SMaSH beers (The Session #125)

This month (July 2017), I am hosting The Session #125 on the topic of SmaSH beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This is my post on the topic, along with an initial recap of what I said in my announcement post.

Recap of Announcement

Our local, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, happened two weekends ago [May 27th]. Sadly, I missed it this year due to a bout of illness. When considering whether I was going to make it or not, I jokingly asked myself if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; I have not seen them yet though.

I will hopefully have brewed my first batch of beer—ignoring that attempt in Belgium in the early 1980s—between this announcement and The Session itself and, wait for it, that beer will be a SMaSH beer. It will be an all-Oregon, not too hoppy American pale, if anything.

  • Mecca Grade Estate Malt Lamonta pale malt
  • Sterling, 2016 whole flower, hops
  • Imperial Yeast A01 House yeast

So, at the moment, at least, it appears I think they have some value.

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

  • Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
  • What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
  • Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
  • Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
  • Do you brew them?
  • Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
  • Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?
  • I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.”

My thoughts (at the moment) on SMaSH beers

As to my SMaSH pale ale, it is happily well into fermentation. I brewed it on 2 July and it got off to a vigorous fermentation, which has now slowed down a good bit. I intend to give it plenty of time for secondary and cleanup of diacetyl, etc. Sadly, it will not be ready for this post but no doubt I will post about it closer to the solar eclipse [see below].

This beer serves two purposes for me. Or perhaps one purpose with lots of extra meaning attached. Our home(brewery) is called Starshine Brewery, based on pet names the wife and I have for each other. Thus, the beer names will be mostly, if not entirely, celestially and astronomically-related.

The timing of the eclipse just worked out for me and my first homebrew batch. I needed to make a SMaSH beer to get a good handle on what I taste/smell in Mecca Grade Lamonta pale ale malt and on how it comes across on my system as I bought a 50-lb. bag of it back in April.

It is an all-Oregon beer, as best as I could do and within my “definition.” I would have preferred to be a bit stricter but I got what I got.

My semi-American SMaSH pale ale is named Path of Totality as the path of totality of the 2017 solar eclipse will be passing directly over Central Oregon. My Mecca Grade malt was grown and malted right under the path. [They are, in fact, hosting a big party on their property which I truly wish I was attending. But we are not campers and have decided trying to travel anywhere that weekend just adds us to the other a-holes clogging up the streets.] The water and yeast come a bit outside of the path, on either side. And the hops were the best I could do on a first go but are, at a minimum, OSU/USDA hops.

I was after Santiam hops as the Santiam Pass will also be under the path of totality but could only get 2015 (or older) pellets. I wanted 2016 harvest and wanted whole cones for this so ended up switching to Sterling, which I do not really know. It got chosen as I am not really a fan of Cascades, Centennial, and Chinook as the more famous OSU/USDA hops.

Sterling: “… aroma and oil composition very similar to Saazer (USDA 21077) and other Saazer clones. Pleasant continental aroma; suitable for replacing Saazer hops in brewery blends.”

Might be a strange hop for a pale ale but I wanted something I could ID and not be in the way of the malt flavor and aroma. Even if I decide I love these hops, I was warned when I bought them that they are rapidly being replaced. I did look into it and, yes, production has been minimal for a while now and is decreasing; something like <1% of hop acreage.

They were also probably grown in Washington, not Oregon, but my local Central Oregon hop growing friends only had Cascades and such on hand, in pellets, from last year. I will make another all-Oregon pale and source it completely from Central Oregon, except for the yeast and, technically, if I used Wyeast yeast then I could call it all Central Oregon. So maybe I will. I have several hop growing friends here so will get some whole flowers this year. I am thinking some (CO)-East Kent Goldings from Tumalo Hops, but we will see who has what that isn’t Cascades or Centennial.

As to my trendy question, my friend, Ryan Sharp, one of the folks who puts on Central Oregon Beer Week commented regarding my “can they be a thing” question with this info from the SmaSH Fest:

“22 beers this year.

3 of them lacto sours (and one using a wild sacc strain).

1 beer had fruit added (mangosteen).

16 different hop varieties represented, including 2 experimental varieties.

4 beers showcased Mecca Grade’s local malt.

Styles represented by brewer description: Fruited sour, Berlinerweisse, Dry Hopped Sour, Pale Ale Extra Pale Ale, IPA, IIPA, Hoppy Wit, Hoppy Lager, Vienna Lager, Pilsner, Blonde, Rauchbier.”

Based on the strength of current trends such as “IPA forever,” saisons, sours, barrel-aged beers and any other actually hot sections of the market, I do not believe that they are trendy. I am not sure I want them to be trendy either but I would love to see a lot more of them, especially commercially available.

Yes, there were soured and fruited versions available at SMaSH Fest but those are trends in themselves and, yes, perhaps I contradict myself from above but I believe it is actually a more thought out answer than my off-the-cuff jest.

I would love to see more commercial breweries producing them and touting them, though. Especially with the rise of craft malting—Mecca Grade is just one of many around the country—I think this would be a useful thing. If you are paying a premium for your malt then you ought be working at convincing yourself and your customers that the cost is worth it. What flavors and aromas is that malt bringing to your beers? Or the more basic (but misguided) question, does malt contribute to beer flavor or aroma? [Hard to believe but I have seen and heard this explicitly asked. It is our current focus on hops that has led to such ridiculousness.]

On top of the truly large and emerging issue of malt contributions to flavor and aroma, there is the question of bittering, flavoring and aroma provided by individual hop varieties and how they are used. We have new varieties with new and different flavors and aromas, and we have vastly different ways of using them versus mostly as kettle/bittering hops, thus some of that focus is certainly called for but not at the expense of applying the same kind of interest to barley and malt.

I believe that a well-produced series of SMaSH beers could go a long way to helping consumers understand these agricultural products and the ways in which brewers are using them. This assumes a brewery that feels consumer education is a part of their mission versus simply selling as much beer as they can. I am pretty sure that is not always the case though.

As for purpose, I think that SMaSH beers primarily serve as education, for both the brewer and the consumer. What do your ingredients and processes add? Reducing ingredients to a minimum is a great way to control the amount of variables.

I feel that they, currently anyway, fill a niche in style space for me both as a fledgling homebrewer and as an interested consumer. A brewery that helps to educate me is going to get a lot of extra love and goodwill from me. I assume that there are others who feel the same but no idea how prevalent this attitude might be.

As for are they a “style,” for me, I would say no. I consider them a sub-sub-style, if you will. Or more accurately, a “give me a box to brew within” constraint on brewing a style of beer; that is, you choose to work within certain limit while still aiming for a tasty beer in its own right within a specific style or sub-style.

I have had several excellent SMaSH beers. Perhaps my favorite was a SMaSH American pale ale made by Mazama Brewing in Corvallis, OR in 2015 with an early batch of Mecca Grade’s malt and Crosby Hop Farm Centennial fresh hops. We got lucky and were in Corvallis for the release of this, which included talks by Dr. Pat Hayes, OSU’s barley breeder, on the origins of Full Pint (variety) barley and by the Seth Klann of Mecca Grade on their experiences growing and micro-malting it. Perhaps, as stated above, the educational and experiential component added immensely to the experience and to the beer—there has been a lot of talk online lately of the experience versus the beer itself and I come down (almost) fully on the experience side, assuming nothing is off in the beer itself. But this was a delicious American fresh hop pale ale, one which I would be happy to drink repeatedly and routinely. Deschutes has also made several SMaSH beers with Mecca Grade malts, including a saison that was quite good and excellent in its own right.

Based on my friend Ryan’s comment, there were many styles of single malt, singe hop beers made for SMaSH Fest. Based on my own (limited) experiences I would say that pale ale, saison, Pilsner, light(-colored) lagers and golden ales are the styles that have the best potential for making a great SMaSH beer. Next in potential, I would add IPA and Vienna Lager. After that I expect it to be a total crapshoot. I see an I/DIPA in the list but I would want at least a touch of some specialty malts in my I/DIPA although I imagine many IPA lovers could appreciate one done well. I am not claiming that no other styles would work; judgment is fully reserved on those.

As to do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers, I would have to say “Yes.” I think they can serve as a very valuable component of educating drinkers. What exactly do the individual ingredients taste like? Do I like it? Do I like it on its own or is it better as part of a mélange? Am I happy (possibly) paying a premium for a beer made with a craft malted malt or one of the trendy, thus in high demand and higher-priced, hops?

Personally, I am not a fan of most of the trendy new hops. Many of them have more thiols and bless the hearts of people who get berry and whatever else flavor and aroma they are sold on as providing. I just (OK, mainly) get allium from them; garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, leek, …. Pretty much one of the last things I want in beer aroma and/or flavor. I have had some IPAs and DIPAs with them and despite the aroma or flavor I quite enjoyed them. But. That note was always present and I always wanted it gone. The beers would have been exquisitely improved without that damned allium note, in my opinion. If you like them, more power to you. No grudges from me. Non-trendy hops are cheaper anyway and easier to source often.

That covers much of my thoughts on SMaSH beers, as of now. I am truly interested in what the rest of you have to say and look forward to doing the round-up over the next few days.

Again, to contribute:

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

Today (Friday 7 July) or the next day or two, you may comment on this post or the previous one and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @ gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or three of the first Friday (July 7th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

The links are already rolling in.

Cheers!

Loving Deschutes, Firestone Walker and Fremont

I do not do this near often enough, so I want to pass on some of my current beer love which was prompted by a lovely lunch down at the pub yesterday.

Deschutes

Just want to give a shout out to the Deschutes Bend Public House, and Andrew in particular, for a grand lunch yesterday. Had a tasty salad and tasted 3 amazing beers and also had a taste of the production Pacific Wonderland on draft (3rd version for me; 2nd favorite).

Salad on plate, 2 taster glasses of beer, a pint of beer and a pint of water.

Black barleywine on left, Kaizen Cream Ale almost gone, and a pint of The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA

Stopped in for The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA and had tasters of Kaizen Cream Ale and Black Barley Wine. All were exquisite. The Oregon Tr’Ale is a collaboration between several local breweries (The Central Oregon Brewers Guild) for the American Hop Convention held just recently in Bend. It uses Mecca Grade malt and experimental hops from the Willamette Valley.

Deschutes, et al. The Oregon Tr'Ale bottle label

All photo credit belongs to Deschutes Brewery. Borrowed (and slightly cropped) from this tweet: https://twitter.com/DeschutesBeer/status/821881154349441024

Andrew always takes great care of me and I sincerely appreciate him and all of the staff at the Public House. Cheers!

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

The other two shout outs I want to give are to the two breweries I wish I were far closer to: Firestone Walker and Fremont.

I think of them as roughly equidistant—as in, far removed from here—but I guess they are not, in a stricter sense. According to Google maps (various routes rounded) it is ~700 miles to Paso Robles, CA (our main FW destination) from Bend or ~800 to Buellton, CA (my desire but not wife’s) and only ~330 to Seattle, Earth for Fremont.

Firestone Walker

We (the wife and I) have been loving Firestone Walker vintage beers—the “boxed beers”—since just after getting to Bend in 2012. We buy more FW “prestige” beers each year than Deschutes, since before now there simply were more FW ones (which we love) and now the Big D [my moniker for Deschutes; they are comparatively “big” in the craft beer world] is stepping up with The Abyss variants and more Pub Reserve series and such. Our taste buds and other sensory apparatus love it. Our pocketbooks do not.

Bottle, snifter full of beer, and box for Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale

But Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Sucaba [on hiatus this year], the Anniversary blends, Helldorado, Velvet Merkin, highly lamented Double DBA …, even the recently late and lamented Wookey Jack (perhaps my favorite black IPA/Cascadian dark). I have also loved the Luponic Distortion series. Um, where is #4 though?

Back of my wife's head taking a photo of Firestone Walker Helldorado glass and bottle with her iPad

Sara taking a picture of 2015 Helldorado blond barleywine

But those boxed beers from FW?! Oh. My. I have 47 checkins of FW beers in Untappd and they are mostly variants of the boxed beers.

Full snifter, bottle and box of 2014 Sucaba Barrel-aged Barley Wine No. 004

Fremont

Another brewery we have come to love for the same sorts of reasons is Fremont in Seattle [20 checkins]. They are masters of barrel aging and spicing and I will rarely say that of the first and, until now, never of the second.

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

I have had the pleasure to experience [their beers] Bourbon Barrel Abominable [B-Bomb], barrel aged Dark Star and their assorted variants. And I hope I am justified again this year but regular Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal stout in 12 oz cans, available for two months a year, is my go to again this year. I got a case last year but asked my guy to get me two this year. This would be my daily go to beer if I could have it year round. As it is I buy it in quantities nothing else compares to. Except perhaps the wife’s Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. Her go to beer.

I have also simply adored a few of Fremont’s fresh hop beers. Packaged fresh hop beers! I can only imagine how transcendent they would be at their own pub.

Bottle and two glasses of 2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

Prairie Artisan Ales

I also want to throw a bit of love at Prairie Artisan in Tulsa, OK [8 checkins]. We have had a few things out here and they are lovely. A friend did point out the trend to incapacitating ABVs to which I had to agree, especially since even I made it in reference to one of their beers. But I consider a non-brazen 12-12.5% beer to beer fair game as long as you know what you are getting in to. We prepare for that scenario. We live that scenario.

I simply adore their labels, by the way.

Bottle and glass of Pirate Noir at BTBS

But Apple Brandy Barrel Noir, Vanilla Noir (as a non-fan of most beers with vanilla), and Pirate Noir? Simply amazing beers.

I have a second Pirate Noir, which I just had in last few days, to try in future; currently slated for 4th quarter this year. I had the Apple Brandy in July via a bottle brought home from Corvallis Brewing Supply (Love you folks!). Doubt I’ll ever get to try it again. My checkin comment was “Tastes like chocolate-covered apple brandy. It does.” That cracks me the heck up. I assume that was a good thing at the time.

Bottle and glass of Apple Brandy Barrel Noir

Untappd 2500th unique

I am one unique beer away from 2500 unique checkins on Untappd. I have decided it will be the Firestone Walker 2015 Parabola barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Not sure why I haven’t checked it in already but no worries; I will tonight after work.

Screenshot of my Untappd profile page showing 2499 unique checkins

Recap

So big love and thanks to Deschutes Bend Public House, Firestone Walker, Fremont and Prairie Artisan. I could definitely see myself spending lots of quality time at both Firestone Walker’s and Fremont’s pubs. Some day we will get there. Or so I tell myself anyway. Mighty glad though that they are distributed here.

Just wish they were closer so I could drop in and hang for an afternoon every once in a while.

Allen and Cantwell – Barley Wine

Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (Classic Beer Styles series no. 11) by Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell

Date read: 26 February – 04 March 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Image of cover of Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (Classic Beer Styles series no. 11) by Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell

Paperback, 198 pages

Published 1998 by Brewers Publications

Source: Own

Fal Allen is currently the head brewer at Anderson Valley Brewing Co. (AVBC). You can see more of his brewing background at that link. Dick Cantwell was one of the co-founders of Elysian Brewing in 1996 and is still their head brewer.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The History of Barley Wine
  • Chapter 2: The Flavor Profile of Barley Wine
  • Chapter 3: The Five Elements: Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water, and Time
  • Chapter 4: The Brewing Process
  • Chapter 5: Professional Barely Wine Breweries
  • Chapter 6: Recipes
  • Appendix A: Festivals
  • Appendix B; Troubleshooting
  • Appendix C: U.S. and Canadian Barely Wine Breweries
  • Appendix D: Unit Conversion Chart
  • Glossary
  • Further Reading
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Authors

NB: Publication date 1998. At the time perhaps it made sense, but 17 years later App. C is kind of useless. Chap. 5 is better in that we get some data and descriptions, so even if the beer or brewery are long gone it still provides some context, especially compared to the others in the rest of the chapter. [This book is no. 11 in the series and no. 10 Stout (see below) also has an appendix “Commercial Stout Breweries,” which seems of the same limited value and ends with “Note: This is only a partial listing of the numerous brewers of stout.” You think?]

Introduction

“These days barley wine brewing is alive and well, if somewhat besieged in its native Britain. Its history is not continuous or easy to trace. Studying barley wine is like following footprints which disappear and reappear, forking and veering, stamping for a time in a circle and then dispersing, leaving trails that seem to go cold and then suddenly present a host of destinations. It’s an enterprise requiring a few leaps of courage and fancy simply to consider the widely variant examples and information that is part of the same theoretically coherent style. We will challenge and define the parameters of barley wine, examining every stage of the brewing process to wring the utmost from ingredients, equipment, and procedures. We will explore the contributions of each of brewing’s basic raw materials, including one not ordinarily considered—time. We will also offer practical hints based on our own home and professional brewing experience” (Introduction, 6-7).

Chapter 1: The History of Barley Wine

Seems reasonable. Anyone aware of other histories of barley wine? I like that we’re off to an inclusive start.

Chapter 2: The Flavor Profile of Barley Wine

Covers a lot of ground fairly succinctly.

“There are, in fact, a number of proper versions of the style, each with a historical and geographical precedent, and each matching the original qualities” (31).

Includes: alcohol, color and clarity, hops, age, yeast and other influences, conditioning and carbonation; “families” of barley wines: The Trent, the Thames, and Others: English Barley Wine Brewing; The Northeastern United States—The Great Between; Northwestern Barley Wines; Other Beers Defying Classification.

The “Other Beers Defying Classification” section was interesting in that it told me that Michael Jackson considered Russian Imperial stout to be a dark barley wine. I just checked his The World Guide to Beer and sure enough, pages 170-171 are “Russian stout and barley wines” (1977, First american ed.). I did not remember that. Perhaps partly due to the fact that it was many years later before I had tasted either style. I am not saying I agree with Michael, though. His reasoning was a little loose.

This section also reminded me that “in Stout, Michael Lewis considers imperial stout such a break from traditional stout styles that he devotes to it only a brief discussion (Lewis 1995)” (50). That’s right. I can find almost nothing on Imperials in it. That’s my biggest gripe with Stout. But back to this book.

Chapter 3: The Five Elements: Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water, and Time

I like how they bring out in the section on “Pale Malt” that English pale malt is best (with Maris Otter at the top) because “it has a more complex flavor than American malts, which are generally malted to microbrewery specifications” (55). That is soon to change, although mostly likely remain sparsely dispersed and very small-scale for a long while. Micromalting. Heirloom and landrace barleys. Barleys not even suspected by the macros.

Photo of emblem for the High Desert Museum exhibit Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer

We went to the last panel discussion at the High Desert Museum as part of their exhibit, Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer. It was Feb. 19th and this was its remit:

“Join us for a dynamic conversation with Seth Klann of Mecca Grade Estate Malt to learn how barley is farmed and malted in the High Desert. Klann will be joined by Scott Fish a barley breeding researcher and resident malster at OSU and Dustin Herb, a graduate research assistant in OSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Science whose work is on barley and malting.”

The researchers actually went first with Seth finishing before questions for everyone. Mecca Grade Estate Malt. We have locally grown barley and a micromalting facility in Central Oregon. I know there are a few around the country. Michigan, for sure. Colorado somewhere? New York? Montana? Barley region states anyway.

For far more information on this panel discussion of malt see “The day I learned about barley.”

Hmm. Ambled away from the topic at hand again.

This chapter covers some ground but does it fairly efficiently: The Malt Bill: Pale Malt, Specialty Malts, Adjuncts; Hops: Boiling Hops, Finishing Hops; Yeast: Yeast Flavor, Alcohol Tolerance, Attenuation, Flocculation, Oxygen; Water; Aging; Packaged Beer; Wood.

Chapter 4: The Brewing Process

Let’s just say that if you want to brew your first barley wine you perhaps had best read this chapter. I’m not saying it is the last word, by any means. But it gives you a good idea of how much you’ll be taxing your knowledge, your system, your ingredients and your processes.

Chapter 5: Professional Barely Wine Breweries

Provides the specifications, and variably some notes or description, on twenty barley wines, beginning with Bass No. 1. The specs provided are slightly variable and/or not available for some pieces of data on each beer. Basically: Name, Brewer, Original Gravity, Terminal Gravity, ABV, IBU, Hop Variety, Malt, Mash, Boil, Fermentation Temperature, Yeast, Fermentation Time and Aging.

Some of the other beers are Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Fuller’s Golden Pride, Anchor Old Foghorn (1996), Thomas Hardy (1989), and Hair of the Dog Adambier.

Chapter 6: Recipes

Eleven recipes “from a wide-range of brewers and brewing backgrounds” (131) are presented and each is sized for both 5 gallons and 1 barrel. Some of the brewers are Ray Daniels, Charlie Papazian, George & Laurie Fix, Fred Eckhardt, and Randy Mosher.

Appendix A: Festivals

Clearly several more by now and The Brickskeller is closed.

Appendix B: Troubleshooting

From stuck fermentation to stuck mash and other issues in-between.

Appendix C: U.S. and Canadian Barely Wine Breweries

No doubt it was partial then; now not so much interesting even as an historical document since we have no idea of the scope of its limitations to begin with.

Appendix D: Unit Conversion Chart

Glossary

Not even sure half of those terms are in the book. And they’re mostly not indexed soit  makes it hard to verify.

For now I am recommending this book. The issues I have pointed out above are inherent in any text like this that becomes dated. My single caveat for otherwise not wholeheartedly recommending it is that I have yet to brew from it. Based on other things I have read their recommendations seem sound but I have not tested any of them in practice. Take that as you will.

This is the 15th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair

Citations

Lewis, Michael. Stout. First American ed. Boulder, Colo.: Brewers Publications, 1995. Print. Classic Beer Style Series, 10.

Cross-posted at habitually probing generalist for purposes of the above reading challenge.