Last Stand's SMaSH IPA
Less is more with this single malt, single hop beer
Whoa hey, we get it. India pale ales are the Morrisseys of craft beer: scorchingly bitter, with hints of kitten pish, and notes of stale Earl Grey tea bags strewn wantonly; muddled historically into the boil of British pomposity, imperialism, and culture.
But as portion-crushing, wheel-squealin' American patriots, we have taken to a tradition of wagging our fingers toward the Commonwealth, deconstructing the finer points of Britain's triumphs and reshaping them into our own cultural fabric, like a more vigorous brand of spoken English and a raunchier version of Big Brother. Perhaps America's proclivity for progress is ultimately why IPAs are now these delicious, tropical, bright-tasting treats intended to be consumed quickly upon production, and not those acrid, brooding messes that traveled six months in a flotilla from London to southeast Asia gratifying absolutely no one.
In fact, with irony as rich as the Crown, it is Britain who is now looking back to the States and its talented brewhouses for inspiration on how to brew a noteworthy IPA. And while some of America's more aggressive IPAs require a sodium borate rinse to eliminate the piney residue from one's coated gullet, the latest trend has brewers homing in on the delicate nuance of their luminary performers: hops.
Enter Last Stand Brewing Company's SMaSH IPA, a rotational beer that rouses a single malt base and a single hop varietal into a boozy foxtrot, showcasing a juicy, tropical hop profile (Citra) as the beer's megastar, while the rich fermented and malted grain backbone (Weyermann Pale Ale) provides a supporting performance worthy of Christoph Waltz. It is a beer that is brimming with pride.
"We first launched this beer for our first anniversary party in March of 2016 that we named SMaSH Bash," states Chenell Reeves, Last Stand's Central Texas sales manager. "[At that time] we brewed several SMaSH IPAs that included a variety of hops: Citra, Mandarina Bavaria, Galaxy, and Centennial. The Citra was such a hit and received such great feedback that we decided to add it to our year-round draft and package lineup."
Indeed, SMaSH IPA is raveable beer, alert with hints of citrus, grapefruit, melon, and passion fruit from its stag hop, while the bread-and-honey malt note keeps the beer honest, balanced, and rounded; no allowance for any one ingredient to lord over the rest. There is a significant tidal splash of hops in Citra SMaSH, but the beer doesn't bark with bitterness. Along with its 7.5% ABV, Citra SMaSH is refreshingly easy to drink, yet challenging for those used to light lagers.
"SMaSH beers highlight the two main ingredients: malt and hops," Reeves explains. "Last Stand has now done seven different hop varieties in our SMaSH series, and we feel there is no better way to get familiar with a particular hop than with a SMaSH beer."
Residing in the Texas Hill Country known primarily for hosting headliner Jester King Brewery, the talent of Last Stand is underestimated but explicit, particularly with a well-executed and thoughtful beer like Citra SMaSH as precedent. The brewery leaves no room for shadowy apparatuses to prop up their beer, especially in one as naked and transparent as Citra SMaSH.
"We have brewed two additional SMaSH beers [since the launch of Citra]. One uses Amarillo hops, which is currently available in our taproom, and the other, Pacific Jade, which is due to be released on October 29," Reeves states. "We will continue to play around with different hop varietals and let the market and consumers dictate what we brew."