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ElBarbudo

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I've always admired people who are so familiar with their medium that they can create masterpieces in their minds before even touching anything - like how Beethoven could compose entire symphonies in his head or how Nikola Tesla could design and run tests on his inventions using only his incredible visualization abilities.

You see, I think it's possible to do the same with beer. Here's my plan:

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1. Choose 5 different base malts and 5 different hops (doesn't have to be 5, could be more or less of either).

2. Brew a 1-gallon batch of SMaSH beer for each of the different combinations of these (25 in all), making sure that everything else - the yeast strain, the timing of hop additions, the gravities, etc. - stays the same as much as possible.

3. Bottle and label the beers.

4. Drink all of them - you'd probably want to do this in different orders: one day you might drink all your Munich Malt beers, and see how that flavor combines with different hops, or you might drink all your Columbus-hopped beers and see how their flavor pairs with different malts.

5. Repeat until you have a good sense of the unique flavors of all the major malt and hop varieties.

6. Do the same thing, but this time with different yeast strains, specialty malts, etc.

7. You are now the Beethoven of Beer.

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Well, that's it, that's my plan. Thoughts? Recommendations? Has anybody done something like this before?
 

Andrew Hodgson

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I have taken up this approach to IPA's starting this weekend. I have brewed some decent beers in the short amount of time I have been brewing but my IPA's don't hold up the way I'd like. So I am taking your tact of using a high quality base malt (Maris Otter) and I am going to make SMaSH IPA's until I am comfortable with the style then branch out and mix it up. But until the time I'm comfortable SMaSH styles as a teaching tool seem to make a lot of sense. I think for hop-reliant styles it will be really helpful to my understanding of malt/hop flavors and combinations.
 

Smellyglove

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I have taken up this approach to IPA's starting this weekend. I have brewed some decent beers in the short amount of time I have been brewing but my IPA's don't hold up the way I'd like. So I am taking your tact of using a high quality base malt (Maris Otter) and I am going to make SMaSH IPA's until I am comfortable with the style then branch out and mix it up. But until the time I'm comfortable SMaSH styles as a teaching tool seem to make a lot of sense. I think for hop-reliant styles it will be really helpful to my understanding of malt/hop flavors and combinations.
Maris Otter is not equal high quality base malt. It's just a different grain, it depends where you source it from. Just like you can get sub-par pilsner malt or great pilsner malt. But smash is a great way to get to know malt/hops and yeast.
 
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ElBarbudo

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Cool, good to know I'm on the right path here.

Any recommendations as far as base malts and hops to start with? I'm looking for things with different "characters", where you can taste the difference pretty easily.
 

VirginiaHops1

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Smash recipes are good. I've only done one(Maris Otter, Mosaic) but it allowed me to really hone in on the particular flavors of those ingredients. I've bounced around a lot with my recipes, because I'm still in the honeymoon phase and it's fun creating them and experimenting, but I have intended to eventually settle on a good one and play with it a lot like you mentioned. Change one variable at a time(yeast, grain, hop, mash temp, etc), and really dial in what improves the beer and what does not. I think understanding exactly what each variable in the process brings to the table is what makes a great brewer.
 

Smellyglove

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Just pick whatever hop you like, although "traditional" hops can get pretty boring in a smash, so american "IPA"-hops are better for this. But for malts you can go pilsner, vienna, pale, light munich dark munich. (before anyone asks, yes dark munich can self-convert). You can even go cara clair/carapils.
 
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