How to get a burnt caramel taste in a beer

In my first year of brewing when I was working with extract, I made this beer that I scorched while boiling. It turned out to have this burnt caramel taste that everyone who drank it loved. I felt it was a flaw, it tasted like it had a flaw in it, and the beer seemed to stale faster than my other brews. Since going all grain and full wort boils, I have tried to replicate a burnt caramel taste without scorching the beer. I tried adding a pound of C 120, but it seemed like it gave it more of a raisin taste. I have heard of reducing some of the first runnings on the stove, but I fear this may lead to the same problems as that first batch. Does anyone know of a way to get that flavor in the beer? Thanks.

I’m guessing your a extract brewer. That taste that you desire is Millard reaction. It is amino acid and sugar creating melanoidens. Here’s how it works water sugar and starches of your wort are boiling and water evaporates the amino acids attach to the sugar chains causing the reaction as the water boils the concentrate of sugar per parts of water more sugar less water. Just like making caramel. To create this reaction take part of your wort in a kettle and extend the boil. The more water boiled off will create that reaction. I do this for some of my Scottish ales. But I do a full boil.

Also, English dark crystal has a great burnt caramel taste. Thomas Fawcett crystal malts are great for this. 8 oz goes a long way. Special B is a good option, too. It’s not the same effect as kettle caramelization, but it’s easier to add some to your specialty grains.

Thanks for the responses. Yes, the Maillard Reaction is what I’m looking for, and I was wondering about increasing my boil volumes (I have been brewing all grain for the past year and a half) and boiling for 90 minutes instead of 60. How much additional burnt caramel flavor would that add compared to reducing some of the first runnings?. @damian_winter, how much of the wort are you taking to do this extending of the boil and for how long? Adding a specialty grain or two to create that flavor as @porkchop suggested without risking scorching and staling was the answer I was looking for, but it doesn’t sound like it does quite the same thing. I’ll look into the English dark crystal, and if it’s still not enough, I’ll try kettle cararmelization. Thanks again.

What pork chop suggest does work and is right it will give you close to that flavor. If you do full boils boil for two hours will get you that reaction and taste that your looking for. Instead of increasing you boil volume boil 5 gallon and as boil off your gravity will increase. Create the reaction then worry about volume

if you do a full boil the five gallon water boil.and steep the grains in a different kettle . with one gallon of water . than add it to the brewing pot you do end up with exact five gal of worth
but most important use only the dme and half the lme in the beginning add the rest 15 min before end of boil you do not end up with the mailard effect. so you dont get the caramel taste

I have done the separate boil thing once when I’ve done a Scottish ale, and twice for a bock.
I took 1G of the 1st runnings and boiled that separately on a campstove that I set up next to my regular setup. You do need to keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When it’s nice and thick, or the main boil is done, which ever comes first, I take it off the mini-stove and add it back to the boil. You do have to sparge a little more to get an extra gallon to make your full volume, and make sure to account for the added volume of the add-back(1 qt-1/2 gallon depending on how vigorous the boil was).
I don’t really get a ‘burnt’ taste, but a nice deep caramelly, malty flavor.

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Adding the reduced wort will also up your O.G. Be sure to take that into account or your scottish ale may turn into a wee heavy. Not that that’s a bad thing. :wink: