SMaSH #1 – Citra – My First Recipe

To be fair, it’s not much of a recipe, but it’s my first attempt at brewing a batch of homebrew without relying on someone else’s recipe. I have been brewing the occasional batch off and on for some years and it’s only been the last few years where I made the move from extract brewing to all-grain brewing. Now that I have a handle, how ever loosely gripped, on the process, I thought I might toy with the idea of creating my own recipes. I’ll admit that I’m a long, long way from being able to say that I really know what I’m doing, but a guy has got to start somewhere, right?

So, to delve in the world of recipe building, I figured it made a lot of sense to start simple, and you can’t get much simpler than a SMaSH beer. A SMaSH beer isn’t necessarily a style of it’s own, at least that’s how I understand it. I am of the belief that a SMaSH beer can be any number of styles…maybe not all styles, but at least some. What must be true though, for a beer to be considered a SMaSH beer, is that it must be made with a single variety of grain (malt) and a single variety of hops. That’s what SMaSH stands for after all, Single Malt and Single Hop.

Many of the recipes that I’ve come across there is much more going on. One can really go deep into fine-tuning a recipe with as many grain and hop varieties as there are out there to mix and match. In comparison, something like a SMaSH recipe sounds kind of boring. But in such simplicity, there lies a learning opportunity. With only one type of malt and one type of hop, it lets one’s palate focus on the characteristics of each separately without having the difficulty of distinguishing one from another.

I like that concept so that’s why I decided to go this route. Hopefully I’ll be able to gain a little knowledge from the experience. To start this experiment, all I had to do was pick a malt and a hop, not to mention a yeast strain, and decide how much of each to use. I decided to go with Briess 2-Row for the malt. It’s an inexpensive base malt, so it was as good a place as any to start. I wanted something a little heavier than a session beer so I went with twelve pounds of grain. I am not sure exactly where that will register in terms of ABV by the time it is done fermenting but I’m speculating that it will be about 6%.

Drinking homebrew while making homebrew

A good friend once told me that you can’t make homebrew unless you’re drinking homebrew. I try to follow that #1 rule.

For the hop I went with Citra. I know from experience that I like beers that use it so that’s why I picked it for this first go-around. I just had to figure out how much I needed to use. Citra hops seem to have a higher AA than many other varieties so I determined that three ounces should be good enough to land somewhere between a pale ale and an india pale ale. For the recipe I spread out those three ounces for use at various stages of the boil with some set aside for dry hopping later. That should provide the opportunity to focus on the hops bittering, flavor and aroma characteristics.

As for the yeast, I just went for Wyeast’s 1056 American Ale strain. I’ve used it before in recipes I’ve followed, so again, it was as good as any.

I am new at this whole recipe thing obviously but if anyone is keeping track. Here’s the specifics:

Recipe:

  • 12 pounds Briess 2-Row
  • 3 ounces (total) Citra Hops (AA 13.2%)
  • 1 tsp Irish moss (added with fifteen minutes left of boil to help with clarity)
  • 1 pouch Wyeast 1056 – American Ale

I mashed for 60 minutes at 153°, mashed out for 10 minutes and then sparged to collect my wort. I took gravity readings as I collected my wort but I haven’t figured out how to make sense of it all yet (still learning after all) so I won’t go into the details. Once it looked like I had extracted most of the sugar, I had nearly seven gallons to start with. I stopped the sparge and started the boil:

Boil Schedule:

  • 60 minutes: 0.50 oz. Citra
  • 15 minutes: 1 tsp Irish moss
  • 10 minutes: 1.00 oz. Citra
  • 5 minutes: 0.50 oz. Citra

The remaining ounce of Citra will be tossed into the secondary about 4-7 days before kegging. Other than chilling the wort down to room temperature at the end of the hour and pitching the yeast, that was it. Five days later and the fermentor is still bubbling away. I will probably move it into secondary at the end of the coming holiday weekend, add the dry hop shortly thereafter, and with any luck, I’ll find time to keg it next weekend.

I’ll be sure to come back and list my thoughts after I’ve had a chance to give it a taste. I’ll either like it and plan to repeat the recipe with a different hop variety or I’ll hate it and either adjust the grain or give up all together. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

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