SMaSH Brew question

Good morning folks,

I’m looking to do a variety of SMaSH brews to get a better feel for flavor profiles, but I’ve been a bit hesitant when it comes to choosing ingredients. When I asked a gentleman at my local homebrew store he said, “Well, your choices depend on what you’re looking to make.” That’s kind of the problem: I don’t know what I’m looking to make, I’m mostly looking to experiment. Problem is, I don’t want to pick hops or malts that obviously won’t go together and waste my money, and I also don’t know how to gauge how much of any given ingredient I should buy, what kind of yeast I should buy, when I should do my hop additions, how many hop additions, etc, etc…

This would only be my fourth or fifth brew, so should I stick to predetermined recipes for now until I understand the overall process and science behind it better? Any input would be great and help save me from my wishy-washy attitude when it comes to SMaSH brewing.

How about starting with NB’s SMaSH recipe and changing one thing at a time? Can’t go wrong with 2-row/Simcoe, and there’s a seemlingly endless variety of new hops you could try. Sticking with American C-hops will keep you busy for awhile, and will give you a really good idea of their character. If you have brewing software available, you can adjust the hop additions for alpha acid differences to match overall IBU, or change times to see how they impact final flavor.

First of all, it sounds like you are on a great track for learning to brew great beer. Conversely, when I first started, I made a lot of kitchen sink beers, which generally suck.

As you say, there are really two things at work here with you being a newer brewer.

1.) Brewing good beer (notice I didn’t say “homebrew”…see my countless rants on this forum) is primarily about process. Good cleaning and sanitation, controlling fermentation temperature, yeast pitching rates, proper conditioning are all elements/facets that should be brought to a moderate/above-average level before designing your own recipes.

2.) Recipe design is about, as your LHBS wisely advised you, deciding what you want to drink/share, then working backwards. This applies to a lot of things, including cooking. In your case, your primary concern with recipe design is to learn about ingredients, which is a great way to brew.

I would decide what ingredient you want to focus on, then design the recipe around that. If you want to understand a malt, use some neutral/noble hops just for bittering. If you want to understand a hop, use a lot of late/whirlpool hops but keep everything else neutral.

A great thing to do to learn about process/ingredients is a simple recipe with one slight change, split into two fermenters. For these types of brews, I would focus on a process element at least in the beginning. For example, if you like American hop-forward beers, I would try brewing a full batch of Vienna/Centennial SMaSH, fermented with US-05. Ferment one in a water bath in your basement (I would guess +/- 60-65* ambient this time of year), and the other in a water bath in your upstairs (probably closer to 70*). I also used to make a big strong batch of wort (1.090 or so), then dilute with water before the boil down to 1.060 or so, and do two separate boils, each with different hops. Tasting them side by side really allows you to learn about the ingredients.

I would also recommend “Designing Great Beers” by Ray Daniels. Really an amazing resource for getting into the mindset of building your own recipes.

Keep up the good work!

A few years back I did 4 one gallon BIAB SMaSH batches. I thought all 4 turned out great and was a awesome learning tool. I tried to keep it simple by using the same hop in all the batches, maintain the same gravity and IBU levels. I also used Safale US-05.

OG - 1.056
IBU’s 18.5

Cascade hops.
American 2 row - German Pilsener - Maris Otter - Vienna.

Soon I will do this again but I plan on using a clean bittering hop such as Magnum. No flavor or aroma additions.

Good luck to ya - :cheers:

I appreciate all the input guys! I’m looking forward to giving a few of these recipes a shot. I’ve also spent some time pouring over John Palmer’s hop guide and that has done me some good in terms of understanding my options.