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Back to Basics: SMaSH Brewing + Recipes

I am by no means a purist when it comes to beer ingredients. Every time someone asks me, “Do you think [insert crazy ingredient here] would be good in a beer?” my answer is always, “throw it in and see what happens!”. Experimentation is one of the greatest joys of homebrewing, and homebrewers are often the first to try things that later become mainstream. That said, sometimes too many ingredients complicate the brewing process and create a beer with too many competing flavors. So as you progress into creating your own homebrew recipes, I recommend getting back to basics first and brewing one of my favorite things: a SMaSH.

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What is a SMaSH?

SMaSH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop, and it is exactly that. It is a beer brewed from one base malt and one hop varietal. You can brew a SMaSH with any grain and any hop that you would like, but in general using a base malt like 2-Row Pale  or Marris Otter will produce a clear, crisp beer with a pleasant body and mouthfeel. Similarly, while any hop could be use for a SMaSH, medium alpha hops tend to work best because they work well for bittering, flavor, and aroma. While low bitterness hops can be used, you’ll need to add more for bittering than you would for a better bittering hop, which can impart off flavors in your beer. My favorite hop for a SMaSH Pale Ale is Cascade, and my Fresh Cascade SMaSH recipe is below!

Benefits of SMaSH Brewing

It’s Easy, Cheap, and Great for Beginners

There are several benefits to brewing a SMaSH for both novice and seasoned homebrewers. If you’re new to homebrewing or are just switching to all-grain brewing, you can’t do better than a SMaSH for an easy and simple brew day. They are great for building confidence for new all-grain brewers, and are a perfect way to practice the process before brewing more complicated beers. On a similar note, SMaSH beers tend to be VERY inexpensive to brew (I can make a five-gallon batch of my Fresh Cascade SMaSH for about $15), so it’s not QUITE as heartbreaking if it doesn’t turn out great on your first try. 

Isolating Ingredients Helps you Understand and Appreciate Them

SMaSH brewing is also a great way to really learn about the ingredients in your beer. When you remove all of the other flavors in a beer, you can really understand and appreciate the flavors of each ingredient that remain. You may find that a specific malt gives you a better body or flavor, and that some hops work well for flavor or aroma, but may not work well for bittering. This approach also allows you to experiment with how the beer changes based on altering the time and amount of hop additions during the boil rather than replacing the hop varietal in a recipe.

Brewing a SMaSH is also the ideal way to test new hop varietals before adding them to more complex recipes in which their flavors may be obscured. SMaSH beers are also a great way to test different yeast because of their simple flavor. Try splitting your batch into 2-5 fermenters and using different yeast in each to see how it affects the final product. 

Finally, I have found that SMaSH beers make excellent crowd-pleaser beers that appeal to craft-beer connoisseurs, Bud Light drinkers, and everyone in between. They tend to be crisp, light, and clean, and make excellent summer drinking beers. In fact, I almost always have my Fresh Cascade SMaSH (brewed with fresh homegrown Cascade hops) on tap at home. Here’s the recipe I use, and the hop additions are all measured as dry weight, so pelletized hops will work fine for it as well. If you’re using fresh, wet hops, use about a 4:1 or 5:1 conversion to compensate for the water content of the fresh hops. 

Fresh Cascade SMaSH Recipe

Single Malt and Single Hop pale ale using inexpensive malt and homegrown cascade hops. Need help with the all-grain brew day? Check out our All-Grain Brewing Step-by-Step Guide and download our FREE printable All-Grain Brewing Step-By-Step worksheet and our Brew Day Worksheets!

  1. Mash at 154 degrees for 60 minutes
  2. Sparge as usual
  3. Boil for 60 minutes adding hops per the schedule above using your homegrown cascade hops!
  4. Cool to 70 degrees, pitch yeast
  5. Primary fermentation – 10-14 days
  6. Rack to secondary fermentation – 7-10 days
  7. Keg/carbonate/bottle as usual
  8. Enjoy!

Mosaic SMaSH

Single Malt and Single Hop pale ale using plain 2-row malt and pelletized mosaic hops.

  1. Mash at 154 degrees for 60 minutes
  2. Sparge as usual
  3. Boil for 60 minutes adding hops per the schedule above
  4. Cool to 70 degrees, pitch yeast
  5. Primary fermentation – 10-14 days
  6. Rack to secondary fermentation – 7-10 days
  7. Keg/carbonate/bottle as usual
  8. Enjoy!

These recipes are ones the BrewTogether Crew have tested, but you can brew a SMaSH with any grain or hop! Do you have a favorite SMaSH recipe to share, or any other advice for brewers wanting to get into SMaSH brewing? Leave a comment below or check out the SMaSH brewing thread in the BrewTogether Forums to join the discussion!

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1 Comment

  1. I did a SMaSH recently with Vienna malt and Nelson hops and it came out AMAZING! I was worried the vienna would have a little too much flavor but it was damn delicious as a SMaSH IPA. I did a big dry hop and my god it was just awesome. I am planning to do another Vienna SMaSH with Mosaic and I’m really excited about it.

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