SMASH is a relatively new approach to home brewing based on simplicity. Simplified home brewing has some significant rewards. It cuts to the heart of what a single malt and single hop tastes like, and also saves you time and money.
The Cost of Complex Beer
Most home brewers, myself included, when starting to design their own recipes trend towards the extremely complex. The tendency is to add everything but the kitchen sink to make that first recipe as special as possible. My first attempts at recipe design included at least 5 specialty malts, four hop additions, water additions and a bunch of other stuff. Unfortunately the results were less than stellar – absolutely mediocre beer.
Over time I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that complexity can be expensive – both in terms of cost and also in terms of quality and time. A good example is the old policy of adding hops at 60, 45, 30 and 15 minutes. Recent research indicates that most aromatic hop oils are fragile, and boil off in 10 minutes or less. So a single hop addition, or perhaps one for bitterness and one for aroma would be bettter.
Commercial brewers, particularly craft brewers, avoid complexity at all costs. They simply cannot afford to maintain a large stock of dozens of ingredients – they have to be able to create a variety of beers with a limited set of ingredients. Yet they make award winning beers from a small stock.
A group of dedicated home brewers have coined the term “SMaSH” to help drive simpler brewing. SMaSH stands for “Single Malt and Single Hops”. The idea is to break brewing down to its basic elements and emphasize the flavor of a single malt and single hop variety.
Obviously SMaSH brewing is not suited to every beer style. The best beer styles for SMaSH are as follows: Pilsner (all kinds), Vienna Lager, Saison, Munich Dunkel, Wild Ales, IPAs and even Barleywine.
SMaSH brewing is also a great educational experience for the brewer. Since it emphasizes the flavors of a single malt and a single hops it can really help to define those flavors for the brewer. It lets you truly understand what one hop and one malt bring to the beer. Also, you can create a single base mash and consider breaking it out into multiple batches using different hops if you have sufficient equipment.
SMaSH Recipe Design
The simplicity of SMaSH makes recipe design really easy. You only have to choose one malt to use, one hop to use, and one yeast and then how you are going to mash and ferment it.
Since malt is so important to a SMaSH beer, you need to pick a flavorful malts. Popular malts for SMaSH include Maris Otter, Pilsner, Pale Malts and Munich Malts.
The hops also provides defining character. The best advice I have is to go to get samples of several hops and smell them, taste them, and pick one that balances the malt you are using. Most experienced SMaSH brewers tend to select medium alpha hops because they let you achieve a good beer balance with a single addition. Low bitterness aroma hops are OK, but if you are making a hoppy brew and use a large amount and boil them for a long time it can lead to grassy flavors. High alpha hops also offer some interesting possibilities for SMaSH, but be certain you like the flavor and aroma of the hops before using it in a SMaSH batch.
Obviously SMaSH can be extended to include more than one malt or hop addition, though it is no longer SMaSH at this point. However, the concepts of simplicity and limited ingredients still apply. For example, most of the BJCP beer styles can be made with only two malts – one base malt and one specialty malt. The key here is to focus on the minimum needed to achieve your objective.
Some SMaSH Recipes
Here are some SMaSH recipes from our BeerSmithRecipes.com sharing site:
I encourage you to try making a few batches using SMaSH. It is a great way to gain a true understanding of what a single malt or single hop does to the flavor of your beer, and the philosophy of simplicity is a good one to apply to home brewing in general.
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