Introducing the C-Hop SMaSH Series!
We’re excited to announce the launch of a new series of SMaSH beers this month!
What is a S.M.a.S.H.? It stands for Single Malt and Singe Hop beers. These deceptively simple, yet delicious, beers are a great way to highlight a couple aspects of brewing that you may not have realized. First off, SMaSH beers are an amazing illustration of the fundamentals of the brewing process. With just three main ingredients (grains, hops, and yeast) and proper temperature control, you can brew some very impressive tasting beers. And second, SMaSH beers are an exploration of the amazing variety of smells, flavors, and bitterness that are present in hops!
In this first SMaSH series, we’re holding the grains and yeast constant to highlight the differences between what are known as the C-Hops: Cascade, Centennial, Citra, and CTZ (Columbus). But before we dive into the hoppy details, let’s walk through what makes a good SMaSH beer from a recipe composition standpoint.
Style = IPA
Because we’re focusing this SMaSH series on the C-hops, we need to choose a style where hops play the dominant role, like an IPA or a Pale Ale. If you were doing a SMaSH series evaluating the differences between German hops, a style like a Vienna Lager or a Kolsch would be more appropriate. But because we’re focusing on these big American hops, we’re going with IPA.
Yeast = Chico
If starting from scratch, you’ll choose your yeast depending on the style of beer you’re making. Since we’re letting the hops shine in our IPA style we’ve chosen the US-05 Ale Yeast, also known as the Chico strain, originating at Sierra Nevada in Chico California. This is also the same yeast strain that we use in our Redwood IPA.
Grains = Maris Otter
Using a single grain can be a challenge as base malts provide a lot of fermentable sugar but not a lot of flavor (that’s what the specialty malts are for!). It’s best to choose a malt that is naturally aromatic and complex and brings a lot of character to the table. For that reason all of our C-Hop SMaSH beers will be utilizing 1300 g of Maris Otter.
Let’s take a quick look at the beers so far: all four recipes will call for 1300g of Maris Otter. This will yield a 1.063 SG starting gravity (at an 80% efficiency) and a 5.2 SRM. Fermenting this with a US-05 yeast at 77% attenuation and you get to a 6.4% ABV beer. Nice.
To put it frankly, the C-hops are famous. Some of the best beers of all time like Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing use a combination of the C-hops. What we hope to do with this SMaSH series is show you how each one of these hops tastes in the final beer so you can build beers that that are as well balanced and executed as some of these commercial examples.
Cascade was the only hop that Sierra Nevada chose to use in their Sierra Nevada Pale Ale back in 1980 and it arguably launched the American craft beer revolution that we all know today. It has floral notes as well as grapefruit and pine.
Centennial is often paired with Cascade in Pale Ales and IPAs and brings a much stronger pine character than Cascade. Founders Centennial IPA and Bells Two Hearted Ale both use Centennial hops exclusively and consistently find themselves in the running for best IPAs in America.
If ever there were a hop that captured the heart and soul of the American IPA movement, it would be Citra. This hop just won’t stop! Hazy IPAs, West Coast IPAs, Pale Ales, all benefit from Citra. Characterized by tropical fruits and citrus, this hop really shines on its own and is a critical component to a shockingly high number of beers in the USA. Zombie Dust by 3 Floyds uses exclusively Citra hops and it’s the #1 rated pale ale on beeradvocate.com. Enough said.
Columbus is the workhorse of the C-hops. Because of it’s high alpha acid content at 16%+, it is often used as a bittering addition. It has pine, citrus, and a pungent aromatic profile that is often described as “dank” when used as a dry hop addition. Avery Brewing’s Hog Heaven uses nothing but Columbus hops.
Crafting a SMaSH Beer’s Hop Profile
Hops have many differing characteristics that produce huge changes in the flavor, aromatics and bitterness. The hops that you choose are a matter of what you’d like to compare. Alpha acid amount and hop oil content are the major factors in what a hop will taste and smell like in your beer. The hop oil content is what drives the flavor and dictates if you’ll have a floral, citrus, or other taste and aroma. Alpha acids are what drive the bitterness of a given beer (measured in IBUs), and every hop has a different % of alpha acid. Here’s the alpha acid % for the C-Hops:
- Cascade = 7.1%
- Centennial = 9.5%
- Citra = 13.5%
- CTZ (Columbus) = 16%
IPAs are best with a 1:1 or 1:1.2 GU:BU ratio (gravity units to bittering units). This means we need to target between 63 and 76 IBUs for this beer to taste like an IPA. The amount of bitterness a hop adds to the beer is dependent on three major things:
- The amount of alpha acid content the hop has
- The amount of time the hop spends in the beer at isomerization temperatures, 150º - 212º, which are the temperatures at which alpha acids isomerize into iso-alpha acids which give beer its bitterness (in traditional brewing, hops are boiled with the wort, but with BEERMKR, we’ve taken care of this step by using our SteamHops that replicate that process).
- The quantity by weight of the hop.
So for example, 10g of 60-minute Cascade at 7.1% alpha acid will add 26 IBUs to the beer. Compare that to 10g of 60-minute CTZ (Columbus) with its huge 16% alpha acid content and it will add 59 IBUs! These IBUs are so strong because the alpha acids have been at isomerization temperatures for 60 minutes. If we were to use 10g of 10-minute Cascade at 7.1% alpha acid, it would only contribute 9 IBUs.
The next thing to consider is the aromatics. Since we are trying to achieve a whole hop profile to compare, ensuring we have representation from every time step a hop normally sees is important. The reason is due to oils, which make hops taste and smell the way they do. At isomerization temperatures, hops lose essential oil due to volatilization. Some of their oils are just not stabile at high temperatures so they volatize, which is a science-y way to say they disappear. The longer the hops stay at isomerization temperatures, the less of those oils will be present in the final beer and thereby have less flavor and aromatics. So a 60-minute Steam Hop will have been steamed for 60 minutes and most of its volatile oil will be gone, resulting in a beer that has little hop flavor but a lot of hop bitterness (due to all that isomerization). A 10-minute Steam Hop will have only been at isomerization temperatures for a short period of time so it won’t be very bitter, however most of its volatile oil content will still be present and will contribute a lot to the flavor and aromatic profile. If you wanted to keep all of the essential oil content of the hop, adding them in raw form as a dry hop addition will do just that.
The challenge with SMaSH beers is building the whole hop profile where you get all of the hop: from its high bitterness 60-minute stage all the way to its high oil contribution dry hop. To do this, we are adding a representation of the hop at each time step. The 60-minute addition doesn’t add a lot of flavor or aroma, the 30-minute addition adds a decent amount of bitterness and good hop flavor, and the 10 minute addition adds a lot of aroma and flavor but very little bitterness. Raw hops added as yeast pitch hops add an incredible amount of flavor with a biotransformation (more on that in a future article), and raw hops added during a dry hop phase add heavily to the aromatics.
Here’s what we’ll be using in the C-Hop SMaSH series:
- Cascade SMaSH
- 18g Cascade – 60min
- 6g Cascade – 30min
- 6g Cascade – 10min
- 6g Cascade – Raw
- 6g Cascade – Raw (DRY HOP STEP)
- Centennial SMaSH
- 12g Centennial – 60min
- 6g Centennial – 30min
- 6g Centennial – 10min
- 6g Centennial – Raw
- 6g Centennial – Raw (DRY HOP STEP)
- Citra SMaSH
- 6g Citra – 60min
- 6g Citra – 30min
- 6g Citra – 10 min
- 6g Citra – Raw
- 6g Citra – Raw (DRY HOP STEP)
CTZ (Columbus) SMaSH
- 12g CTZ – 30min
- 6g CTZ – 10min
- 6g CTZ – Raw
- 6g CTZ – Raw (DRY HOP STEP)
Brewing SMaSH Beers
To taste the full differences between these hops, nothing beats a side-by-side comparison. To do side by sides, it’s best to have two BEERMKRs or a friend with a BEERMKR to make sure you have two different SMaSH beers ready to drink at the same time. If that’s not possible, then we suggest doing a back-to-back brew of at least two SMaSH beers you are interested in trying. Start off by brewing your first SMaSH beer, transfer it to the BEERTAP (or bottle it) and immediately begin brewing your second SMaSH beer. Try not to drink the first too much because until the second is ready. If you only have one BEERTAP, then fill a growler with your first SMaSH beer and transfer the second into the BEERTAP. Give it a day or so to carbonate and do a side by side tasting with the growler.