Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An Argument For SMaSH Beers

I look around the brewing community today and I see a lot of crazy innovative beers with ingredients that I have never heard of let alone ever tasted. The beer profiles can get so complex that they can start to intimidate the drinker. But there is good news, SMaSH beers. SMaSH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop and begins to simplify the brewing and the tasting process.

Most homebrewers start with this idea of using only a single malt or a single hop and they don't even know it. When you go to the store and buy an extract kit you get the malt extract and they usually tell you to pick up 2-4 ounces of a certain kind of hop. Its simple and its very hard to mess up. By following this example homebrewers that have graduated beyond the simplicity of buying a kit can begin to create their own recipes.

I have always been a huge supporter of doing five or six one gallon batches instead of one five or six gallon batch. This allows you to experiment with different yeasts, different aging ingredients, or even different hops in a brew before you scale it up. You get to try it before you make a huge amount of it and decide its terrible, nobody wants that. This becomes easier and more informative with SMaSH beers. I hear brewers talk about the hop or grain varieties all the time, but what I hear them saying is what the package that they bought them in describes them as. What that package doesn't tell you though is what the hop varieties mixed with the grain that you used tastes like. The only way to learn that is to brew. When you start getting really complex beers you start to have to second guess yourself because the hops could be giving that flavor to the beer or it could be one of the fifty other ingredients you put it. Hell why did you even need to put hops in? This is the problem people. We need to get back to our roots, back to where beer started. Sure having a unique beer is great once in a while but only if you truly know what to look for that sets it apart from the rest.

Now I am going to suggest an idea that is a little bit more radical. I think that the commercial brewing industry could use some SMaSH in it. That's right ladies and gentlemen I said it, we have gotten too far away from what beer used to be. I am sure a lot of you will argue that progress is good and moving away from the old keeps the beer industry booming. That is a good point and I hope I never see the day where there is no more progress. However now we have breweries out there that only brew specialty beers, what are they using as a base for that? The beer costs $15 a bomber and you can't finish the whole thing because you taste buds have been bombarded with so much flavor that you cant even operate your mouth properly to describe what is going on. I would be willing to bet that the average American would rather have something that they could sit back and enjoy. Something that is flavorful but you can also have a few of. Something that won't knock you on your ass because it is 13% ABV. Something that won't break the bank every time you want to have one. The answer is SMaSH.

SMaSH beers will be inherently cheaper that some of their other craft counterparts because they have less variety of ingredients. SMaSH beers will not have the crazy high alcohol either because they do not have all extra sugars from that something-something dragon berry from the highlands of some foreign country. SMaSH beers will also give showcase the brewer's talents and dedication. Think of the highest IBU India Pale Ale you have ever had. I'm sure you remember the hop characteristic of the beer, its kind of hard to miss. However do you remember how the malt tied into that hop characteristic? Do you even know if the brewer was able to get a good mash? With complex flavor beers it is hard to answer these questions and it is very easy for the brewer to hide mistakes. Now I am not saying that all brewers out there are trying to hide their mistakes because they don't know how to mash, I am however saying that as the consumer don't you have a right to judge for yourself?

SMaSH beers definitely have a niche in the consumer market that would need to be exploited in the right way for the brewery to be successful. Luckily for most of you though your market is the rest of your family and they aren't that picky when it comes to tasting free beer. This was just an introduction to SMaSH beers but there is plenty of other literature out there for you to learn more. I subscribe to Brew Your Own magazine which I have thoroughly enjoyed and just a few months ago actually put out an issue on SMaSH beers. You all have the power to SMaSH your way to a successful recipe, I believe in you! Until next time, cheers!

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