Hot Steep Comparisons: Crystal Malt, Pilsner Malt, and Double Kilned Munich

At Riverbend, we dedicate a significant amount of time to sensory training. In these panels, we deep dive into the grain selection, recipe development, and in-house procedures that define our products. As with any great craft beer or spirit, there is a ‘true-to-brand profile that we are looking for in each one. The recent release of our Crystal Malt offered an opportunity to compare this product to other examples currently available on the market.

New Crystal Malt, 50 SRM

crystal malt

Over the years, we have learned that each producer of Crystal malt or Caramel malt developed a “house” character that brewers could recognize as either a positive or negative attribute. Given that preference and history, we were interested to see how our version stacked up. For our comparison test, we selected examples with a similar SRM from the United Kingdom and a domestic product too. 

The colors of all three were very similar. Good to know if you are targeting a very specific style or color range for your beer. We noted distinct differences in each, which supports the “house” character thesis. The two commercial examples presented a bit more toast and coffee character compared to Riverbend’s new Crystal 50 malt. Here are a few tasting notes from that panel:



Riverbend Crystal 50 malt – bright cherry, toffee, with a light syrupy finish

British Crystal malt – dark fruit, bakers chocolate, woody tannins

Domestic Crystal malt – dark fruit, toast, woody tannins

Double Kilned Munich

We also included our Double Kilned Munich in this test, as the SRM is very similar. The goal of this was to explore and define the differences in these two products to avoid any confusion in the market. The most noteable takeaway from this exercise was the difference in mouthfeel. Double Kilned Munich displayed a richer, breadier mouthfeel when compared to Crystal 50, like a mixture of chocolate cake batter and toast. This makes sense when you consider that a higher level of starch conversion has taken place in the Crystal malt, leaving a sweeter, thinner liquid. Some similarities did exist, with both presenting notes of dark fruit and molasses.

Pilsner Malts

Next up was an examination of Pilsner malts. Since the release of our single origin Pilsners, our customers have become more comfortable with the idea of selecting a specific malt from our portfolio for their lager projects. We’ve even fielded a few jabs about the number we offer, which gives me the perfect opportunity to talk about what differentiates them.

The expansion of our offerings of Pilsner malt styles mirrors market trends from the larger producers, with several releasing premium variants or domestic houses advertising the use of barley from Europe. All of which speaks to market demand and the continued rise of craft lager production in the United States market. 

Customers have consistently reported that our Chesapeake Pilsner, made with Violetta barley, is closest to the “Continental” profile from across the pond. Hot take: this comparison did not support that assessment! 

crystal malt

Our comparison of Chesapeake Pilsner to a premium domestic Pilsner malt and a continental Pilsner malt using the traditional hot steep method yielded some interesting results. The continental example delivered a more pronounced bready character than Chesapeake, but with less floral and fruit aromas. In fact, our tasting notes were very similar to our Cumberland Pilsner, made with Calypso barley. The premium domestic sample displayed the least amount of character between the three. Aromas tended to be muted compared to the other two and remained the bread crumb, crust arena with little additional characteristics noted. No flaws or off flavors were detected in any of the three. Always fun when data surprises you, right?!

All of this begs the question, do you have a comparison you’d like to try? Our team can bring our hot steep kits to your facility and compare what you currently use with a comparable Riverbend product. This collaboration is a great way to try before you buy!

Give us a shout to learn more