pale malt is a suitable choice for brewing an IPA. It offers a slightly different flavor profile compared to domestic 2-row barley, adding a touch of biscuity or bready notes to the beer.

2. Pale Malt: Another option is pale ale malt, which typically has a color of around 3 °L. This malt can provide a slightly richer and more complex flavor compared to 2-row barley malt, adding depth to the overall taste of the IPA.

3. German Pilsner Malt: While primarily associated with brewing lagers, German pilsner malt can also be used in IPAs. It has a very light color of approximately 1.8 °L and imparts a crisp, clean flavor to the beer. This malt can result in a lighter and more refreshing IPA.

It's important to note that the choice of base malt will significantly impact the flavor, color, and overall character of the IPA. Brewers often experiment with different malt combinations to achieve the desired taste profile. Additionally, adjunct grains and specialty malts can be added to further enhance the complexity and depth of the IPA.


Brewing grains play a crucial role in the flavor, aroma, and overall character of beer. Barley, being the base grain, provides the foundation for most beers, while wheat adds protein and contributes to a smoother mouthfeel. The addition of corn brings a subtle sweetness to the brew, enhancing its overall taste. Other grains such as oats, rice, and specialty malts are often used to create unique and complex flavors in craft beers.

Furthermore, the choice of malt can greatly influence the style and quality of the beer. Domestic 2-row barley malt is a popular choice for American IPAs, but English pale malt and German Pilsner malt can also be utilized to achieve desired results. These malt choices contribute to the beer's color, body, and overall taste profile.

Additionally, brewers grains, the solid residue left after the malting process, have been utilized as a valuable co-product feed for livestock. Rich in digestible protein and energy, brewers grains are widely used in cattle production.

Brewing grains offer a wide range of options for brewers to experiment with, allowing them to create unique and flavorful beers. Whether it's barley, wheat, corn, or specialty malts, each grain brings its own distinct characteristics to the brewing process, resulting in a diverse array of beer styles and tastes.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.