One of our latest creations is the Neo Mitten Pale Ale. It’s a SMASH beer, using Michigan-grown malt and hops. A SMASH beer, or “Single Malt And Single Hop” beer, is a great way to try out new ingredients and really let them each shine on their own. In this case, the ingredients are so unique and interesting that I thought I needed to do the beer justice by writing about it.
Let’s start with the malt. Malt is sometimes called the “heart” of the beer. It is arguably the most important ingredient. Barley must be malted before being used to make beer. (Fun fact: before Chad and Michelle started Dimes Brewhouse, they built a pilot malting system and were planning to build a malting company.) In this case, the “heart” of the beer is made with pale 2-row barley grown right here in Michigan. The barley was malted in Okemos by Mitten State Malt, LLC.
Malting is a process that unlocks the enzymatic potential of the barley. The barley grains are steeped in water and allowed to start to sprout. When the germination process begins, the enzymes in the grain “wake up” and they start to convert the starch in the seed into simpler sugars. Then, before the germination process gets very far, the grains are dried out and lightly kilned to freeze them in their semi-sprouted state. All of this is done by Larry Judge from Mitten State Malt, who designed and built his malting system. Larry’s pale malt is very light in color and flavor, which we think really sets the stage for the other main ingredient…
The hops in this beer were also grown in Michigan. Top Hops Farm in Goodrich, Michigan provided us with a variety they’ve recently started producing: the neomexicanus hops.
Unlike other commercially-available hops which trace their origins back to Europe, neomexicanus is a subspecies that is native to North America. It was developed from a wild strain of hops that were found in New Mexico. The fact that ours were grown in Michigan may give them a different flavor than the same hops grown out west.
Putting it together
Our brewers Chad and Nick wanted the hops to stand out in this beer, so they did several things to produce a clean, dry beer. The malt was mashed at low temperatures to allow enzymes in the grain to do their job as efficiently as possible. The fermentation was maintained at low temperatures with Fermentis US-05 yeast, which produces a very clean beer with little-to-no additional flavor compounds produced.
For such a simple recipe, the flavor is complex. The hops are hard to pin down in words, and everyone seems to taste something different when they first take a sip. They are pretty mellow, herbal, tea-like, and not too bitter. To some, they taste lemony and grassy. Others have picked up coconut and pineapple, and one person even was reminded of peanut butter and jelly! We really don’t know what to make of the flavor, other than the fact that we like it and we want more of it.
If you want to taste this strange brew for yourself and let us know what you think, it is ON TAP NOW in our taproom. Get it while it lasts!