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  • Writer's pictureCalgary Brewery Tour Guy

What is SMaSH Beer? Single malt and Single Hops Beer by YYCTOURS

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

What is SMaSH Beer?

As part of our Calgary Brewery Tour educational series, YYCTOURS is exploring everything you need to know about SMaSH beer, from its origins and brewing process, to its growing popularity and recommended styles. Whether you are a beer enthusiast or simply curious about this trendy drink, discover the world of SMaSH beer!

Pint of Smash Beer from Brewery Tours Calgary YYCTOURS what is smash beer

Table of Contents

1. What is SMaSH Beer?

What is SMaSH Beer?

Smash beer, also known as S.M.a.S.H. (Single Malt and Single Hop) beer is a trendy and popular drink in the craft beer community. The acronym was coined by a group of brewers at the home brewing forum HBT. This type of beer is made using only one type of malt and one type of hop, which allows the brewers to showcase individual characteristics of their chosen malt and hop. Each sip should bring forward the properties of these individual ingredients, creating a beer that is both simple, yet complex in taste, and resulting in a clean and distinctive flavor profile. Although brewing with only one type of malt and one variety of hop may sound like an easier task than brewing most beers, when it comes to SMaSHes, that is not the case. With only one hop and one malt, brewers can't hide behind the wide assortment of flavour when making a beer with several ingredients.

Brewers are constantly looking for innovative ways to experiment with flavors and ingredients. By using only one type of malt and one type of hop, they can fully explore and appreciate the distinct flavors and aromas that each ingredient brings to the beer. This also allows them to work with different yeast strains to see the different effects that the yeast has on each ingredient. SMaSHes can be either lagers or ales, pending on the chosen yeast strain.

The malt used in SMaSH beer provides the foundation for the beer's flavor profile. Different types of malt, such as Pale malt, Munich malt, or even specialty malts like chocolate malt or caramel malt, can be used to create different flavor profiles in the beer. The hop, on the other hand, adds the beer’s distinctive bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Popular hop varieties used in SMaSH beers include Cascade, Galaxy, and Simcoe, among others.

The brewing process for SMaSH beer is relatively straightforward. Brewers start by mashing their chosen malt, converting the starches into fermentable sugars. This sugar-rich liquid, known as wort, is then boiled and hops are added at different stages to extract the desired bitterness, flavor, and aroma. After boiling, the wort is cooled and the chosen yeast is added for fermentation. The resulting beer is then conditioned and carbonated before being ready for consumption.

SMaSH beer has gained popularity among beer enthusiasts and brewers for several reasons. Firstly, it allows brewers to showcase the unique characteristics of different malts and hops, offering a wide range of flavor possibilities. Secondly, it provides a great opportunity for brewers to experiment with brewing techniques and ingredients without overwhelming complexity. Lastly, SMaSH beer offers a refreshing alternative to the complex and heavily hopped beers that have dominated the craft beer scene in recent years.

Recommended styles of SMaSH beer vary depending on the chosen malt and hop combination. For example, a SMaSH beer made with a Pale malt and Citra hop might result in a citrusy and tropical IPA, while a SMaSH beer made with a caramel malt and Cascade hop could produce a richer and malt-driven amber ale. The possibilities are endless, and brewers are encouraged to get creative and explore different combinations to find their perfect recipe.

A handful of malted barley from YYC Beer tours calgary and What is a Smash beer

2. History and origins of SMaSH Beer

History and Origins of SMaSH Beer

While the precise origins of SMaSH beer are difficult to pinpoint, it is believed to have gained popularity in the early 2000s as craft brewers sought ways to showcase the unique flavors and aromas of individual malts and hops.

Prior to the emergence of SMaSH beer, brewers often used complex recipes with multiple malts and hops to create intricate flavor profiles. However, this approach makes it challenging to truly appreciate the distinct characteristics of each individual ingredient. By using only one type of malt and one type of hop, brewers discovered that they could create beers that were both simple in concept, yet complex in taste. This minimalist approach allowed them to fully explore and appreciate the flavors and aromas that each specific malt and hop brought to the beer.

The craft beer community embraces SMaSH beer as a refreshing departure from the complex and heavily hopped beers that have dominated the scene for years. It offers a new level of transparency and authenticity, allowing beer enthusiasts to truly understand and appreciate the individual ingredients used in their favorite brews.

Today, SMaSH beer has become an integral part of the craft beer movement, with brewers and beer enthusiasts alike embracing its simplicity and versatility. It has also served as a catalyst for creativity, encouraging brewers to explore new combinations of malts and hops to create innovative and exciting flavor profiles.

An image of hops from Calgary Brewery Tours at YYC TOURS

3. Why is SMaSH Beer so popular?

Why is SMaSH Beer so popular?

SMaSH beer has gained popularity in the craft beer community for several reasons.

1. Simplicity and Transparency: One of the primary reasons for the popularity of SMaSH beer is its simplicity. By using only a single type of malt and hop, SMaSH beer allows brewers to showcase the true essence and flavors of these ingredients. Unlike complex recipes with multiple malts and hops, SMaSH beer provides a transparent approach, enabling beer enthusiasts to understand and appreciate the individual characteristics of each ingredient.

2. Authenticity and Flavor Exploration: SMaSH beer offers a unique and authentic experience for both brewers, and consumers. It allows brewers to experiment and explore different combinations of malts and hops, pushing the boundaries of flavor possibilities with each new brew. This experimentation leads to innovative and exciting flavor profiles, keeping beer enthusiasts engaged and intrigued.

3. Craft Beer Movement: SMaSH beer has become an integral part of the craft beer movement, which emphasizes quality, creativity, and passion for brewing. Craft brewers are known for their constant quest for innovation and experimentation, and SMaSH beer aligns perfectly with this ethos. It provides a platform for brewers to showcase their skills and creativity, while delivering a remarkable drinking experience for consumers.

4. Accessible for Homebrewers: SMaSH beer has also gained popularity among homebrewers. With its simple recipe and focus on a single malt and hop, it offers a great opportunity for homebrewers to experiment and craft their unique beer recipes. This accessibility allows individuals to explore the world of brewing without the overwhelming complexity of multi-ingredient recipes.

5. Refreshing Departure: SMaSH beer offers a refreshing departure from the heavily hopped and complex beers that have dominated the craft beer scene for years. Its minimalist approach provides a clean and crisp taste that appeals to a wide range of beer enthusiasts. SMaSH beer serves as a palate cleanser and a great alternative for those seeking a simpler yet flavorful drinking experience.

6.Cost: Using fewer types of malt and hops allows brewers to save money on batch.

Brewing equipment at a Calgary Brewery on YYC Tours

4. How is SMaSH Beer made?

How is SMaSH Beer made?

Here's a step-by-step process of how SMaSH beer is made:

1. Selection of Ingredients: The first step in making SMaSH beer is selecting a single type of malt and a single hop variety. This choice will determine the flavor profile of the final beer. Brewers often choose malts and hops with distinctive flavors to highlight their characteristics.

2. Mashing: The selected malt is then crushed and mixed with hot water in a process called mashing. This mixture, known as the ‘mash’, is held at specific temperatures to activate enzymes that convert the starches in the malt into fermentable sugars. The duration and temperature of the mash can vary depending on the desired outcome.

3. Lautering: After mashing, this now sweet liquid, called wort, is separated from the spent grains in a process called lautering. The wort is transferred to a separate vessel, leaving behind the grain husks and other solid materials.

4. Boiling: The wort is then transferred to a brew kettle, where it is brought to a boil. During this boiling process, hops are added at different times to achieve desired bitterness, flavor, and aroma. In a SMaSH beer, only a single hop variety is used. The length of this boil is determined by the type of malt used.

5. Cooling and Fermentation: After boiling, the wort is quickly cooled to a temperature suitable for the yeast. Once cooled, yeast is added to begin fermentation. The yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as by-products. Fermentation can take several days to weeks, depending on the specific yeast strain and desired beer characteristics.

6. Conditioning and Carbonation: After fermentation is complete, the beer is conditioned, or aged, to allow flavors to develop further. This can be done in a secondary fermentation vessel or directly in the bottle or keg. Carbonation can occur naturally through the remaining yeast activity or be added through force carbonation methods.

7. Packaging and Enjoyment: Once the beer has been conditioned, it is ready for packaging. Whether in bottles, cans, or kegs, SMaSH beer is typically stored in a cool place to maintain its freshness.

A Smash beer flight from Calgary Brewery Tours

5. Popular variations of SMaSH Beer

Popular variations of SMaSH Beer

While SMaSH beers are known for their simplicity and focus on showcasing individual malt and hop varieties, there are several popular variations that brewers have experimented with to create unique flavor profiles. These variations often involve using different types of malt or hops, or incorporating additional ingredients to enhance the overall taste. Here are some popular variations of SMaSH beer:

1. Double SMaSH: This variation involves using two different types of malts and two different hop varieties. The combination of these ingredients creates a more complex flavor profile, with multiple layers of malt and hop characteristics. Double SMaSH beers often have a higher alcohol content and a richer, more robust taste.

2. Fruit SMaSH: To add a fruity twist to traditional SMaSH beer, brewers incorporate various fruits during the brewing process. This can include adding fresh fruits, fruit purees, or even fruit extracts. The choice of fruit can greatly influence the final flavors, and popular options include citrus fruits, berries, and tropical fruits.

3. Spiced SMaSH: Brewers looking to add some spice to their SMaSH beer may include spices such as cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg during the brewing process. These spices can complement the flavor of the malt and hops, creating a unique and aromatic beer.

4. Sour SMaSH: For those who enjoy sour beers, a sour SMaSH variation can be created by introducing certain strains of bacteria or wild yeast during the fermentation process. This results in a tart and acidic flavor profile, which contrasts with the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops.

5. Barrel-Aged SMaSH: In this variation, the fermented SMaSH beer is aged in barrels, often made of oak, that have previously held spirits such as whiskey or bourbon. This aging process adds complex flavors from the barrels, such as vanilla, caramel, and oak. The result is a rich and smooth beer with added depth and character.

6. Experimental SMaSH: Brewers are constantly pushing the boundaries of SMaSH beer by incorporating unconventional ingredients or techniques. This can include using non-traditional malt or hop varieties, incorporating ingredients like coffee or chocolate, or experimenting with different fermentation processes. The experimental nature of these variations often leads to unique and unexpected flavor combinations.

Overall, while SMaSH beer is based on a simple concept, there is plenty of room for experimentation and creativity within this brewing style. Whether it's adding fruits, spices, aging in barrels, or exploring new ingredients, brewers have the opportunity to create SMaSH beers that cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences.

Alberta farmer harvesting barley for Smash beer

6. The future of SMaSH Beer

The future of SMaSH Beer holds immense potential for growth and innovation in the craft beer industry. As this trendy drink continues to gain popularity among beer enthusiasts, breweries and craft beer aficionados are constantly exploring new possibilities and pushing the boundaries of what SMaSH Beer can offer. Here are some key trends and developments that are shaping the future of SMaSH Beer:

1. Experimentation with Hop Varieties: One of the defining characteristics of SMaSH Beer is its emphasis on showcasing a single hop variety. In the future, we can expect breweries to experiment with a wider range of hop varieties to create unique flavor profiles and provide beer enthusiasts with a diverse selection of SMaSH Beers to choose from. This experimentation will allow for the discovery of new hop combinations, resulting in exciting and innovative flavor experiences.

2. Collaboration Brews: With the craft beer community known for its collaborative nature, it is highly likely that we will witness more collaboration brews involving SMaSH Beer. Breweries may join forces to create limited-edition SMaSH Beers, combining their expertise and creativity to produce truly exceptional and memorable brews. These collaborative efforts will not only introduce beer enthusiasts to new flavors but also foster a sense of camaraderie and community within the craft beer industry.

3. Fusion with Other Beer Styles: As brewers continue to push the boundaries of traditional beer styles, we can expect to see the fusion of SMaSH Beer with other styles. This blending of flavors and brewing techniques will result in exciting hybrid beers that combine the hop-forward nature of Beer with the characteristics of other beloved beer styles. The resulting brews will offer a unique drinking experience and cater to a wide range of palates.

4. Sustainability and Locally-Sourced Ingredients: With an increasing focus on sustainability and supporting local communities, the future of SMaSH Beer will likely see breweries prioritizing the use of locally-sourced ingredients. This emphasis on sustainability aligns with the craft beer industry's commitment to environmental responsibility and will enhance the overall quality and freshness of SMaSH Beers. Additionally, breweries may explore innovative techniques to reduce water and energy consumption during the brewing process, further contributing to a more sustainable future.

5. Enhanced Brewing Techniques: Advancements in brewing technology and techniques will play a significant role in shaping the future of SMaSH Beer. From improved hop selection and breeding to enhanced fermentation processes, brewers will have access to a wider range of tools and methods to create exceptional SMaSH Beers. These advancements will result in brews that are even more flavorful, aromatic, and consistent, satisfying the evolving preferences of beer enthusiasts.

6. Increased Accessibility: As SMaSH Beer gains traction and popularity, it is likely that more breweries will start producing this style, making it more accessible to a broader audience. This increased accessibility will enable beer lovers worldwide to explore and appreciate the unique flavors and characteristics of SMaSH Beer, further fueling its growth and demand.

Overall, the future of SMaSH Beer is promising and exciting. With ongoing experimentation, collaboration, advancements in brewing techniques, and increased accessibility, we can expect a diverse and dynamic range of SMaSH Beers that cater to the evolving preferences of craft beer enthusiasts. Whether you are a seasoned beer connoisseur or a curious newcomer, the future of SMaSH Beer holds something for everyone.

SMaSH beers are currently available in Calgary at Bottlescrew Bills and Canmore Brewing Company and feel free to request SMaSH beer when you book a Calgary Brewery Tour and we will see if we can find some.


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