Let's Get Smashed

By Megan Swann | Caroline Hatchett


Megan Swann
Caroline Hatchett
(L-R) SMaSH ale; Violet Beauregarde West Coast IPA; 'That Heirloom Over There' Gose; Bryan's Nemisis Milk Stout
(L-R) SMaSH ale; Violet Beauregarde West Coast IPA; 'That Heirloom Over There' Gose; Bryan's Nemisis Milk Stout

SMaSH beer. This style of brewing does not involve broken bottles or overdrinking, as long as you have self-control. Its name stands for Single Malt and Single Hop, a brewing method that marks a return to simplicity and tradition—and a way to broaden palates and drive progress in the beer industry.

At its most basic, beer consists of water, yeast, malt, and hops. Most recipes consist of hop and malt blends. With SMaSH beers, you use a single hop varietal, a single malt, and a single strain of yeast. Within these parameters, it’s a wonder how many different beer styles and profiles can be generated by simply tweaking quantities, timing, and temperature. SMaSH brewing competitions have become popular in recent years, challenging multiple brewers to work with the same ingredients. More often than not, the results are wildly different.

Brewers often utilize this method to experiment with new ingredients, and will release one-off SMaSH beers. They’re either incredibly systematic and scientific in the process, manipulating a single variable in each batch, or will roll with entirely new combinations every time. Brewer Les Locke of Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery in San Antonio takes the format further with a year-round SMaSH series. Southerleigh opened with a SMaSH beer two and a half years ago, brewed with Maris Otter malt and East Kent hops. Locke enjoyed working within the framework, so he releases a monthly15-bbl batch. “It takes the clutter out and lets us showcase [the grains and hops], giving us a platform to test and educate,” says Locke.

Locke is interested in traditional beer styles and selects yeast accordingly. He tends to stick with classic base malts: Vienna, Truro, Pilsen, and Maris Otter. The experiment lies within the hop. Southerleigh features a new hop varietal each month, ranging from East Coast to West Coast, Continental Europe, and New Zealand. Currently they’re featuring Motueka, a hop with notes of passionfruit that hails from New Zealand.

Sometimes Locke brews with old favorites, other times new varietals that he’s eager to experiment with. Two varietals that he “discovered” through this process are Experimental Hop #07270 and Wakatu.

Although hops are the driving force behind the series, Locke has developed a strong relationship with Brewery Direct, a local grain supplier. Southerleigh was their first customer when they opened a couple of years ago. Now, owner Jesse Reyes brings growlers of Southerleigh beer to highlight specific malt profiles for when he meets with potential clients.

For now, you have to visit the brewery to taste these beers. Once Southerleigh opens their production
brewery in 2018, the series may be more readily available in cans or bottles. You can pound them however you please. 

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