One thing both Josh and I vowed to do this year was take a more simplistic approach to brewing. Running before you’re able to walk is a mistake that is made pretty frequently in many aspects of life; brewing notwithstanding. We admitted to each other that some of the risks we took were definitely out of the realm of our experience threshold. This isn’t a bad thing – we gather useful information for future brews and learned a lot about process and maintenance of living cells. With that being said, 2017 is focusing on rebrewing old recipes. In addition to trying to tweak and better old recipes we are also starting our first “series,” we call it: The SMaSH series.
SMaSH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop. It’s a very basic grist that is also very useful when it comes to identifying grain profiles as well as hop profiles. Getting a better grasp on base malt flavors (and in some case specialty malt) flavors is not only an excellent step in the right direction of designing recipes but also in comprehending which of these grains complement one another best. For our first entry in the SMaSH series, we used Golden Promise malt and Belma hops for a pale ale.
I’m going to talk a bit about the malt and hops we used for this batch, just to kind of get a scope of what I expect this beer to taste like when it’s completed. This is obviously in a vacuum, and it will obviously be a little more nuanced once it is done fermenting. Golden Promise is a Scottish malt, one of my favorite base malts for pale beers. It is sweet, malty, and even has a little bit of biscuit flavor at the end. It is like a less intense version of Maris Otter (which is also a favorite of mine). A very mild base malt that lets the hop character shine. Belma hops are hops that I personally have never used before. I first got word of them when another local brewer used them in a saison. He said they gave his beer a nice bright citrus flavor with some hints of berries; specifically blueberries and strawberry. This seems like a cool hop to play with in clean ales.
When all is said and done I would like this beer to be crisp, lightly malty, with aromatics of stone fruit and citrus and a nice berry finish. I think given the ingredients (or lack thereof) this is very reasonable goal for this ale.
10 lbs Golden Promise
4 oz Belma Hops
.5 oz 60 minute
.5 oz 30 minute
1 oz 15 minute
1 oz Flameout
1 oz Dry Hop (3 days)
1 packet Safale US-05
152F 60 minute
Expected OG: 1.048 – 1.050
Expected FG: 1.014 – 1.010
Expected ABV: 4.71% – 5.24%
Actual OG: 1.048
This was a very standard brew day, it was over as quickly as it started. After our last batch, we forgot to get our propane tank refilled so we had to do that before we got started, but everything else was smooth sailing. Mash was stable at 152F for 59.5 minutes (it was 151.9F for the last 30 seconds of the mash, because we had to move it inside). Mashed out at 168F and collected 7 gallons of wort.
We tried a few different things with this batch that I’d like to point out. We played around with water chemistry for the first time. Shoutout to Ty at www.watersbrewer.com, if you haven’t taken the plunge into constructing your water this is a very solid place to start and build that foundation. He sells prepackaged brewing salts for distilled or reverse osmosis water.
Once the boil started and the hop break subsided we added our first addition of hops. We only added half an ounce at first wort because we wanted to get as much aromatics/taste from the hops with as little bitterness as possible. The whole point of this is to get as much data and information from each ingredient in this beer. The less bitterness present in this beer the better, in my opinion.
We added our hop additions as normal at the 60 minute, 30 minute, 15 minute, and 1 minute (flameout) times. We also added a whirlfloc tablet for the first time. Clarity of the wort/beer isn’t something I’ve really been concerned with but for this beer we figured we’d give it a go. No real motivation behind other than to experiment a little bit with an inexpensive batch. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up preferring to use whirlfloc tablets from now on! We also added a bit of yeast energizer because it doesn’t hurt to do it.
Our plate chiller wasn’t as efficient this time, for whatever reason. It may have been because it was a bit hotter outside on this brew day. We got the wort from 196F to 88F in about 5 minutes using the same method; recirculated ice water. The process is always smooth, but hopefully we can figure out a way to better get the temperature down for the next batch. We ended up just putting the carboy in the chest freezer for about 2 hours to get in down to pitching temperature (66F). It worked out well enough.
We took a gravity reading with the rest of the leftover sweet wort from the kettle. I was shocked when I saw it read 1.032. I thought there was no way we only hit 55% efficiency with this batch. That is absolutely impossible. The more I was thinking about what went wrong the further away I was from the actual answer. It hit me after a while that we didn’t adjust the hydrometer reading based off of the temperature of the wort. We took the gravity reading while the wort was still at 150F, duh! So using the online adjuster tool with our hydrometer calibrated at 66F it adjusted to 1.048, which is 75% efficiency. We were happy with that.
Overall I know we can improve with our efficiency, maybe not with the cooler mash tun that we are currently using but definitely once we upgrade. The SS Brewtech insulated mash tun is going to be ours soon and it is going to be amazing. With that said, I will end this with a picture of a beautiful cold break.
We are both really looking forward to the end result of this beer. The SMaSH concept is such a simple one, but it is extremely important. I look forward to making more experiments with this in mind. I have a few hops on my mind for the next in the SMaSH series: El Dorado, Equinox, J17, Southern Passion, or possibly Mouteka.