To become a very good brewer who makes great beer it is important to get to know your ingredients. The best way to do this is to learn how to brew a good tasting SMaSH beer. What is a SMaSH Beer? It stands for Single Malt and Single Hop.
This concept originated in order to simplify the brewing process and help us understand the ingredients we are using when home brewing. The fact is that most home brewers fall for the trap of brewing up and designing complex beers that use way too many ingredients.
We add way more to our beer recipe than we need to. It is very common to see beer recipes with 4 – 6 specialty grains added, 4 – 6 hop additions of different varieties and all kinds of adjuncts. I know I did this starting out.
The truth is that once you get to know how your ingredients taste, smell and interact with each other you can make just as complex and delicious beers with a fraction of the ingredients.
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SMaSH Beers Save You Money
Not only does using more grains and hops then you need, add complexity to the brew day, it also adds cost. The more ingredients you use when making a beer the more expensive said beer is going to become.
Take it from me and my experience owning a nano brewery, your favorite craft breweries have figured this out and in order to increase their margins and profit they have mastered the ability to brew great tasting beer with as few ingredients as possible.
It would surprise you how simple their recipes are. Whereas us homebrewers on the other hand think we need to complicate the recipe in order to make a beer that is as good as our favorite craft beer; when the opposite is in fact what we need to be doing.
Just like a master chef, in order to become a master brewer or at least a good one you need to take the time to learn your ingredients. Learn what pilsner, vienna, maris otter tastes like, smells like and contributes to the beer. Same goes for your hops and even yeasts. By changing even one of the ingredients in your homebrew you have a completely new beer.
And the best way to do this is to start brewing some smash beers; which is what we are going to do in this post. First we will cover the basics of what goes into designing a “SMaSH beer recipe” and then we are going to provide you with a recipe you can try for yourself.
Designing a SMaSH Beer Recipe
The first step is to decide what style of beer to brew. Not all styles are suited for Smash brewing. Most craft breweries you see that brew this type of beer do so as an IPA or a hoppy Pale Ale. There is a brewing mindset that if you mess up a beer you can fix it by dry hopping. Same kind of principle applies to this style of brewing. So until you get good at making SMaSH beers stick with a relatively hoppier version so you can hide any mistakes behind your hops.
Choosing Your Single Malt
This is the tricky part of making a SMaSH beer. There are many home brews that use only a single hop so that is a much easier choice. Choosing the right malt is tricky because you obviously need to use a base malt as it provides the fermentable sugar that creates the alcohol. Whereas the specialty grain in a traditional recipe provides the flavor. So in a SMaSH you need the base malt to create the alcohol and provide the flavor. Easier said than done.
The best base grains to use in a Smash beer due to their higher complexity and aroma are Marris Otter, Golden Promise, Vienna and Munich Malts. Pilsner Malt is also used.
Choosing Your Single Hop
There is no question that you could use any hop you wish to and you should mix it up; as part of the reason for brewing Smash beers is for you to get familiar with all of the different malts and hops and how they taste.
When choosing what hop you are going to use it is important to understand the two factors that a hop brings to your beer. The oil content will determine the flavor and aroma and the alpha acid % of the hop determines the bitterness i.e the IBU’s.
When making a SMaSH beer most brewers will typically use medium alpha hops. Low alpha hops work decently as well but just understand that if you use too many of them the boil can cause them to create off flavors in your beer. High alpha hops are used also, but if you use one be sure you like what that hop brings to the beer in regard to taste and aroma because you are going to get a lot of it.
Most SMaSH Beers Use C Hops
Typically I see people using one of the following world-famous C hops when making this beer.
Cascade is one of my favorite hops of all time and is arguably what started the craft beer revolution in North America. Think Sierra Nevada and it’s pine and grapefruit characteristics and that is what Cascade will bring to your beer. It’s alpha acid comes in at between 4.5 – 7%, making it a good choice for a SMaSH beer.
Centennial is very similar to Cascade and is sometimes referred to as super cascade. However it has more pine characteristics than Cascade i.e stronger pine taste and aroma and also less grapefruit. It has a higher percentage of alpha acid coming in between 9 – 12%..
Citra is the hop that took the brewing world by storm in recent years. I would estimate at least 80% of IPA’s and APA’s use Citra and probably closer to 95% of NEIPA’s do. It is a higher alpha hop but it’s citrus taste and aroma is such that it works well in SMaSH beers. If you like tropical fruits such as passion fruit, lime, peach and melons this is the hop you want to use. It’s alpha acid is 10 – 15%.
Columbus is a very high alpha acid content hop coming in at 14 – 18%. Many people have used it for this type of brew but make sure you like its characteristics before you decide to choose it as the hop you go with.
SMaSH Beer Recipe
Below is my favorite recipe for this type of beer, I call it “Get SMaSHed”. Give it a try.
It uses Marrs Otter for the base grain and Cascade for it’s hop. However you can change out both the base and the hops if you like. For yeast I stick with Safale US-05, I like this yeast as it produces a very clean and crisp beer with low diacetyl. You can use any yeast you like but do realize the yeast plays a major role in the characteristics of your final beer.
Original Gravity – 1.046
Final Gravity – 1.009
ABV – 4.85%
IBU – 48.33
SRM – 5.35
- 9 lbs Maris Otter
- 1 oz Cascade (60 Mins)
- 0.5 oz Cascade (30 Mins)
- 0.5 oz Cascade (15 Mins)
- 0.5 oz Cascade (Flame out / Whirlpool)
- 0.5 oz (Dry Hopped)
- Safale US-05
- Whirlfloc tablet (15 Mins)
Instructions: Mash for 60 min at 152 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring to a boil and add the first 1 oz hop addition. After 30 Mins add the second hop addition of 0.5 oz. After another 15 Mins or at what is called the 15-min mark add your 3rd hop addition of 0.5 oz, and add whirlfloc tablet.
Turn off heat and add your 4th hop addition of 0.5 oz and whirlpool. (Whirlpool is as simple as creating a whirlpool effect in your kettle with your mash paddle and letting the hops steep in the whirlpool for 10 – 20 minutes). Chill your wort down to around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer to your fermenter and pitch the yeast. When fermentation is completed add your dry hops of 0.5 oz of Cascade. Cold crash your beer for 2-4 days at fridge temperature, keg or bottle.
Ingredients & Equipment
Most homebrew stores will have all of the ingredients you need. However if you shop online consider shopping from Big Robb’s recommended online vendors. They send me a referral fee at no cost to you. You get the same prices as normal and we get a small commission check which allows us to keep this site running. It’s a win-win and is greatly appreciated. Cheers!
You can check out my top 5 recommended online vendors here.
For equipment this is clearly an all grain beer. I brew on what is basically an electric BIAB system as it is the most cost effective, makes incredible beer and clean up is a breeze. You can learn more about this type of system here.
Need Brewing Help?
I have also put together a series of guides that cover all aspects of the brewing process such as clarifying your beer, adjusting your water, kegging, and a whole host of other topics. You can check the guides out here.
And there you have it my friend you never have to ask the question of what is a SMaSH beer ever again. You not only know but you also have a recipe to brew up your own and start experimenting with.
Most definitely feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding this, drop your question in the comments and I will help you out; or simply feel free to say hey or add any tips or tricks from your own experience brewing this beer.
Now go get your brew awnnn…
Big Robb is Out!
P.S. If you want to get your hands on my top 5 favorite home brew recipes of all time they are yours for the taking. Sign up to get instant access to them is on the side of the blog or bottom if you are on your phone. Cheers!