Specialty grains can be used to enhance and or darken beer. Generally speaking, these grains come in a whole range of colors and characteristics, and have a lovibond rating to determine the color and roast character of these grains. These grains are best used in extract brewing to help contrast and add character to the malt extract flavor that is not quite as "fresh" as using all grain, or even a partial mash. All my notes below are based on 5 gallon (roughly) batches of beer. The lovibond rating is a measure of color, with a lower lovibond rating being ligher in color. A typical base malt is 1.5-5 lovibond (in whole grain brewing). There are many other grains avaible to the home brewer, some will be mentioned on this site or added to this page later. Feel free to experiment!
Cara-pils/Cara foam/Light Crystal 2.5-8 Lovibond
Crystal Malt 20-120 lovibond
Special B ~220 lovibond
Chocolate Malt 325-500 lovibond
Black Patent/Black Roast 475-600 lovibond
Roasted Barley 300-500 Lovibond
Munich Malt 8-12 lovibond
Vienna Malt 2.5-4 lovibond
Smoked (Rauch) malt
Toasted Malt-Home toasted various lovibond
Great for adding head retention and body to a beer without adding much color.
Typically used in quantities of 1 lb or less, and found in such brews as ESB and Porter. The darker the crystal, the more carmel sweetness is imparted to the beer. Generally produces unfermentable sugars when mashed. Will add body to a batch of beer.
Have used this with success in Belgian Dark brews. Imparts a rich, carmel fruity malt flavor with a heavy raisin accent. This one may be the secret ingredient to making Belgian Dubbels and Belgian Strongs, where they get that unique friuty character. For extreme results in Big Belgians, don't be afraid to use a full pound or even more.
Used in porters and brown ales to impart some nutty, chocolate, roasty flavors to beer. Can be used in quantities from 3 oz to 1 lb or more for more assertive brews.
Malt roasted to the point of only being able to contribute color to beer. Can provide burnt bitterness to beer when used in large quantities (>~ half a lb)
This is unmalted barley roasted to produce a malt that is dark brown in color much like chocolate malt. Will impart a roasted character much like coffee, and is used predominantly in stouts (Guinness). Imperial stouts come out great with 1.5-2 lbs of this malt.
This can add the type of character found in Octoberfest and other German dark beers. I would recommend using a couple pounds in a beer (for example, Octoberfest) and letting it sit in a cheescloth bag at 155-160F for 15 minutes (removing at 170) to maximize the goodness that can be extracted from this grain, which can also be used as a base malt.
A lightly toasted malt that will add some fullness and a little color to beer. Has a light toasty flavor.
This malt is available as peat smoked or other wood smoked varieties such as hickory. Appears to be the same color as Munich, and can be used in amounts up to 100%. Peat smoked malt is used in scotch, and can be overpowering in beer. Other smoked malts can make tremendous smoked beers. Try 20-40% of grist before going all the way. Some smoked malts can make beer a bit like liquid smoke if too much is used.
Try obtaining some pale malt or pilsener malt and toasting it at home in the oven. Lay out a pound on a cookie sheet and place in a 300 degree pre heated oven for anything from 10 to 60 minutes (start with 10). This will add a pleasing toasty flavor to beer at varying degrees. Have done up to 45 minutes before with great success. For best results, after it cools, let it sit in a plastic bag for a week after toasting, so this should be done ahead of time.