Steeping Specialty Grains
Why? Why Not!
One of the best things that a new brewer can do to get a feel for using grain is to steep specialty grains in hot water and use this wort for an extract-based recipe. Using specialty grain allows the brewer to increase the complexity of the wort from what is available commercially as extract-alone. Steeping grain also adds "freshness" to an extract brew. So often, the extract you buy may be more than a year old and the resulting beer may have a dull, soapy character due to oxidation. Creating some new wort by steeping crushed grain adds back the fresh malt character that is often missing from all extract recipes.
Historically, brewers had to settle for Light, Amber, or Dark Extract. Nowadays, there is a great deal more variety in brewing kits and some extract producers take to the time to produce a kit that incorporates several malts and real individuality. But generally, if a brewer wants complexity, then they have to achieve it themselves.
Just about every beer style may be made by using Pale malt extract and steeping the specialty grains listed below. Brown Ales, Bitters, India Pale Ales, Stouts, Bocks, Oktoberfests; all can be made using this method. And the resulting beer flavor will be superior than what can be made using extracts alone. Award winning beers can be made solely from extract, but freshness of the extract is often an issue and using grain can make up the difference between a good beer and an outstanding one.
And its fun to experiment, right?