I'm planning on doing some SMaSH beers; mainly so that I can get more used to the characteristics of the various hop varieties; and also maybe keep the cost down a bit while I'm experimenting. Up to this point I've used specialty malts in my (two) extract brews. Obviously the bonefide SMaSH beer recipes don't include speciality malts; but I know I could always do a single hop beer and just use some specialty grains if I wanted to — though I do like the idea of using the SMaSH concept to identify the flavours of the malt extracts too, but I don't want to make a lame beer at the same time. You hear people all the time saying how terrific this and that SMaSH beer taste, but if that's the case why do we use specialty malts at all? I know a lot of it is for colour but is that it? ... or is the flavour imparted by the specialty malts in a typical extract brew not enough to really worry about leaving out, or are we depending more on the flavour hop addition to make up for that?
How necessary are specialty malts in an extract brew?