Ultimate 6er | Smoked Beers
Smoky flavors in food and drink have a long history. When the only method of cooking was using an open fire, you could pretty much expect smoke to impart a scent or flavor into whatever you were putting over it. Beer was no different. In fact, up to the 1700s, pretty much every beer was a smoke beer since the only method to dry the malt would be over an open flame. It wasn’t until after kilning methods were developed that pulled the smoke away from the malt that beer started tasting the way we know today. And smoke beers began their fast decline quickly thereafter.
Nowadays, smoky tends to be a very polarizing flavor, with comments like “This is liquid bacon” or “I’m drinking a campfire!” But there’s something special about well-crafted smoke beers. With wood receiving such an emphasis lately in barrel aging programs, it’s being used to great effect and variety in smoked beers too. And they’re perfect during the colder months of the year, with their smoky aroma and depth being reminiscent of a BBQ or warm fireplace.
So, in order to hopefully kick off the next beer trend, here are six smoked beers to try:
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier | Märzen
ABV: 5.4% | IBU: 32
This is the OG smoked beer. It’s been brewed in Bamberg Germany since the 1400s and pretty much defines the style. Beechwood is actually used in a way that affects taste (unlike some other beechwood-using breweries…) , being kilned over a beechwood fire that provides all the smoky flavor. The only lager in the list, this is the beer that has the distinct bacon notes and smoked sausage flavor with a nice bready malt sweetness. The lager dryness comes through, though, which makes this beer surprisingly drinkable.
Off Color | 15 Feet
ABV: 3.2% | IBU: 28 IBU
This Polish Godziskie is a great place to start if you’re new to smoked beers. The smoke is mellow but present and the beer is incredibly drinkable. Originally made just for the brewers on brew days, Off Color decided to scale this up and send it out to the public. Since no one produces Applewood smoked wheat malt, the brewery went ahead and smoked their own. The subtle Applewood smoke adds a campfire note to your typical fruity wheat flavors, really making this a special beer. Definitely had a few converts to smoked beer after sharing this one. Grab it if you can find it, or email Off Color to make sure they put this in their regular rotation!
Hammerheart Brewing | Dublin Raid Irish Red
ABV: 6.5% | IBU: 0 IBU
This relative newcomer from just outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul is tough to find outside Minnesota. But if you do see these guys, make sure to order 2 of whatever they have on tap. This brewery is the future of smoked beers, with a good chunk of their rotation being dedicated to smoky beers. All of them are delicious, but the Dublin Raid stands out. It represents the whiskey side of smoked beers, with the bready, toasty, caramel, and toffee flavor from the malt and the peaty smoke being very reminiscent of a nice scotch. Even though the appearance gives off a heavy vibe, this beer ends up being surprisingly light and dry. It’s hard not to picture sitting in a comfy leather armchair next to the fireplace while sipping this beer.
Left Hand Brewing | Smoke Jumper Smoked Imperial Porter
ABV: 8.8% | IBU: 50
Smoke: Special Wood Mix
Left Hand has a cream of the crop smoked beer. They really nail this porter with wonderful roasty, coffee, chocolate and charred aromas that go down strikingly smooth and warm with a note of earthy hops. They smoke their own malt as well, and after enough trial and error, came up with their own mix of wood that imparts exactly the smoke quality they want. It’s the official beer of the National Smokejumper Association, which is high praise from the brave wildfire fighters.
The Bruery | Smoking Wood Imperial Rye Porter, Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged
ABV: 13% | IBU: 0
Smoke: Beechwood and Cherrywood
The Bruery’s Smoking Wood series is a great display of wood and beer, with wood being used to smoke the malt as well as through barrel aging. The barrel aging mellows out the smoke with it blending in the background, interplaying with the malts, vanilla, and spice of the whiskey barrel. The rye porter in rye whiskey barrels really emphasizes the spicy and molasses elements of the beer. This is more towards the intense end of the spectrum with such a high ABV, but it’s great sipping beer hanging out by a campfire on a cold night.
Marz Brewing | Marzcal Kolsch
ABV: 7.5% | IBU: 30
Marz Brewing puts their unique twist on this Kolsch by brewing it with a Mezcal in mind. It includes peated malt along with blue agave nectar and lime sea salt. The smokiness in the beer is among the more subtle of the list, but this beer is definitely on the funky side of things. If you’re looking for the experimental side of smoked malts, look no further than this beer.
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