In my research and minor addiction to reading about all things brew related, I came across a number of references to “SMaSH” brews. Single Malt and Single Hop (hence SMaSH) beers that everybody seems to love. I had a few batches under my belt, and wanted to try pitching a new wort on top of an existing yeast cake. I didn’t want to do that with a complicated grain bill that had expensive adjuncts in it, so I thought I would try my hand at a SMaSH. I had an Amber Ale in secondary that I was ready to keg. There was a nice thick layer of trub free yeast at the bottom of the carboy, ideal for what I wanted to do. So I went to the Bearded Brewer and bought some Maris Otter and Amarillo hops. I chose Amarillo because of the description in BeerSmith:
Amarillo – U.S. ORIGIN – Alpha 8.8 %
Discovered and introduced by Vigil Gamache Farms Inc. in Washington State. Character similar to Cascade. Often used as a late kettle or dry hop addition to American style Pale Ales and IPA’s due to its signature aroma characteristics. Used for both bitterness and aroma. Used for: IPAs, Ales Aroma: Intensely fruity (citrus, melon, and stone friuts), floral, tropical notes. Substitutes: Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe.
As both a bittering and aroma hop, I felt this was a solid choice. Combined with the rich Maris Otter malt that seemed to be a good choice for a single malt beer – how could I go wrong? While I was shopping, I also picked up a big jar of honey. I have had success with a honey wheat and a honey blonde, so I wanted to add some honey late in the boil to my SMaSH to bump the ABV a little bit and give a little more “something” without deviating from the single malt concept. Brew day went off without a hitch. I pitched the wort on my yeast cake of San Diego Super Yeast and hoped for the best. Sure enough – within 16 hours we had super vigorous fermentation activity. This also coincided with the 1st heat wave of the season, and combined with the heat naturally generated by the fermentation process I had a little bit of trouble staying at 70 degrees. I went as low as 67 and as high as 73. The yeast strain is slightly forgiving, and I hope the 3 degrees higher than desired temp for a few hours didn’t cause the issue I have with this brew… So after fermentation and kegging, I gave it the appropriate time to carbonate and poured myself a glass. At first glance – the beer was beautiful. Clear, good color, good head retention, the trifecta!
I brought the glass to my nose and was greeted by a slightly sweet and citrusy aroma that I felt was attributed to the honey and Amarillo hop profile. So far so good. Then I took a drink. What greeted me was not what I expected or anticipated. I had a beer that had a strong taste, borderline “hot alcohol” borderline malt liquor. I thought maybe since it was the first pour I had some yeast in the glass. But it was pretty clear so… Then I thought maybe the high temp gave a fusel off flavor. That still may be a possibility, but it wasn’t quite that. I emptied the glass, poured about another pint from the tap to clear the initial lines and whatever settled to the bottom of the keg, and tried another glass. It was a little better – but not much. It tasted “beer-like”. Almost like Bud Light Platinum for those of you that have tried it. I was disappointed to say the least. What now? Do I have another keg to unceremoniously pour out?
In my opinion it was barely drinkable, and I didn’t want to serve it to anyone. But alas, I didn’t want to throw it out. I tried it again a couple of days later when it was really hot outside. I turned the temp on the kegerator down a few degrees so it would be dispensed ice cold. Much like with BMC fare, it was better cold. It masked some of the flavor – or lack thereof. I tried a few more glasses over the next week, and it still wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe the honey masked the “Intensely Fruity Aroma” the Amarillo was supposed to have. Maybe the 8.8% Alpha was a little too bitter for such a simple grain bill. Maybe Maris Otter didn’t work with this hop and I should have used 2-row. Or it could be I just didn’t know what to expect, so obviously this will never meet my expectations. All I know, is I could not drink 5 gallons of this by myself.
I extended an invitation to some friends and said “please come help me empty this keg of really strong beer”. I figured most of my friends would jump right on it. Alas, only 2 hard working individuals came by one evening. They both stated they liked the beer. They both drank a few pints, and took a full growler each home with them, which I am told were both promptly consumed later that night. I took a bottle to my brewing buddy Tom (the other challenger in the brew quest) and led up to the pint I poured stating “get ready to taste a SmaSHing disaster”. Well, Tom liked it too. He had some good things to say about it. He said it wasn’t a disaster at all.
Since then, I have powered through a few more glasses, I have a batch of Blonde Ale almost ready to keg and I need the space. I may try and finish it before the weekend. I welcome any assistance in that endeavor – so if you’re in the area swing by. If any fellow brewers are brave and want to try and make this the recipe is below. You may brew it and think it’s a delicious SMaSH beer. Or, you may brew it and agree with me. Maybe I’m just crazy and not giving this beer a chance. All I know, is I started brewing beer to make really good and unique craft beer – not a homemade variation of BMC or malt liquor. And to me – that’s what this is. A Bud Light on steroids coming in at 7% ABV. My SMaSHing Disaster.
Pale Honey Smash
American Pale Ale (10 A)
|12 lbs||Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)||Grain||1||92.3 %|
|0.75 oz||Amarillo [8.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min||Hop||2||24.0 IBUs|
|0.50 oz||Amarillo [8.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min||Hop||3||7.9 IBUs|
|1 lbs||Honey [Boil for 12 min](1.0 SRM)||Sugar||4||7.7 %|
|0.50 oz||Amarillo [8.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min||Hop||5||5.8 IBUs|
|0.25 oz||Amarillo [8.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min||Hop||6||1.6 IBUs|
|2.0 pkg||San Diego Super Yeast (White Labs #WLP090)||Yeast||7||–|
Gravity, Alcohol Content and Color
Sparge Water: -0.00 gal
Sparge Temperature: 168.1 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUE
Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Mash PH: 5.20
|Name||Description||Step Temperature||Step Time|
|Saccharification||Add 31.45 qt of water at 159.5 F||152.1 F||75 min|