I have an epic great LHBS (Chicago Brew Werks in Plainfield, IL) that has let me taste a whole bunch of different grains--he stocks everything. It has been informative, but I still think I have to make beer with them to connect the dots between the grain taste and the beer it produces.
This gives me a great idea, that is probably VERY VERY OLD HAT, but I guess that from now on, I will keep a small quantity of each grain before milling, to taste alongside my finished beers. That's probably the best way I'll be able to connect the dots between ingredients and finished beer.
The fear with SMaSH is ... a whole ton of boring beer in your keg, right?
I don't know that I have the right gear on hand to do small batch stovetop all grain beers, so if I'm using the bigger gear, I'm gonna want to do 5 gal.
I probably HAVE to do it, but maybe I should wait until closer to the holidays and foist it off on unsuspecting family members who will simply be happy to have free beer.