One way to add distinguishing flavor to lighter flavored beers is to use a unique specialty base malt. I recommend you try Ashburne® Mild Malt. At 5.3º Lovibond and DP 65, this 2-Row malt is slightly darker with a higher dextrin level than Briess Pale Ale Malt, and lends a higher residual maltiness/mouthfeel to the finished beer. It has a really nice, interesting flavor profile—slightly malty, sweet with a subtle toasty flavor.
Ashburne was developed in the early 1990s as a custom malt for Old Dominion Brewing Co. in Ashburn, VA. An “e” was added when naming the malt, which eventually rolled out to the whole brewing community.
I used Ashburne® Mild as the base malt in El Chupacabra Barley Wine, as I had some left over from our seasonal Hoptoberfest brews. With a beautiful orange/amber color, this beer isn’t too cloying due to the addition of the honey which also adds a great floral nose. I brewed this R&D beer on the 3 1/2 BBL “pilot” brewery I was using at the time. This beer was outstanding and served at the barley wine festival held at Dunedin Brewery in 2002! And if you don’t know about El Chupacabra you can learn about it here.
You’ll see on the recipe that I just sprinkled a few specialty malts in for flavor so as not to overpower the Ashburne. I recommend you do the same. Try dashes of Caramel, Munich, Biscuit or even Midnight Wheat or Blackprinz® Malt for big color and a touch of roasted flavor.