By Chris Conway and Christina Coady
Brewing can feel a little overwhelming at times. Maybe your first homebrew kit was tucked under a tree this year and featured a recipe that used a couple of cans and a mysterious bag labelled “HOPS: 60 min.” Maybe your kit contained a vast array of different malts and hops which left you wondering how to design a recipe yourself. Or maybe, after the extravagances of the season, you just want to go back to basics with your brewing. Either way, Single Malt and Single Hop (SMASH) beers are a great way to refine techniques, explore new malts and hops, and make some refreshing homebrew.
A SMASHing Idea
SMASH brewing couldn’t be much easier. Take a single malt you like, find a single hop that you want to play with, and brew a beer. While this might seem a little basic, using simple ingredients in the right proportions can both yield flavourful beer and help refine your own brewing techniques. It’s a blank canvas for a minimalistic exploration of flavours! There are a few approaches that make brewing these beers even more foolproof.
Pairing Malts and Hops
Like with food, brewing a SMASH can be a practice of pairing either complementing or contrasting flavours. And, also like food, many of the pairings in your favourite beers often draw from roots in their country of origin.
Take England for example. Malts like Maris Otter and Golden Promise both o er a rich bready and full- flavoured base without the need for any additional crystal or caramel malts. Combine that with spicy, earthy East Kent Goldings or Challenger hops and then
ferment with a low-ester English Ale yeast strain (like Fermentis S-04) and you’ve arrived at spicy and mellow English pale ale.
SMASH brewing, like most things under the sun, is nothing new. Many classic beers that you’ve likely enjoyed over the years are probably SMASH beers in hiding. Saison Dupont, the style- defining saison for many drinkers, is purported by Phil Markowski in his fantastic Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition to be brewed with only Belgian Pilsner malt and Styrian Goldings hops. The simple malt and hop bill allow for the expressive yeast character of Dupont’s saison yeasts to fully express themselves.
It’s not just Belgian beer that has embraced the ‘simple is beautiful’ approach. Many classic German pilsners use nothing but Bohemian Pilsner malt, German Saaz hops, time and carful fermentation. Again, here simple malts and hops can be used to show what a yeast strain can produce if handled correctly.
American SMASH Brewing
The American approach to SMASH brewing is perhaps the most common among SMASHing homebrewers. Vibrant American hops can be showcased and explored when using simple malts like American 2-Row with clean fermenting strains like Fermentis US- 05 or White Labs WLP001. And, again, as with the British, Belgian, and German examples, choosing malts and hops from a single country is a safe rule of thumb for brewing a successful SMASH.
A classic example of this is one of the first American ‘craft’ beers and perhaps the first of the style we now consider the “American” pale ale, New Albion Ale. Brewed originally by Jack McAuli e in 1976 in Sonoma, California, it has recently been resurrected and distributed by the Boston Beer Company. The beer itself, however, is quite simple in its recipe. American 2-Row barley, American Cascade hops, and a British Ale strain, the beer brought many to the bolder, citrusy flavours of American hops.
While pairing ‘like with like’ by choosing malts and hops from a single country can be a safe route to SMASH brewing, there are endless combinations that can lead to more exciting beers. English Maris Otter wort fermented with American yeast, for example, can make for a great base for heavily hopping with bold American hop varietals like Amarillo or Equinox. Belgian Pilsner malt wort- fermented with saison yeast (like Danstar Belle Saison) can be met with an abundance of wine-like and tropical New Zealand hops like Nelson Sauvin.
Especially when choosing hops, SMASH brewing can be a totally blank slate. From pilsners, to saisons, to American ales, a simple malt base and well-treated yeast can yield fun and tasty hop creations. Get to your local homebrew shop and ask about interesting new hops that might be coming in soon. You might find some experimental hops that result from breeding programs, like HBC 342, which don’t even have names yet. You can be a flavour pioneer!
... Well Almost Anything Goes
For newer brewers it should be mentioned that not everything goes. Your malt choice for a SMASH is limited to base malts. Mashing only crystal, chocolate, or any other colour malt will result in a sweet, mostly unfermentable mess. Similarly, mashing adjuncts like wheat or rye will provide you with a quite sticky mess when sparging. Rye- only mashes can be done using Brew in a Bag or with many, many rice hulls, and will result in a quite thick beer which is not totally pleasant. For best results, stick to well-modi ed base malts.
Some SMASH Suggestions
|America||American 2-Row||Cascade, Amarillo or Centennial||Safale US-05|
|Belgium||Castle Malting Château Pilsner||Strisselspalt or Styring Golding||Danstar Belle Saison|
|Germany||Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner||Saaz or Hallertaul||Saflager S-23|
|Britain||Simpsons Maris Otter||East Kent Goldings or Challenger||Safale S-04|
|Canada||Canada Malting Co.’s La Quebecoise or Ontario Select Malt||Clear Valley Ontario Cascade||Escarpment Labs ‘Wild Thing’|
Keeping It Canadian
In the last few years the idea of an ‘all Canadian’ SMASH beer has become more of a reality. Using Canadian Malting Company’s Ontario Select Malt, La Quebecoise Malt, or Maritime Malt (grown in New Brunswick) and hops from a Canadian hop producer like Clear Valley farms, the dream of a Canadian-grown beer has become more realistic. And, with the addition of Escarpment Laboratories’ ‘Wild Thing’ yeast strain harvested from apples in an Ontario orchard, all of the products used in creating a Canadian beer can now be sourced. While some of these products are hard to track down and seasonally dependent, the ‘Canadian SMASH’ has become a possibility.
No matter what direction you take your SMASH recipe, the basics of the recipe included here remain the same. We’ve chosen a SMASH we like as an example, but use our discussion here to guide your own variations. Choose interesting base malt, find a hop that matches or contrasts, and then ferment with a yeast that, again, contrasts or complements. Whether sticking to a single country for inspiration or inventing your own version, SMASH beers can be an exciting way to start creating your own recipes. Once you’ve found a SMASH you like, then slowly dial it in by adding a touch of a second malt, a dash of a second hop, or changing up the yeast. Start slow and SMASH away!
SIMPLE SMASH RECIPE
OG = 1.053 (13.0 °P)
SRM = 5
FG = 1.010 (2.5 °P)
ABV = 5.5%
IBU = 45
|5.0 kg (11 lbs) of Marris Otter||28 g (1.0 oz) Amarillo – 60 Minutes
56 g (2.0 oz) Amarillo – End of Boil
56 g (2.0 oz) Amarillo – (Optional Dry-Hop (three or four days before packaging)
For this recipe, the choice of grain and hops is up to you. The amount of grain will remain the same for any base malt, however, depending on the alpha acids of your hops, different amounts of bittering hops will be required. For hops near 5% alpha acids you’ll need about 42g (2 oz), for near 10% you’ll need 28g (1 oz) as above, and for ones closer to 15% you’ll only need 18g (3/4 oz). Keep the end of boil hops and optional dry hop amounts the same, as they will only provide minimal additional bitterness.
Bring 13 litres of water to 73°C (163°F) and begin your 60-minute mash rest. After initially adding your grains, your mash temperature should drop to 66°C (151°F).
After the 60-minute mash is complete, sparge with 17 litres of 76°C (169°F) water to collect 24 litres of wort.
This brew will require a 60-minute boil. As soon as your kettle hits a rolling boil, add 28g (1 oz) Amarillo. When you turn off your heat, at the end of the boil, add the remaining 28g (2 oz) Amarillo.
At the end of the boil, cool the wort to 18°C (65°F) and pitch the yeast and ferment for two weeks. If using a lager strain, ferment and lager as usual. If using a saison strain, ferment closer to 24°C (75°F) if possible. Three days before you keg or bottle your beer, you can dry-hop with 42g (2 oz) Amarillo. Dry-hopping is optional here, so taste your beer and decide if you’d like a little more hop character or not.
Find more homebrewing recipes, tips, and more in each issue of TAPS Magazine.