SMaSH Brewing – Single Malt and Single Hop Beers

by Brad Smith on October 24, 2012 · 10 comments

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.

SMaSH Brewing

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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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

edgars October 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

In my first batch I did as well 3 different malts, 2 type of hops with 3 hop additions and 4 (!) temperature stops (50C-58C-65C-76C). :))
This is what I always pay attention when talking with beginers. For beginers I go even further and recomend – single hop, single malt and single temperature mashing without rising to mashout.

Aaron May 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

I have recently started toying with SMaSH recipes. My favorite thus far has simply been 10 pounds of two-row, Amarillo hops, Nottingham yeast. I added enough bittering to fit within the guidelines for an American Blonde, then adding an ounce at flameout. The color was extremely pale but the flavor was addicting, the perfect lawnmower beer. That was the fastest keg I’ve ever burned through. :)

Edward July 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

Aaron,

what size batch was this?

10-pounds of 2-row
Amerillo hops
Nottingham yeast

Can you provide a little more information on the hop schedule and yeast?

How long in the primary and secondary if any?

Did you dry-hop at all?

Did the beer have a nice bitter yet have a good aroma as well?

Ed

Aaron April 14, 2014 at 9:39 am

Ed,

Whoops, I’m about a year late with this reply. Doubt you will even see it. :P

I brewed this recipe for a second time last night. Then for kicks I did a google of “two row amarillo smash” to read what others have brewed, and found this old post. I forgot that I even made it.

It was a 5 gallon batch, calculated using Beersmith. No dry-hop

10 lbs American Two-Row
.62oz Amarillo @ 60
.75oz Amarillo @ 0
Notty
Mash @ 152

I think I originally did 1 week primary, 1.5 weeks secondary, keg. I remember that I pitched it on the Notty cake from a smoked imperial stout. I remember smelling the smoke in the cake and wondering if it would carry through, which it didn’t. I loves me some Amarillo. I think I will try this again using MO instead of 2-row.

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