My First SMaSH


Baskets, Bunnies, and Beer.

I had my first SMaSH beer on Easter.

Single Malt and Single Hop beers appeal to me because I hate waste. All grain brewing in small batches requires you to buy more grain than you need and I am awful at saving leftovers. I purchase in pound increments, so when I see a recipe that only requires 0.1 pound of  grain for several types of grain, I am hesitant to brew it. This rules out Stouts and Porters. Also, I hate buying large quantities of several varieties of  hops. This rules out a lot of IPA recipes. Why does a recipe need to be so complicated? Depth of flavors? Sure, I get that, but beer can be simple and delicious and SMaSH ales prove that.


Chama River makes great beer and when I saw their Woodward SMaSH on the menu I had to grab a growler. I was not disappointed. It was very light and perfectly bitter – not a palate wrecker.  I can now also say, confidently, I know what Amarillo hops taste like. SMaSH, besides requiring few ingredients, allows you to get to know your ingredients. Here are the Hop additions for Pliny the Elder as listed in Zymurgy, July/Aug 2009.

3.50 oz (99 g) Columbus* 13.90% A.A. 90 min.
0.75 oz (21 g) Columbus* 13.90% A.A. 45 min.
1.00 oz (28 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. 30 min.
1.00 oz (28 g) Centennial 8.00% A.A. 0 min.
2.50 oz (71 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. 0 min.
1.00 oz (28 g) Columbus* 13.90% A.A. Dry Hop (12 to 14 days total)
1.00 oz (28 g) Centennial 9.10% A.A. Dry Hop (12 to 14 days total)
1.00 oz (28 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. Dry Hop (12 to 14 days total)
0.25 oz (7 g) Columbus* 13.90% A.A. Dry Hop (5 days to go in dry hop)
0.25 oz (7 g) Centennial 9.10% A.A. Dry Hop (5 days to go in dry hop)
0.25 oz (7 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. Dry Hop (5 days to go in dry hop)

Pliny the Elder is an amazing beer. But after drinking it, do you know what Columbus, Simcoe, or Centennial taste like? No.

This might not be a big deal to some, but in formulating recipes, you need to know what an addition will do to your beer. Imagine a chef who doesn’t know what thyme tasted like because they had only ever tasted combinations of thyme, rosemary and oregano.

SMaSH beers seem like a great way to build up a recipe. Brew a 2 row and cascade hop SMaSH. Like it? Want more malt/caramel, throw in some Crystal 60. Now you have a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale without the Perle hops. Add the Perle, notice the difference?  Add some Munich or Victory (like in Fat Tire).

When confronted with a recipe you know what each ingredient contributes to the flavor and aroma. The next thing to mess with – Yeast. Brew a pale ale with US05 and again with a Belgian yeast or British. Spicier, fruitier?


Time to Refocus

My adventures in homebrewing started with a bang and slowly fizzled – or quickly gushed.

My first batch – a Brooklyn Brew Shop IPA kit – was a success. My equipment was spanking new and therefore clean. It was a great day of brewing with my Brother in Law. The temperature in my house was just under 70, which was good for the US 05 yeast. We drank our IPA and patted ourselves on our backs. This homebrewing thing is easy.


Our second batch was a smoked wheat – which is not always available. Another fun brew day, but we ran in to problems quickly. We used a thinner mash, drank more while brewing, and the weather was warming up. I tried a lot of new techniques on this batch – like fermenting in a bucket of cold water – which makes it hard to pinpoint a single point of error. The beer was not bad, drinkable, but all the changes made me wonder if it was our fault it wasn’t delicious or if I just didn’t like the style. My BIL loved it, so I will chalked this batch up to my tastes, but in the back of my mind, I failed somewhere.


Three strikes and I was out. The third batch was a failure – all gushers. The brewing seemed to go much better – except I did try to do an infusion mash instead of just pouring over which resulted in a mess. We also topped off with tap water. It was the peak of summer and unbelievably hot – which was not good for fermentation. This was the first recipe not from a kit. I think the failure was primarily due to poor sanitation. I am lazy to wash my bottles after drinking, so they sit for months before I brew. I am also lazy to clean in general. I got lazy and sloppy and paid the price for it.


The third batch disappointed me. Not cleaning was the real problem but I blamed it on summer. I stopped brewing. I decided I needed a mash tun (cooler) and a wine fridge to convert to a fermentation chamber. Not wanting to spend the money, I never got back in to brewing.

It has been some time now since I brewed and I have been reading BYO and Zymurgy again. I am refocused. I know I don’t need any more equipment, but more dedication to cleaning. If I am going to do it, I need to stop cutting corners and go all in. I also need to brew beers like Saison in the summer when it is too hot to ferment anything else. I read an article the other day where the author said “if you’re like me you have experienced a batch ruined by infection.” This made me feel so much better. Yes, I slacked on cleaning. But. infection can hit even those who try their best to prevent it. It happens to the best of us, but way more frequently to the lazy of us. 


I will stop being lazy and start getting my brew on!


Sierra Nevada Clone

In my post on Paler than Paul Ale, I said I posted a recipe but I did not-the recipe was for a Fat Tire clone. Here is the Sierra Nevada Clone recipe:
FG: 1.011
SRM: 10
IBU: 38
ABV: 5.4%

2lb(32oz) 2 Row Pale Malt

2.2oz Caramel Malt 60L
.1oz (2.8g) 4.4AAU Perle Hop 8.8% Alpha (90 min)
.2 oz (5.6g) 6 AAU Cascade Hops 6% Alpha (45min)
.3 oz(8.6g) Cascade (0 min)

Wyeast 1056, WLP001, or US-05
mash 155(68) 60 minutes. Raise to 170(77) for 5 minutes. Sparge. Boil 90 minutes
Ferment 68.

The Session

The Session #84: Alternative Review

20130904-223632.jpgThe rules of this session are easy: review a beer. Any beer. Of your choosing even! There’s a catch though, just one eentsy, tiny rule that you have to adhere to: you cannot review the beer. 

In my first Session blog, instead of not reviewing a beer, I am going to not review all beer.

In my 20’s I loved them all. I had no loyalty. I did’t have a type. Blonde, Red, Black, Brown, a good head on her shoulders, young or old, it didn’t matter. Any day of the week was fair game. Grab enough friends and even a Wednesday could be a party. It always included friends. The more the merrier.

But with age comes wisdom. And she became my only one. The parties were just the two of us. Any night of the week was still fair game. But the party didn’t start till our son went to sleep. After a long day at work. After a busy night chasing a toddler. Finally, we were alone. To sit and talk. To imbibe in every bit of her. To be together again, alone, in love, like the days when we were just getting to know each other.

There are hundreds of bottles on the shelf, but with age you learn what you like, what you love, what will make you happy for the rest of your life. Those other bottles become background noise. She is the one you choose when celebrating life. She is the one that cheers you up when you’re down. She is the only one … the one.

Homebrewing, Thoughts

Paler than Paul Ale: Fail

I bombed on this batch. The bottles were gushers. I focused on everything but cleanliness. I hate cleaning and it cost me.


I have taken two months off from brewing. My wife hated seeing me mad about my bad batches and said if i’m not having fun then I need to quit. She is right. She also made the point that if I am going to brew, I need to be more serious. I reread everything I have, and looked for new material. I am inspired again and confident that I can brew a great batch. It also helps that summer is over and that I moved to a house with a mud room that is consistently 58-62 degrees.


I will brew my pale ale until I perfect my technique. Then move to Belgians for summer – 70+ fermentation temperature time – and finally prepare for some Russian Imperial Stouts or Strong Ales when it gets cold again.


It’s on. Look out for my next post on Pale Ale II this weekend.

American Ale, Homebrewing

Paler then Paul Ale : A Sierra Nevada Clone

I posted a 1 gallon recipe for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from BYO Magazine – subscribe! I finally got around to trying it. I had put it off because I needed a scale and I was not thrilled about wasting ingredients. One night, while running errands, I found myself at Target, so I picked one up for under $30. It works to 0.1 ounce or gram -which is close enough for me- and it goes up to 11 pounds. I went to Southwest Grape and Grain for my ingredients and finally went in their grain room.  This is only the specialty grains – the base grains are on the left of the wall.

The specialty grains at Southwest Grape and Grain.

The specialty grains at Southwest Grape and Grain.

I got 2 pounds of 2 row and Crystal 60L. I only needed 2.2 ounces so I weighed it out on my new scale.

Crystal 60L on my new scale.

Crystal 60L on my new scale.

I made a thick mash for this batch. MY smoked wheat batch was thin and since I was not thrilled with that brew I went back to a thick mash with more sparge water.

Mashing at 1:1

Mashing at 1:1

I kept my drinking to a minimum while brewing this beer. It looked good so I am optimistic. One thing that went wrong or not to plan was that the final wort was just over half gallon. The 90 minute boil time really increased the amount lost to evaporation – and I didn’t take this in to account. I topped off the wort with tap water once in the carboy.  I had to make a change to the recipe. My LHBS was out of S-05 yeast, which I wanted because it seemed to work well at higher temperatures without too much off flavor. Instead I picked up a Danstar Nottingham yeast. It says it is a neutral for ale yeast so we will see. I think this will be my go to recipe for experimentation and for fine tuning my techniques. In an ideal world, I would brew this repeatedly until it was second nature and I could breeze through the process. The recipe cost me about $13 with left over Crystal, Hops and Yeast. For $3.99 I could whip up another batch. It sure beats the $20+ I was paying for one gallon kits.

Need a mesh bag for the hop pellets, these things break up like crazy.

Hops make a mess

Hops make a mess

The yeast went to work and it smelled good in the closet – a bit fruity but I am not worried yet.



Homebrewing, Smoked, Wheat

Smoked Wheat was not a Success

My smoked wheat brew did not turn out well. It tastes perfectly fine but for some reason it makes me feel bloated after drinking. I wonder if i’m getting yeast in my cup. You can see the yeast at the bottom of the bottle.

Yeast on the bottom of the bottle.

Yeast on the bottom of the bottle.


The beer looks good too. Lighter than I think it should have been- but looks like beer and smells like it too.

Smoked wheat looking a bit light.

Smoked wheat looking a bit light.


I am not a huge wheat beer drinker so maybe that has something to do with it – not much reference. I still have some in the fridge and will try again. Maybe it was me and not the beer.

Whether the beer is good or not, I will implement a new policy of two beers while brewing – one while mashing and one while boiling. I think we might have overdone it while brewing this one and our mash suffered – as well as a less than vigorous boil.

Chalk it up to experience. I will boil sausages in it if I don’t drink it. Learned that from a buddy who homebrews – cook with bad batches.