Idaho Malt and Idaho 7 Hops S.M.A.S.H. Beer
A few weeks ago, we acquired a new malt for testing. For us, there’s only one way to test a new malt: make beer! A S.M.A.S.H. beer means Single Malt And Single Hop, and for testing out base malts, it’s the only way to fly. We have a slightly different process for testing out specialty malts, but I wanted to outline our process for new base malts, and give you all a good overview of this fantastic malt.
Step 1: Diving Into Research
The first thing to do with a new malt is research! What kind of malt is it? Who is using it, and for what? What does the maltster say about it? For this beer, we used Pure Idaho Malt from Great Western Malting, an American Pilsner Malt made in Pocatello, Idaho. I always like to start with the maltster and see if I can find out some of the more technical information like color, diastatic power, extract potential, protein content, etc., the majority of which can be found by clicking the link above. This can give us an idea about how the malt will perform, if we need to adjust the recipe at all to achieve the gravity we want, expectations of color, and overall flavor profile.
For Pure Idaho malt, the Great Western Malting says to expect a clean, smooth and delicate profile, leaning towards sweet, biscuity, earthy, with light malt and caramel. Considering this, and what we know about pilsner malt, this isn’t unexpected, and it gives us an idea about performance in the brewery.
Now that we have an idea of what the malt is, we need to decide how much to use, what beer style we are leaning towards, and our hops and yeast, of course!
When formulating a recipe for a S.M.A.S.H., it’s easy to pick the grain out, but a little harder to decide on the rest of it. When we do a beer like this, we’re either trying to get the full profile of just the grain, just the hop we’re using, or both. Let’s be honest, more often than not, it’s both! Two birds, one stone and all that.
Once you decide what you’re going for, it’s easy to choose a beer style that complements either the malted barley you’re using, the hops, or the whole thing. More malt forward styles, like traditional English styles, showcase malts very well, while dry styles like blondes and West Coast IPA’s complement hops well.
For this beer, we decided to go with an American Pale Ale for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, a pale is easy to make, and we felt that we could dial the hop bitterness back far enough to make something a little more balanced so that the malt character could come through, something a little more like craft brewers make in the Pacific Northwest. Mix this balanced hopping technique with a slightly higher mash temperature of 152° F to encourage a bit more residual sugar, and we’re on our way.
The second reason was that we haven’t gotten to play around with Idaho 7 hops as much as we would like, so it was an excuse to make a beer with mostly Idaho based ingredients, and get a solid profile on all of them!
Lastly, we chose the Windsor dry yeast strain from Lallemand because it is moderately attenuative, it’s malt forward and fruity, and also because we’ve only used it in a few beers, and wanted to get a little more experience with it. Again with the birds and stones.
I like to be in the 6% abv range for this type of S.M.A.S.H. beer. It seems to be a sweet spot for my personal taste, and helps showcase the malt. The following recipe is what we came up with:
- 13 lb Pure Idaho Malt
- 1 oz Idaho 7 hop pellets at 60 minutes left in the boil
- 3 oz Idaho 7 hop pellets at flameout/whirlpool (we generally cool the wort to 180° F before we add this addition, then let it cool to 165° F over the course of 20 minutes while we pump wort through this hop addition. More later on whirlpool hop additions!)
- 2 oz Idaho 7 hop pellets as a 5 day dry hop
- 1 pack Windsor Yeast fermented at 66° for 14 days
- Estimated Original Gravity - 1.062
- Estimated Final Gravity - 1.014
Process, Process, Process
Our brewing process, while not perfect, is still pretty consistent. In the last year or so, we’ve gone back down to 5 gallon batches from our normal 15 gallon batches when we brew our monthly beer recipe kits. We generally use the Robobrew system with it’s integrated pump and a 50’ x ½” Immersion Chiller for quick, water efficient cooling. Together, this keeps our process pretty close to the same every brew, and we generally have a good idea of how our numbers are going to turn out. Anymore, we only use the big system for beers with significantly more time commitment, like lagers or sours. We figure if it’s going to take that long to make, we figure we should have plenty of it to enjoy!
For this brew, our numbers were pretty close. Original Gravity was 1.064, and Final Gravity was 1.018. Instead of calculating Estimated OG and FG numbers long hand by using the numbers given on the malt analysis sheet, I usually just let Beersmith do the heavy lifting, then calculate efficiency afterwards. Efficiency numbers can then be averaged so you have a pretty good idea where you’re going to sit, and you can use that number in the brewing software when you build your recipes.
We did a single infusion mash at 152° F for 60 minutes, then our normal fly sparge slightly modified for the Robobrew system, which is a little faster than a normal fly sparge should be. We sat right about 80% efficiency, which is pretty normal for the Robobrew. We followed this with a traditional, 90 minute boil. Always do a longer boil when using pilsner malts as a base malt. They are higher in the precursors to Dimethyl sulfide, or DMS, which can put a really cool cooked cabbage flavor in your finished beer. While cool, it’s not really what you want. These precursors, S-methylmethionine (SMM) and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) are removed at higher kiln temperatures, temperatures not generally reached when making pilsner malt, so the 90 minute boil helps boil off these components and keep them out of the finished product. Read more about it in Malt by John Mallett.
Our typical fermentation process includes an old freezer, an Inkbird Dual Stage Temperature Controller, and a tiny ceramic heater with a fan. This helps us keep stable temps on any beer we make, and ensures a clean fermentation no matter what yeast we choose. We can dial in the Inkbird at any temp we would want to use, and trust the system to keep our fermentation within acceptable limits.
Fermentation with the Windsor was normal, with the exception of flocculation….or lack thereof. I’ve never seen a yeast do this before despite dozens of batches! As you can see in the picture above, a good chunk of it sat on the top and wouldn’t budge. We even ended up dry hopping on top of it! I was worried at first, but the beer found the dry hops just fine, and the beer under and around the yeast iceberg was surprisingly clear.
When we moved it from the fermentor into the keg, we did have to leave a little extra behind, which is always a bit sad. All in all, we probably lost about a gallon to this ‘yeastberg’ to try to preserve some clarity in the finished beer, and it still isn’t as clear as I would have hoped. You can see below how chunky it all was by the time it got to the bottom!
So, as I said above, this beer finished at 1.018. ABV is 6.0%, and it tastes DRY. The malt profile is very distinct, and the beer has a very distinct malt profile, lightly malt-sweet, but it doesn’t taste like it has 18 gravity points left over. This really surprised me, as I was shooting for way more overt malt flavor, but the profile is very crisp and clean. The Windsor did its job well, finishing a little on the high side, but the malt itself has such a clean character that the overall impression is of a dry, crisp pale ale. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this beer evolves over the next few weeks!
Idaho 7 is a seriously delicious hop! We couldn’t have asked for a better hop profile. It adds a very bright, light, earthy, faintly citrus character with notes of black tea. Not as much pine or resin characteristics as I would have thought. I can’t wait to pair this hop with Simcoe, El Dorado and Mosaic to see how well they play together in an IPA! With high alpha acids, it’s probably great as an overall bittering hop, and did a great job in this beer with a clean and slightly earthy bitter character, but late additions seem to be where it shines.
After tasting how clean and crisp Pure Idaho Malt comes through, I’m excited not only to bring it into the store, but also to try making some Belgian Styles with it. I think it would be an incredible base for a Tripel or a Golden Strong, helping create a clean and dry malt backbone for the Belgian Yeast to paint on.
We recently decided to put both the Extract and All Grain Beer Recipe Kits through their paces by trying this beer with Briess Synergy Select Pilsen as our American pilsner, and were pleasantly surprised at what a wonderful character and pale ale this made! For a slightly hoppy beer, this recipe is killer for any base malt that you want to do a S.M.A.S.H. with! Try it with Synergy Select, or get crazy and do it with Golden Promise or Vienna! Brew On!
Thank you for reading! If you have any comments, questions, or would like any other details about this beer, Idaho malt and hops, or even the Windsor strain, don’t be shy!! Let us know in the comments below! Cheers!