Session #125: Single Malt, Single Hop

Cascade Express -- hop-themed boarding card.

Mark Lindner at By the Barrel has asked us to consider so-called SMaSH beers – that is, those made using one variety of malt and one variety of hops.

We were going to give this a miss because we couldn’t think of any such beer we’d drunk in recent years, or at least not any that made a virtue of their SMaSH sta­tus and pro­claimed it at point of sale.

(St Austell did release a series of SMaSH beers a cou­ple of years ago but unfor­tu­nate­ly, like so many of the more inter­est­ing prod­ucts of our (not for much longer) local giant they proved impos­si­ble to actu­al­ly find on sale in any of the pubs we vis­it­ed at the time.)

But then we began to won­der… How many quite com­mon­ly found beers are SMaSH beers even if they don’t declare it?

Rooster’s Yan­kee, for exam­ple – a beer we wrote about at length in Brew Bri­tan­nia and have often touched on else­where – is (as far as we can tell) made with 100 per cent Gold­en Promise malt and 100 per cent Cas­cade hops. And we believe (evi­denced cor­rec­tions wel­come) that Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold, anoth­er long-time favourite of ours, is made using 100 per cent Eng­lish lager malt and 100 per cent, er, Brewer’s Gold hops.

You might say, in fact, that the pale-n-hop­py UK cask ale sub-style is often SMaSH by default. Sean Franklin, the founder of Rooster’s, has long cham­pi­oned the idea of using 100 per cent pale malt to pro­vide the clean­est pos­si­ble back­ground for hops to express them­selves, and that’s cer­tain­ly approx­i­mate­ly how most of the best exam­ples of HLA seem to be engi­neered. Per­haps there’s some wheat in there (see Jarl) or a dab of some­thing like Munich malt just to round it out a lit­tle but, gen­er­al­ly, Franklin­ian sim­plic­i­ty seems to be the pre­ferred route.

So, what oth­er exam­ples of Stealth SMaSH are out there in UK pubs?

And does any­one know, for exam­ple, if Oakham Cit­ra might be a SMaSH beer? Online home­brew forums are full of guessed recipes (guess­cipes…) but we can’t find author­i­ta­tive infor­ma­tion. Our guess is, yes, in which case, it turns out we’ve drunk tons of SMaSH beer after all.

Magical Mystery Pour #14: Magic Rock Inhaler + Special Guest

This fourth round of Magical Mystery Pour was chosen for us by David Bishop, AKA @broadfordbrewerAKA Beer Doodles (@beerdoodles), and kicks off with a new beer from Magic Rock.

In case you’ve missed the pre­vi­ous instal­ments Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour is where we ask some­one else to select a few beers which we then buy with our own mon­ey. The idea is to broad­en our hori­zons and get our­selves out of a rut we may or may not have been in. (We admit noth­ing.)

Most of the beers David chose for us are from York­shire and he sug­gest­ed we order them from Leeds-based retail­er Beer Ritz, which we did. Inhaler (4.5%) was £2.66 per 330ml can and David says:

It’s new to the Mag­ic Rock range and one that fits the bill for a post-bike-ride beer. Refresh­ing, juicy, ses­sion beer.… pack­aged for porta­bil­i­ty, or some­thing.

The can, like almost all craft beer cans, is very pret­ty and tac­tile. Mag­ic Rock beers ini­tial­ly fol­lowed the Brew­Dog colour-cod­ing sys­tem – green for pale ale, blue for IPA, red for amber, pink for prawn cock­tail and so on. This one is a lux­u­ri­ous black and red which made us expect cher­ries and choco­late until we read the label: JUICY PALE ALE.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour #14: Mag­ic Rock Inhaler + Spe­cial Guest”

Rooster’s in Cans

Yorkshire brewery Rooster’s, founded by Sean Franklin in the 1990s but now run by the Fozard brothers, has just started canning three of its beers.

We’ve gen­er­al­ly enjoyed Rooster’s beer on draught but have had mixed results with the bot­tled ver­sions which we’ve put down to that scourge of the micro­brew­ery – con­tract bot­tling. None of them have been bad, as such – just rather flac­cid and stale tast­ing. The cans are pack­aged in-house, how­ev­er, so we had high hopes that they might bet­ter cap­ture the zing of the aro­mat­ic hops on which Rooster’s has built its rep­u­ta­tion.

Fort Smith (5% ABV, £2.23 for 330ml from Beer Ritz) comes in a gold­en can with a mat­te fin­ish, classy look­ing despite a vague reminder of Gold Label bar­ley wine. It poured yel­low-gold with gen­tle but gen­er­ous car­bon­a­tion which pro­duced a thick, tex­tured white head. The aro­ma was dom­i­nat­ed by apri­cot and peach – a con­cen­trat­ed hit, like a scent­ed can­dle – while the flavour recalled elder­flower. The bit­ter­ness was assertive and almost sur­gi­cal­ly clean. Over­all, it sits some­where between a pint of cask pale’n’hoppy, as found up north, and a decent lager, and is cer­tain­ly a cut above those cooked-tast­ing gold­en ales the super­mar­kets turn out.

Baby Faced Assassin in can.Baby Faced Assas­sin (6.1%, £2.42 for 330ml from Beer Ritz) is a beer we’ve want­ed to try for a long time ever since see­ing Zak Avery’s joy­ful reac­tion to an ear­ly iter­a­tion. (“It’ll nev­er be released com­mer­cial­ly…”) Open­ing the can released a burst of trop­i­cal fruit and cit­rus – it some­how smelled sweet, like a tin of Del Monte. Clear orange in the glass, it too had on of those sol­id, wavy white heads which inspires con­fi­dence. Close up, there was some weedy-ness to round out the fruit sal­ad. The first taste elicit­ed an ‘Oh, yes!’ It’s not at all sug­ary or cloy­ing despite the aro­ma and, in fact, teeters on the line of being too bit­ter. As we went on, we detect­ed an intrigu­ing note of hedgerow herbs – cow pars­ley? – which you might call cat­ti­ness. BFA is not mas­sive­ly unusu­al – there are lots of beers that look and smell sim­i­lar – but it all comes togeth­er so well, with no nig­gling off flavours to dis­tract or irri­tate, that we couldn’t help but love it. Top marks.

Per­haps the extreme fresh­ness of both cans gave them a bit of added glam­our. Cer­tain­ly the Brook­lyn East India Pale Ale we tried after­wards tast­ed like the mum­mi­fied corpse of a good beer, the hops all gone, leav­ing only a husk of leath­ery tof­fee.

Continuity in the world of brewing

Rooster's Yankee

As we are in the mid­dle of writ­ing about and research­ing the career of Sean Franklin, founder of York­shire brew­ery Rooster’s, we were pleased to come across the beer that made his name, Yan­kee (4.3%), in a bar in Lon­don.

Just as But­combe Bit­ter is a dogged sur­vivor from the first flush of the nine­teen-sev­en­ties ‘real ale craze’, Yan­kee is arguably the quin­tes­sen­tial nine­teen-nineties British ‘craft beer’, fea­tur­ing Amer­i­can Cas­cade hops in a star­ring role. In 2001, Michael Jack­son described it as fol­lows:

[Yan­kee] is hopped entire­ly with Cas­cades… [and] brewed exclu­sive­ly from pale malts, with soft flavours, so that the assertive hop can dom­i­nate. His use of the hop always empha­sis­es aro­ma first, then flavour, rather than sim­ple bit­ter­ness… In the Cas­cade hop, Franklin finds the robust cit­rus of the Mus­cat grape and the lychee char­ac­ter of the Gewürz­tramin­er.

Franklin entered semi-retire­ment in 2011, hand­ing over the reins of his brew­ery to Oliv­er and Tom Fozard. They face an inter­est­ing chal­lenge: unlike But­combe, which was born old, Rooster’s rep­u­ta­tion rests on inno­va­tion and exper­i­men­ta­tion. Does con­tin­u­ing a twen­ty-year-old brand mean brew­ing twen­ty-year-old recipes (play­ing ‘the great­est hits’ and ‘gold­en oldies’), or con­tin­u­ing to push bound­aries in the spir­it of Mr Franklin? The answer is prob­a­bly ‘a bit of both’. Tricky.

It’s hard to say whether the Yan­kee we drank last week tastes quite as it would have done fif­teen years ago, but it cer­tain­ly left us with a sus­pi­cion that the Cas­cade char­ac­ter which once seemed rev­o­lu­tion­ary – down­right un-beer-like – has become rather respectable in its old age. Our pints were very enjoy­able, but, like that oth­er break­through brew Sum­mer Light­ning, this is a beer which strug­gles these days to stand out amidst a sea of loud­er, brash­er imi­ta­tors.