Texas Ale Project Gets A Little Experimental With The Latest Installment Of Its R&D Series, Making For A SMaSHingly Great Taste.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

For this edition of On Tap, I had the latest edition of the R&D Series from Texas Ale Project called Smash Experiment.

Fast Facts about Smash Experiment
Style: Blonde Ale.
ABV: 6.0 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 34.
Color: Gold.
Availability: Cans & Draught.

Smash Experiment is the fourth beer in Texas Ale Project’s R&D Series — launched last summer — is designed as a vehicle for innovation for both the brewery and its customers, as drinkers of Texas Ale Project are encouraged to make suggestions on what should be brewed next. Each beer in the series will be brewed in limited quantities and available in package and on tap.

This edition is a blonde ale but also falls into an unofficial secondary style — SMaSH beer, hence the name. SMaSH is brewery shorthand for Single Malt and Single Hop, and it’s exactly what it sounds like – a beer brewed using a single malt varietal and a single hop varietal. In this beer, those would be Pilsner malt and Calypso hops. A SMaSH beer can be any beer style you like, although most of the ones I’ve seen done commercially are IPAs. Sounds easy, right? You’d think so, but it turns out not so much, at least in my experience. They are hard to balance and too often come up short in areas like mouthfeel and appearance because additions that usually fill in the holes aren’t used – additions like specialty malts or aroma hops.

Background on Blonde Ale
Blonde ales are a new-ish style, having just come around with the craft beer movement of the last 40 years or so. The style itself is designed as something of a light lager replacement for breweries that are not interested in investing the equipment to brew the colder fermenting lagers. Blondes are typically all-malt ales, meaning no adjuncts like corn or rice, with a malt-forward flavor, clean for ale, but with a touch of fruit and (or) spice, differentiating it from a lager. It’s usually a light, easy-drinking beer of session strength or a little higher with just enough bitterness to balance and a malt finish. For this reason, blonde ales are often considered something of a gateway beer to get a habitual macro drinker to dip their toes into the broader world of craft beer.

I give blonde ales a vigorous pour out of habit in an effort to overcome regular issues generating a respectable head, but here, I get my first surprise as Smash Experiment produces foam in a quick and easy manner, giving the beer a beautiful inch-deep, off-white cap of tight bubbles. The beer itself is a brushed-gold in color with a thin fog floating through it – not so much that you can’t see through it, but enough to let you know this beer won’t be thin. The head lasts longer than typical for the style too, taking several minutes to reduce down to delicate islands of fine foam floating on a molten sea of gold.

If I didn’t know which hop varietal had been used prior to having this beer the first time, I might have thought it to be an English brew. There is a hint of underlying citrus but it’s secondary to pomme fruit, earth and some grass. The aroma is subtle though, at least for normal blonde ale serving and drinking temperatures (low 40s F). The Pilsner malt makes an appearance, too, with some lovely fresh bread notes. But again, not obvious until it warms up a little.

This is where the Pilsner malt really shines through – a doughy bread leads, with support from enough bitterness to be comfortable in the role without trying to upstage the star. The malt is back for the finish, sweet enough to leave my mouth wet. Swirl it around your mouth before you swallow and you will get some fresh fruit – specifically pear and peach. There is light citrus here too, a Sprite-like lemon-lime, but it’s faint.

The mouthfeel is big for a blonde, which is yet another pleasant surprise. It’s a solid medium body that hides the carbonation well enough to make me question what my eyes saw in the pour. With the amount of foam, I expected a bigger bite from the carbonation, but this is smooth with just a bit of edge against the roof of my mouth. The next word that comes to mind is full. Not like an IPA or something dark, but if you are expecting something closer to a macro brew, this is full. A clean, quick finish lingers just long enough to make you think about that next sip.

First thought — shrimp boil. Break out the potatoes, corn, sausage, shrimp and Old Bay, ice down a couple cases of this and invite everyone you know over to a food and beer coma party. Smash Experiment has enough oomph to go with the spice I like in a boil — which is not something I usually say about blonde ales — without trampling the food. The malt flavors work well with herb-crusted goat cheese, giving you a taste of what the cheese might be like on a slice of fresh bread. It’s light enough to go well with a chef’s salad, too. Finally, it has me thinking about trying a “beer can chicken,” where the beer is both an ingredient and a partner at the table.

Overall Impression
As beer styles go, blonde ale is near the bottom of the list for me, which is a problem, because nearly every brewery in Texas has one in their core lineup. However, I view it for what it is designed to be — a light lager replacement and a gateway beer. Having said that, this is a blonde ale that will satisfy the craft beer veteran without scaring off the Bud Light regular. If I owned a bar, I’d put this on tap and offer a sample to everyone who ordered an American macro.

It isn’t quite perfect though. If I’m going to have a blonde, I want it to be a bit more of a session beer, rather than this at a full 6 percent. And while I loved the rich head when I poured the beer, that same head didn’t leave much in the way of lacing in my glass. Granted, that is purely aesthetics, but I still want to see it. Don’t get me wrong, neither of these things are deal-breakers for me. In fact, I really liked this beer. So much so, that I’m hoping it becomes part of the core lineup at Texas Ale Project, something folks at the brewery told me might actually happen if it’s popular enough. So, if you like this beer and you’d like to see it stick around, drop them a line and let them know how you feel. I certainly did.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Texas Ale Project’s Smash Experiment an 8.

Previous On Tap Reviews:

• Revolver’s Sangre y Miel: 10.
• Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Freak Flag: 10.
• Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Collective Brewing Project’s Boysenbarrel: 10.
• Community’s Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community’s Legion: 10.
• Martin House River Horse: 9.75.
• BrainDead’s Fill in the Blancs: 9.5.
• Oak Highlands’ Freaky Deaky: 9.5.
• 903 Brewers’ Birthday Sasquatch: 9.5.
• TUPPS Brewery’s Full Grown Scallywag: 9.5.
• On Rotation’s Flocculation of Seagulls: 9.5.
• Braindead Brewing’s P-Wing: 9.5.
• Lakewood Brewing Company’s Coconut Temptress: 9.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas’ Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community’s Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
• Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas’ Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s SMaSHY: 9.25
• BrainDead Brewing’s Galactic Federation of Might: 9.25
• On Rotation’s Lingonberry Sahti: 9.25.
• Martin House Brewing Company’s The Morrigan: 9.25.
• On Rotation’s Jalapeno Saison: 9.
• Woodcreek’s Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
• Braindead Brewing Company’s Dr. Dreipricot: 9.
• Lakewood’s Wild Manimal: 9.
Manhattan Project Beer Company’s Necessary Evil: 9.
• Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House’s Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners’ Block Party Porter: 9.
• Bankhead Brewing Co.’s Giggle Water: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Poblano Paradise: 8.75.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest: 8.75.
• Lakewood Brewing Company IPA: 8.75.
• Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pils: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Community Beer Company’s Passiflora: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Community Beer Company’s Wit ‘N Wild: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Prime Minister: 8.25.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer: 8.25.
• Noble Rey Brewing’s Barampus: 8.25.
• Martin House’s Possum Kingdom Pilsner: 8.25.
• Community Beer Company’s Brett’s Get It On: 8.25.
• Bankhead Brewing Company’s Aoogah!: 8.25.
• Lakewood’s Peach Artsy Tarsty: 8.25.
• Peticolas Brewing Company’s Clandestine: 8.
• Lakewood Brewing Grand Allowance: 8.
• HopFusion Ale Works’ Hairpin: 8
• Collective Brewing Project’s Cup O’ Sumpin Raspberry Lemonade: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale: 8.
Cedar Creek Brewery’s Gone A-Rye: 8.
• Community’s Texas Helles: 8.
• On Rotation’s Moar Blackberry: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Paleta de Mango: 8.
• Peticolas Brewing Company’s Doctor’s Orders: 8.
• Lakewood’s Thread Spinner: 8.
• Bishop Cider Co.’s Sour Cherry: 8.
• Texas Ale Project 50 Ft. Jackrabbit: 8.
• Cedar Creek Brewery’s Gone A-Rye: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewing’ Nine Volt: 8.
• Texas Ale Project’s Payne Pils: 8.
• Noble Rey’s Bridesmaid’s Tears: 8.
• Collective Brewing’s Urban Funk House: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s Cannoneer: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s Sixth Floor: 8.
• Lakewood’s All Call: 8.
• Oak Highlands’ Golden Mustache: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Crackin’ Up: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s Play Date: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
• Bitter Sisters’ Belgian Tripel: 8.
• Noble Rey’s SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters’ Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead’s Gritz: 8.
• Community’s Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek’s Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas’ The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum’s Neato Bandito: 8.
• Revolver’s Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
• Division Brewing’s Distant Cousin: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House’s Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek’s Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood’s Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood’s Hop Trapp: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s The Woofus: 7.75
• Four Corners Brewing Company Homie Brew: 7.75.
• Community Beer Company’s Snickerdoodle: 7.75.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s High Point: 7.75.
• Cedar Creek’s Grapefruit Haze: 7.75.
• Martin House Brewing’s Big Hoppa: 7.75.
• TUPPS Full Grown Man: 7.75.
• 3 Nations American Wit: 7.75.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Dapper Apple: 7.75.
• 903 Brewers’ Kilt Switch: 7.5.
• Chimera Dirty Dog: 7.5.
• 3 Nations Brewing Company’s Imperial Milk Stout: 7.5.
• Legal Draft’s Accused Amber Lager: 7.5.
• Grapevine’s Reserve Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse: 7.5.
• Martin House’s Stars Above: 7.5.
• Noble Rey Brewing Company’s Frooty Tang: 7.5.
• Martin House Brewing’s Pretzel Stout: 7.5.
• Grapevine’s Prickly Pear Wheat Ale: 7.5.
• Texas Ale Project’s Good To Go: 7.5.
• Bitter Sisters’ Knock Out: 7.5.
• Four Corners’ Notorious O.A.T.: 7.5.
• Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
• On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
• True Vine’s Unicorn’s Revenge: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker: 7.5.
• Four Corners’ El Super Bee: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
• Martin House’s Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Antigoon’s Revenge: 7.5.
• Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek Brewery Clover Kicker: 7.25.
• Noble Rey Sex In A Canoe: 7.25.
• Legal Draft Beer Company Free & Clear: 7.25.
• Oak Highlands Brewery’s Oktoberfest.: 7.25.
• Noble Rey’s European Vacation: 7
• Unlawful Assembly’s Public Dissent: 7.
• Deep Ellum Rye Pils: 7.
• 3 Nations Mango SMASH IPA: 7.
• Legal Draft Chief Justice Stout: 7.
• Legal Draft’s Black Letter Law: 7.
• Noble Rey Brewing Company’s Mother Night: 7.
• TUPPS Brewery’s Imperial Saison: 7.
• Manhattan Project’s Plutonium-239: 7.
• Panther Island Brewing’s Sweet Fang: 7.
• Backcountry’s Texas IPA: 7.
• Backcountry’s Double IPA: 7.
• Wild Acre Brewing Company’s Billy Jenkins: 7.
• Rahr’s Visionary: 7.
• Shannon Brewing’s Irish Cream Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands’ Guava Good: 7.
• TUPPS Brewery’ Northbound 75: 7.
• Rahr & Sons’ Iron Joe: 7.
• BrainDead’s I Like Harvey IPA: 7.
• Martin House’s Turtle Power: 7.
Three Nations Brewing Co.’s Texas Gold Chili Lime: 7.
• Collective’s Petite Golden Sour: 7.
• Shannon’s Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead’s Red Ale: 7.
• Community’s Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel’s Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Noble Rey’s Off The Leash: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company’s Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project’s Somethin’ Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek’s The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company’s Cellarman’s Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver’s High Brass: 7.
• Community’s Pale Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands’ Chump Change: 7.
• Martin House’s River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Sir William’s Brown Ale: 7.
• Community’s Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity’s Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Texas Ale Project’s Hawaiian Roadrunner: 6.75.
• Whistle Post’s Shoofly Coconut Lime Ale: 6.75.
• Community Brewing Company’s Silly Gose: 6.75
• HopFusion Ale Works’ Feisty Blonde: 6.75
• Martin House’s Queen of the Mist (Prickly Pear): 6.75.
• Armadillo Ale Works Land Yacht IPA: 6.5
• Three Nations Texas Xmas Hazelnut Ale: 6.5.
• Martin House’s The Juice: 6.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Four Corners’ La Lechuza: 6.5.
• Revolver’s Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers’ Trot Line: 6.5.
• Four Corners’ Celebración: 6.5.
• Peticolas’ Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Maui Wowie: 6.25.
• On Rotation’s Mexican Barleywine: 6.25.
• On Rotation’s Darjeeling Tea Session Ale: 6.
• Wild Acre’s Tarantula Hawk: 6.
• Martin House’s Kafkaesque: 6.
• TUPPS’ Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole’s Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole’s Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works’ WunderMelon: 6
• Cobra Brewing Company’s Dawn of the Dank: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood’s Troll Toll: 5.5.
• Martin House’s Hell Below: 5.5.
• Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Woodcreek’s Lakeside Cerveza: 5.
• Legal Draft Beer Company’s Smash & Grab IPA: 5.
• Martin House Cuvee Pumpkin Latte: 5.
• Intrinsic’s Crunktoberfest: 5.
• Martin House’s Mind On My Money: 5.
• 903 Brewers’ The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
• Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort: 5.
• TUPPS’ Day Off: 4.75.
• 3 Nations’ Lady Luck Horchata Ale: 4.5.
• Four Bullets’ Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
• Audacity’s Checkered Past: 4.
• Four Corners Heart O’ Texas: 4.
• Audacity’s Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company’s IPA: 4.
• Grapevine’s Monarch: 4.
• Good Neighbor Brews’ Slim Sweetness: 3.
• Good Neighbor Brews’ O’Carrol’s Irish Red: 3.
• Twin Peaks’ Dirty Blonde: 3.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• 903 Brewers’ Mythical Creatures: 2.5.
• Miller Lite: 1.

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