Thanks to Mark Lindner for hosting this month’s The Sessions, aka Beer Blogging Friday, Session #125 on SMaSH beers. Mark is author of By the Barrel, Bend Beer Librarian. We’ve never been to Bend, but we’ve brewed a lot of great beers, both ales and lagers, with Oregon hops.
We decided we’d write about our own experiences brewing historic SMaSH beers (an acronym which stands for Single Malt and Single Hop). We’ve brewed SMash ales and lagers and through our research we’ve uncovered recipes for historic SMaSH beers. Many have descriptors like “3,458 lbs malt” and “Coastal hops” or simply “Imperial” in reference to hop varieties, making them nearly impossible to pin down without secondary research.
We’ll answer Mark’s questions which he posed in his prompt hosting The Sessions. His questions regarding SMaSH beers appear in italics below.
Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
It’s hard to say specifically when SMaSH beers were trendy. This depends on the location where you are and how long you’ve been there and how long you’ve been observing the local brewing scene. For myself (Mike) and Pete, who live in DC, many of our “hottest” beers are not SMaSH. Looking south, with Josh in Miami, many of the trendy commercial beers he sees are brewed with fruit and blends of exotic hops so that even if a SMaSH Gose or Berliner is brewed with all Pilsner (and no wheat malt) it will likely have fruit. If a Gose, kefir lime, coriander, salt, and if a Berliner, potentially other additions like mint, hibiscus, vanilla, lactose, and the list goes on. Though as you likely know, Berliner and Gose typically consist of a pils/wheat grist. You needn’t look too far in the Florida beer scene to find many non-SMaSH beers. With homebrewers its another story. Josh brews an incredible barleywine that is 100% Marris Otter and 100% Goldings hops with an English ale strain of yeast. This beer is incredible and I can recall brewing it with Josh and enjoying it with him when he lived in DC, nearly 10 years ago. This beer while only one malt and one hop, typically under goes a 120-240 minute boil. Effectively the process adds complexities that would otherwise be malt-driven.
We wonder about the style of SMaSH. Our concern is that varying fermentables, be they molasses, corn, or rice, might be considered in violation of SMaSH beer. In the link Mark shared in his announcement for the 2017 Central Oregon SMaSH festival, at least one beer there was fruited so we assume that leaves corn and rice in the realm of SMaSH beers. We certainly think it does!
What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
For us, personally, SMaSH beers build our esteem for great brewers. Why use 10 malts when you can use 5? And why use 5 malts when 1 will suffice with a more challenging brewing process? They also show how the brewers who came before us were savvier than modern people think. Often in olden times beer process made up for what ingredients lacked. One article from the Sacramento daily record-union which appeared in 1887 said that the “choicest Hallertau, Wolznach, and Saaz hops are known in this market by name only; the real article is scarcely ever sent, because our buyers would not pay the price, so we have to put up with the inferior sort known principally as export hops.” Ouch! The article makes it sound like it was tough to be a west coast brewer making a Saaz or Hallertau SMaSH beer in 1887.
Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
Quite often the beers that matter most to us are historical. Personally its a way to reconnect with brewers who were marginalized and written out of the history books, brewers of color, female brewers, and the Jews of the new world who cooked and cooled many a lagerbier. SMaSH beers often fill the niche in something like lager. Particularly pilsner, which for us consist of just pilsner malt and Czech Saaz or a German Hallertau variety hop. Of course these beers are much easier to brew today in that quality malt and hops are more easily available to source comparatively to historic homebrewers. Still, looking at the entrants from the 2017 SMaSH fest, the outliers were clear with only one entry for Berlinerweisse and Rauchbier. I think the styles of Berlinerweiss comparatively to pale ale or Rauchbier to IPA, couldn’t be more different.
Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period./Do you brew them?
We’ve been lucky enough to drink AND brew (without sounding too pretentious) an excellent SMaSH beer at the recently-opened Portner’s Brewpub in Alexandria, Virginia. Owners Catherine and Margaret Portner, are Robert Portner’s great-great granddaughters, Robert Portner’s being one of the most important names in Virginia Beer History. Our beer was a SMaSH Strong Ale brewed with Golden Promise malt and East Kent Golding hops. We dry-hopped the beer for good measure which definitely moved it from a balanced historic Scottish ale with pale malt and English hops, towards the modern pallet. This was a collaborative beer with our historian colleague Garrett Peck who wrote a short biography on Wales. Wales is DC’s first brewer, as well as Alexandria, and in 1772, George Washington paid Andrew Wales over £8 for Strong Beer.
Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
Strong Ales, Lagers, and many other styles can be successfully achieved via a single malt and single hop. The same goes for Sour Ales (assuming you can use more than one yeast strain or yeast and other bacteria/microorganisms). Achieving a GREAT SMaSH beer is largely dependent on the brewer and his/her/they/them/ze/sie/hir practices and experience. For a dynamite pilsner you can use Weyerman’s floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner malt and Saaz Hops. OR a locally malted pilsner malt, if you’re in Massachusetts consider Valley Malt’s 2-row pilsner malt and Hallertau Mittlefruh. Or if you want to brew Vienna lager consider an all-Vienna malt SMaSH with your hop of choice. Or go historical and use Saaz. One could surely conceive of an IPA brewed with Golden Promise or Marris Otter and Cascade hops that would be recognizable to a more experienced palate, and still be enjoyable to those newer to craft beer. Why not double or triple dry hop? You could even dry hop twice and then tertiary dry hop in-keg if you’re a kegger and not a bottler.
Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?
It affords the drinker an opportunity to understand a specific type of malt or hop variety better, or better yet, drinkers are happy to enjoy a beer that tastes like beer.
We’ve recently started a historic homebrewing class at the Hill Center. The first class in late June was a huge success. It was a ton of fun to teach people about history while brewing and tasting a beer similar to what George Washington would have enjoyed. The bubbling homebrew kettle makes a great stand in for the fire around which we can tell stories about the past.
For any listeners who might be interested, we’re including our take on George Washington’s Small Beer Recipe. Mind you, our recipe was more of an attempt to recreate a small beer as consumed by the wealthier (especially women and children) at Mount Vernon and likely made by enslaved persons on the estate. GW’s earlier 1757 recipe was described in our class (and by others) as a marching beer or beer for troop use due to its very high molasses content and quick ferment period. Our recipe, with its higher barley content, is more recognizable to modern beer drinkers.
The recipe is designed for the homebrew novice, but all skill levels will enjoy brewing this historic beverage. If any of this sounds interesting, please consider joining our next class at the Hill Center on July 23. We’ll be talking about and brewing a Pre-Prohibition ale.
George Washington’s “To Brew A Small Beer”
Michael Stein and Peter Jones
4 lb Light Dry Malt Extract
1 lb flaked oats
.5 lb two row malt
12 oz molasses
1 total ounce of cluster hops
Heat 3 gallons of water to 155 degrees.
Add flaked oats and .5 two row malt in malt bag to water. Steep for 45 minutes.
Remove grain bag. Start heating to boil. Add “first wort hop addition” .25 oz Cluster hops to kettle
Stir occasionally as rise to boil. Add Dry Malt Extract. Note time of first boil.
Add .25 oz Cluster hops 30 minutes after first boil.
45 minutes after boil- let chiller sanitize, add molasses.
55 minutes after boil, add .5 oz Cluster Hops.
60 minutes after boil, turn off heat. Add one gallon of water.
Start chilling. Chill to below 90 degrees. Take specific gravity reading. Add water until you hit your desired gravity reading.
Transfer to carboy, add yeast to wort (under 80 degrees, lower the better). Install airlock.
Relax, Don’t worry, have a homebrew.
Check fermentation after 1-2 weeks for krausen or lack thereof. Check gravity.
Check gravity 3 days later. If the same, you can safely bottle.
Well we finally did it. Brewed a historical beer as close to 100% accurate as possible. We didn’t “take inspiration from” or brew “an homage to.” And as much as we’ve had tremendous success with “recreating” those beers, there’s just something so disheartening about lacking an actual recipe. When we do have one it makes the beer all the more special.
This special beer of which we speak is called Praize the Maize, and it’s a delicious drinker that will debut at the Lake Anne Brew House on Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 7:00 PM. The small 2-barrel batch was brewed with Lake Anne Head Brewer Jason Romano on December 12, 2016.
More often than not we lack a complete recipe. Ingredients often seem up for debate, but it helps that we had a “complete” recipe. Quotes surround complete because while the recipe undeniably called for “N.Y. hops” the variety was not specified. Today New York state grows many hop varieties. Even in 1912 (the beer recipe date) there were multiple varieties grown by NY hop farmers. “N.Y. hops” might as well be listed as rice in a recipe…white? Brown? Jasmine?? Basmati???
The recipe came from the notebook of a friend, Paula, who’s grandfather, Paul, worked at many historic breweries, some of which are still around today. Paul worked at Lone Star Brewing Company in San Antonio, Texas, Anheuser Busch in St. Louis, and eventually the Weger Brother’s Brewing Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These stints in his brewing career were prior to prohibition (generally listed as 1920-1933). Post prohibition he continued his work as Brew Master of the Buckeye Brewery in Toledo, Ohio (that brewery closed in 1972, not to be confused with the modern Buckeye Brewing Company in Cleveland).
Beyond his illustrious career as a brewer, he was an avid chemist and brewing student having graduated from the Wahl & Henius Institute and serving as Chairman of the Educational Committee while a member of the Master Brewers Association of America.
Back to the recipe. Pretty straight forward. It reads, “Draught Beer 1912” and calls for “Malt,” “Wheat Flakes” and “Grits.” Easy enough! After fermentables it reads “60 C. 60 C. 30 N.Y. hops” in gorgeous cursive. There’s no mistaking “N.Y. hops” but “C.”? Our research has lead us to this being a California hop.
To replicate the New York hops we used the Cluster variety from Crooked Creek hop farm. For California, we used an heirloom Cluster variety hop, called Ivanhoe®. Per Hops-Meister, the family farm who grew the variety, it “is Lake County’s very own hop variety that Hops-Meister has brought it back after a 100 year sabbatical. Ivanhoe® is a California original that makes you think of grandma’s garden. Hints of tomatillo, herbs, and veggies tantalize the nose of any beer that this is included in, and brought out through delicious pairings with food. Ivanhoe® is a dual purpose hop that has been named after the chivalrous farmer who gallantly permitted cuttings to be taken from his lands and offered many words of wisdom and encouragement to these pioneering California hops farmers.”
Following Paula’s primary sources and family history, we located Paul in Philadelphia in 1912 at the Weger Brother’s Brewery. Thanks to Rich Wagner’s Philadelphia Beer we know that Weger Bros. brewed three brands of beer: Bavarian Beer, Erlanger Light, and Hohenschwangau Export Dark. This 1912 “Draught Beer” was likely Erlanger Light. It is followed with two more recipes titled “1913 Bottle” and “1913 Export.”
Often in 1912, as is done in modern breweries today, beer that was sold across the bar or on your grocer’s shelves was called something entirely different by the people who made it. Today you might know your favorite beer as the brewery brands it, for example, “Lover of Lager Double Doppel Dunkel Bier,” whereas the brewer might simply refer to it in the cellar as “Bock.”
We are known to often utter the phrase ourselves and given that the 1912 AND 2017 recipes were 40% corn, we echoed Tom’s sentiment with our title, purposefully spelled incorrect. In Tom’s own words, as brewmaster at the Manayunk Brewing Company 20 years ago:
“People started to brew with corn for a reason, taste being the bottom line. Don’t scorn the corn. Praise the maize!”
Our friends run ANXO, DC’s first post-prohibition cidery. This is an important distinction as it seems cideries existed in DC before prohibition, and even during prohibition.
The following link and snippet comes from an October 1st 1919 Evening Star article, which has turned out to be a treasure trove of DC history in regards to many things (never underestimate how racist America was until you browse century and nearly-century-old dailies).
The author states that the stand on Pennsylvania Avenue has been operating since 1884 and nothing but cider “passes over this bar.”
The variety Hughes Virginia crabapple is “the most wonderful cider apple in the world.” Winesap is also mentioned as desirable and indeed winesap and hughes crab are still prized by cider makers today.
If you don’t feel so inclined as to go to the original scan, here are some key points from the source:
“The cider market is being bulled…This sudden increased demand for cider may, or may not, be connected with the fact that the Senate has excluded non-intoxicating cider and wine from the long list of beverages banned…The back part of the establishment is a factory where fifty barrels of cider per day are turned out by steam power presses…Cider, made properly from this little red apple with the black spots has a peculiarly delicate flavor, and has the further peculiarity that it will develop 10 per cent of alcohol without a trace of acid. Of course, it need not be developed to that extent.”
The 50 barrels a day part is intriguing. Certainly the presses couldn’t have run continuously for a year. If they somehow did run every day for a year that would be an annual production of 18,250 barrels!
Peter and I are currently working on a book that details cider making in Washington, D.C. and the capital region. Is this the first cidery in DC? We certainly don’t think so but it’s been great fun to pull this thread. Details will come on further historical cideries as we conduct more research.
Thanks to Alistair Reece for hosting the 114th Session for which he has chosen Pilsner style beers for the topic. In the next sentence, after saying thanks, I will say my apologies. You see I’m not going to focus on the sensory differences of Czech and German Pilsners and their differences. I’m aware of the differences and assuming the rest of The Session writers stick to script, you will too. Even if you’ve never considered the sensory differences between German and Czech pils, Alistair’s prompt should make you.
So you want to market your pale lager brewed with Czech or German hops and Czech/German yeast. But how to do so? What do you put on your can/bottle/growler/crowler? Pilsner or pilsener? Pilsner-style or German-style pils? Northern-German Pils? Czech-style pilsner? Bohemian pilsner? Moravian Pils? I wont drone on about capitalization but I will say that hyphenation on labels is often a means of showing respect. Belgian-style, Gueuze-style Wild, Lambic-style ale all are descriptors I’ve read before. American brewers seem to be keen on giving props to the styles we associate with Belgian ale. I must agree with Evan Rail when he writes “The influence of Czech brewing often seems surprisingly underappreciated abroad.” I know its an old link, from May, but it bears repeating.
So an American brewery has the bright idea to pay homage to Czech brewing. How to do it? Do they hyphenate, “Czech-Style Pilsner,” or go for the more geocentric “Bohemian-style Pilsner”? I recently saw a “Moravian-style Pilsner” on a can in North Carolina. This was the first time I’ve ever seen that type of marketing in the US. But instead of a smaller, fledgling brewery, I’ve turned my attention to the third largest craft brewing company as of the 2015 numbers.
NOONER® PILSNER is an interesting case as there are multiple marketing methods on one bottle. The copy on the neck label says “German-style pilsners are the original session beers” more on session beer in a bit but for now, we can see the hyphen at work “German-style pilsners.” The front label has the brand Nooner and then simply PILSNER underneath. The bottle’s back label reads “classic German pilsner–one of the original session beers” but only after “Nooner Pilsner” appears at the tippy top. So perhaps you can have it more ways than one, hyphen and other.
“Original session beers” is an interesting claim and certainly one you can argue for or against. I’d rather make another claim: pilsner is the original IPA. Ok, that’s a complete lie, especially if you trace the timelines back and see that pale ale is older than pilsner, especially if you believe in the pilsner was invented in 1842. And why wouldn’t you?
I recently spoke with MBAA 2015 Award of Honor winner John Houseman. He mentioned that when he brewed at the Heilemann Brewery in the 1980s, National Premium “was a hoppy beer.” So, in the 80s, Premium was the hoppier beer comparatively to National Bohemian. Which brings us back to Bohemia, the western part of the country of modern day Czech Republic. Interestingly enough as Bohemian was less hoppy than Premium in the 80s, Bohemian hops seemed to be THE variety to brew hoppy beer in the 1880s.
I am reminded of the very first time I communicated with Evan Rail, four years ago. I was working on my thesis and had just come across this receipt for five bales of the Choicest Bohemian hops. I emailed Evan to see what he made of the receipt, and he wrote:
Although it sounds weird to see Czech hops in DC in 1910, it’s not such a strange thing — Czech hops have been famous and exported fairly widely for about a thousand years. In Ron’s posts you can find lots of records of Czech hops being used in breweries in Scotland, for example, like the 1868 William Younger No. 3 Export. Considering the reputation of Bohemian beer in America at the time, it kind of makes sense.
The Ron in quote is Ron Pattison. Who has written extensively on William Younger No. 3. as it had Bohemian hops. Which brings us back to Bohemian beer, most famously, Pilsner.
To close out, some words from our host, “I just want people to re-discover what I consider the pinnacle of the brewing craft, so off hunting you go” and hunt we have. Thanks for hunting with me. And for the last photo, a recipe for Pilsen Type beer. This photo comes from the Walter E. Voigt collection in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Under the Pilsen type, you can also see “Dortmunder type.” An authentic prohibition-era recipe??? You bet. Now all you have to do is select the hops (Bavarian? Bohemian??), yeast, fermentation profile, filtration method (or not), packaging and finally, branding/marketing. Best of luck.