Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Brew Day: North Shore Brewers SMaSH Base Malt Project

A SMaSH beer is a beer that has a single malt and a single hop variety. Some styles like Czech Pils are often SMaSH beers, however brewers usually brew SMaSH beers to learn about different flavors. Without specialty malts and numerous hops, it is easier to isolate the flavor contribution of the individual hop and malt.
Last year I participated with the North Shore Brewers Single Hop project and brewed a Galaxy IPA. That was a really fun an interesting project to try these new hop varieties side-by-side. One member of the club blended the beers and flavors together to develop a new IPA recipe. If I was smart, I would have tried something like that.
This year we decided to do a similar project with different base malts. We really wanted to learn and experience the subtle differences in flavor different base malts would provide. How would the same beer brewed with American 2-row barley taste different than a beer brewed with American Pale Ale malt? What about German Pils malt? English Maris Otter? Now we can do the same side-by-side comparison with these base malts as we did the hops.
We were discussing the project on our club's private message board. The initial recipe was for a hoppy American Pale Ale. The concern with that recipe in a project like this is that the hops would obscure the malt flavor. Someone suggested a blonde ale would make sense because blonde ales aren't too hoppy, and don't use a lot of specialty malts. I put together a suggested recipe which the club decided to use. 
Like Jay Think's He's Weizen, the recipe is adapted from Brewing Classic Styles, co-written by John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff. I took Jamil's Blonde Ale recipe and removed the small amount of specialty malt from his recipe. I posted an all-grain and an extract recipe. We started talking about the project during the winter. At the time I thought an extract recipe would be good for brewing inside and for comparing different extracts.
After each brewer chooses his/her malt or extract, there is only one hop addition at 60 minutes. This should give the beer sufficient bitterness and a low hop flavor, perfect for evaluating just the malt flavor.
Initially I bought enough malt for a three gallon batch of Summer Somewhere I was going to brew at home. When I decided to brew a five gallon batch at the club's beer camp, I bought a different malt to brew that five gallon batch. Since I still had the original malt leftover I used it to make a three gallon batch of the blonde ale recipe.
I purchased the malt at the Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge. The malt was labeled "UK 2-Row 1.8L". Looking at their website, I think the malt I purchased was Munton's Pale Malt (Propino).
The brew day went fairly smoothly. I held my mash as a consistent 152F, was able to use lactic acid to get my mash pH down to 5.2, my pre-boil volume looked to be on the money, and I hit my target gravity. I melted my plastic auto-siphon trying to bottle hot starter wort. Since I couldn't siphon my wort off the break material that settles at the bottom of the boil kettle, I skimmed the hot break off the top top during the hot break. Break material isn't good for the clarity of the finished beer. I also had a really nice cold break when chilling my wort. 
IMG_0372 IMG_0374
Somehow I only ended up with a little less than 2.5 gallons in the fermenter. I would have topped off with water to get to my target of three gallons, but I didn't want to water down the beer and have the beer finish too light.
I brought the fermenter down to my basement to cool. Unfortunately my basement isn't as cool as I thought it was. After several hours my wort still wasn't at pitching temperature in the mid to high 60s. I had to lug my fermenter all the way up to the third floor and set up a swamp cooler. Initially the water was so cold the wort fell below the optional temperature range of my yeast. It took a day to warm up and for there to be some activity through the airlock. 
After going almost two months without brewing, this was a good beer to get back into it. I already had all of the ingredients, it is part of a club project, and the recipe was very simple. I have four brews planned for jamboree coming up. I am going to have to be creative in how I brew them and ferment them at the right temperature.
If you live in the North Shore area of Massachusetts, check out the North Shore Brewers at www.northshorebrewers.orgThe club's next event is July 23. 
Follow me on Twitter @JChalifour
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