Tag Archive: Smoked Beer


Wild Beer Co: Smoke and Barrels 2018: Islay Whisky (England: Smoked Dubbel: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Opaque. Small bubbled carbonation. Caramel head with dark brown troughs in it.

Nose: Liquorice. Gin. Gooseberries. Sour plums. Medicinal meets broth. Tart black cherries.

Body: Tart. Liquorice. Bready. Iodine. Sour black cherries. Tannins and teabags. Gin and juniper. Medicinal and salt.

Finish: Medicinal. Sour red grapes. Teabags. Woody. Peppery. Tannins. Tart raisins. Smoke and dust.

Conclusion: Well, even having had the un-aged version of this, I was not expecting this to be as tart as it was. With it being a Dubbel at the base, and Islay barrel aged I was expecting a lot of big things, but not something this mouth refreshing.

The aroma didn’t really give it away – it has tart hints but that meets a brothy and medicinal character from the time in Islay oak that gives thicker and meatier imagery. So, when I took a sip and got a sour Flemish bruin meets dubbel kick it was kind of a shock.

It is all about the dark fruit, sourly delivered – backed by medical Islay character that makes the mouth sparkle. The oddest large element is the tarter notes that feel very gin influenced with sloe and juniper floating around there.

Now I will admit that for the first few sips I was not a fan – I was expecting something closer to the 2017 version, something tart but still recognisable as a dubbel, just with enhancements from the special ingredients. Instead I find something utterly dominated by them.

So, I decide to take my time and try and work out how to describe it- imagine a dubbel mixed up with a gin, a rodenbach grand cry and a shot of Caol Ila and … well you roughly have this. It is heavy duty with sour, medicinal and tannin notes all mixing. It is a bit prickly edged as beers go and feels like it needs a more solid core for the notes to work around. While the fruit character is dark and sour it isn’t in a thick way that gives a solid core to work from. It does gain a bit by the end though, resulting in a smokey, full flavoured, sour dark fruit beer – which if not perfectly delivered is bloody intriguing.

So, unusual, prickly edged and tart- no polish, all experimental. Intriguing, smokey and pretty tasting – but needs a bigger body to make it all work. Good but not a must have.

Background: From a quick look around I think this is the same beer, or at least a very similar beer to the one that Wild Beer Co released as the Winter 2017 Smoke and Barrels. What makes this different is it has spent the intervening time in Islay barrels ageing. Which is pretty much why I grabbed it. I love a good Islay whisky. So, to go over it again, this is a dubbel brewed with smoked malt, infused with cherry and chestnut wood and made with sloes smoked with liquorice. Which is a thing apparently. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – I was expecting something big and slow to drink (no sloe puns please) so put on the excellent moody tunes of Godspeed you! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! To listen to. Utterly awesome experimental tunes that make great drinking music.

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Heller: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (Germany: Smoked: 5.1% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Brown good sized frothy and bubbled head.

Nose: Smoked bacon. Smoke. Malt chocolate. Beef broth. Blue cheese.

Body: Beefy. Malt chocolate. Light chalk. Smoke. Vanilla. Light salt and medicinal notes. Thick mouthfeel. Slight treacle and toffee. Light fruitcake.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Smoke. Medicinal notes. Ash. Dried beef. Charcoal. Dry air. Chalk.

Conclusion: First time I tried a smoke beer I had to give up half way through as it tasted like an ash tray. Aecht Schlenkerla have generally been on the smokier end of the spectrum in my experience, which made me a tad nervous going into this, but I actually found it much more rewarding than those first, early, experiences would ever have indicated.

The aroma holds all the best of the good stuff that smoke can bring to a beer – you get smoked bacon, blue cheese and some other meaty, beefy notes.

The body is more restrained in the big flavours – it is still kind of beefy, with malt chocolate in the main base. The raw smoke comes out more than the smoked bacon or cheese notes, however it also brings mildly medicinal, slightly salted notes that call to Islay whisky. It is heavy duty, smooth mouthfeel – but, unlike some other Aecht Schlenkerla beers it feels like it lacks the awesome notes of the aroma.

The finish comes in closest to the ash tray like beer style I couldn’t finish before. It has big smoke, light chalk and lightly charred – theough still with hints of the chococlate and beef. It is harsh but well made for the level of ash like notes.

It is ok by me, but could be a little overly harsh for people not into this level of smoke. The ash tray like notes that are a flaw to me, are still well made notes for those who enjoy them – just a touch too intense for me. However even with that the mouthfeel is smooth and this is packed with flavour.

Very enjoyable overall, not an introductory smoke beer, and will definitely be too heavy duty for some, but still a genuinely good beer.

Background: You know, I always though the brewery was “Aecht Schlenkerla” – a quick google told me I was wrong, it is Brauerei Heller. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle. The other half is kicking the shit out of someone. That is the less fun half. Anyway, this was kindly brought back from Germany for me by my parents – many thanks. Drank it while I was visiting them over the winter holidays. Aecht Schlenkerla were one of the first smoked beers I ever encountered, back before I became acclimatised to them, so I was intrigued to go back to them and see if I could cope better now – I’ve tried other variants over the years, but this is the first time with the classic Marzen. If you are wondering about the odd glass choice – I originally had it in a different glass, and had put the cap back off the bottle while I took a photo. The cap promptly popped into the air, and landed right in the pint and refused to leave, necessitating decanting over into this new glass so not to end up doing tasting notes on a metal cap.

Wild Beer Co: Smoke ‘n’ Barrels: Winter (England: Smoked Dubbel: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin dark brown dash of a head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Sulphur and eggs. Lightly acidic. Bready. Malt chocolate. Smoke. Brown sugar. Creamy banana. Slightly dry.

Body: Sherbety feel up front into smoother back. Smoked meats. Brown sugar. Banana notes. Malt drinks. Slight chalk. Light tart grapes. Blackpool rock. Slight chocolate. Slight liquorice. Slight dry vinous influence.

Finish: Caramel. Smoked bacon. Hints of black cherry. Brown sugar. Light liquorice. Slight cherry pocked biscuits.

Conclusion: I came to this with a mix of nervousness and anticipation. Anticipation as Wild Beer Co’s Smoke beers have been improving with every release – and, better still, dark beers tend to carry smoke better in my experience. However there was nervousness as well – Liquorice seemed to be mentioned quite prominently in the description, and too much liquorice can really hurt a beer for me.

Thankfully the liquorice influence here is a small backing and rounding note. Instead this gives us something soothing, in a similar fashion to the chocolate and brown sugar touched Belgian dubbels but with a drier, slightly vinous base. This then has just a touch of Flemish bruin style being added to the mix. It results in an interesting mouthfeel and subtle cherry and tart grapes roundings to a very solid base.

The smoke, coming in as a sulphur to smoked bacon character is again a rounding note – giving extra weight and body to the beer. It is evident, but does not dominate. It feels a very balanced beer, all things considered. It even brings some banana and other fruity Belgian ester notes into the mix giving a lighter touch dusted over.

Probably could do with a touch of ageing – it can feel a tad chalky and fizzy at the moment, though that does settle to a smoother feel if held on the tongue for a moment. Any which way, could be polished with a few years I feel.

As it is it is a solid Dubbel, with lots of little tricks that make it atypical. Not an instant classic, but good, and I think it may have room to grow.

Background: I got an automated phone call today it said “With it being winter it is the perfect time to”. I have no idea what it said next. I hung up. Mainly because fuck automated phone calls, but also because it is Spring. If they get literally their first point wrong, why should I trust anything else they say? Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying I finally got around to drinking the winter edition of Wild Beer Co’s smoked beers. I may have taken a while. It was a high abv dark beer, it was hardly like it was going to go off. Anyway this is *Deep breath time again* a Dubbel style beer, but with smoked malt, aged on liquorice smoked tart sloes in foudres that previously held red wine. This had been grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Bikini Kill. Only found out about them recently – angry and awesome music.

wild-beer-co-smoke-n-barrels-autumn

Wild Beer Co: Smoke ‘n’ Barrels: Autumn (England: Smoked Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy caramel brown. Moderate off white head.

Nose: Blue cheese. Barbecued sausage. Smoke. Light caramelised brown sugar.

Body: Caramel. Blue cheese. Brown sugar. Light golden syrup. Orange zest and cloudy apple juice. Treacle toffee. Light chalk. Cinnamon and strawberry notes.

Finish: Light oak and smoke. Cloudy apple juice and a touch of orange juice. Cinder toffee. Slight peppermint and nutmeg. Sausage.

Conclusion: Ok, Autumn, this is very definitely Autumn. From the colour of the beer, the smoke, the sweet bonfire night treacle and cinder toffee notes, to the almost more winter touched additional spice – this really calls to mind the curling orange leaves and burning fire of an Autumn night. So – step 1 – appropriate imagery – achievement unlocked!

So – step 2 – does it taste good. Yep. Simple answer. From the aroma through it has a mix of wonderful blue cheese and barbecued cooked sausages; Which are some of my favourite elements that you can get out of smoking a beer.

The lovely smoked flavours are layered over a solid caramel to treacle toffee base. A nice, brown sugar touched, sweetness. Feels like a black lager more than an ale most of the time, but that works well with the sweetness and style. Very big flavour, yet the texture makes it very easy drinking. The only real flaw does come out here though – the black lager like notes can result in an occasional lapse into thin treacle being the sole element – which I tend to associate with lower quality beers. Generally however the other flavours are built up enough that the treacle is but one element in a fine set beer.

Finally, onto this is added a gentle spice and fruitiness. Wonderfully understated – it uses them to accentuate the rest of the beer rather than dominate it. The mix of nutmeg spice, apples and orange zest give rounding notes – warming in the case of the spice, and giving much needed freshness from the fruit that goes against the treacle and sweet dominant main character.

Genuinely easy drinking, yet packed with flavour – Wild Beer Co have swung and missed with a few of their recent beers for me – but this hits it out of the park. A good beer any time, and a perfect beer for the Autumn season.

Background: I grab most Wild Beer co beers that come out – the bottled ones at least. While some of their recent beers have been better ideas than they have been beers, the Smoke ‘n’ Barrels series has been pretty solid -with even the weaker gose entry being ok. This one sounds pretty cool – Smoked, like all of the series – it is made with apples and apple juice, and the wood used for smoking is apple wood. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit – though I have to question the “Autumn” bit, we are in full on winter now, right? Hope we don’t have to wait too long for the actual winter entry. Drunk while listening to a whole bunch of The Eels. Oddly bittersweet music.

Wild Beer Co Smoke 'N' Barrels Spring

Wild Beer Co: Smoke ‘N’ Barrels: Spring (England: Smoked: 4% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain. Large white bubbled head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Blue cheese. Wet wood. Hickory smoke. Perfume. Barbecue pits.

Body: Lime notes. Soft cheese. Smoked beef. Sage stuffing. Dried cherry pocked biscuits. Light syrup sweetness. Vanilla.

Finish: Wood chips. Paprika. Sage and onion. Beef stew. Light treacle. Vanilla. Smoke.

Conclusion: This gets oh so much right – it tastes like a mix between breathing in aromatic burning wood smoke, blue cheese, sage stuffing and smoked beef. That is a hell of a set for a smoked lager, no?

It is big and chewy feeling, despite the fact that the lager textured does not deviate much from expectations of a base lager – the wealth of flavour provides the weight which the texture does not.

In fact, for all the joy this beer brings, all the herbs and big smoke, it could actually probably do with a bit of a drier, and slightly less intrusive base. Now this is just me being picky, the base is pretty well done, but every now and then the sweetness rises from the normal smooth vanilla note level to a more treacle and syrup level and that additional sweetness breaks the wonderful savoury grip that the beer has on your tastebuds which is a pity.

Now that is just a minor point on how I feel the already good beer can be improved on. As for the rest of the beer? I love this – it has a wonderful use of the wood to create a medley of barbecue smoke notes in the mouth. Also it is wonderfully low abv for such a flavoursome beer – and the lager style makes it very manageable to drink despite the big flavours. This is one I could keep on for a while. Even better, the smoke is flavoursome rather than just ashed as hell – it mixes with the herbs and spice to create a wonderfully rich mix.

It is far from the most intense for smoke, so if that is the appeal for you, then this is not the one to go for. However for smoked backed flavour this is great, a few minor tweaks and it is ready to be a classic. Looking forwards to the next one.

Background: I’m a big fan of Wild Beer Co, and this smoked lager sounded pretty interesting. It is the spring entry in a range of smoked beers – this one using cherry and oak along with rosemary and sage. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to, yet again, the excellent David Bowie album Black Star”

Störtebeker Whisky-Bier

Störtebeker Whisky-Bier (Germany: Smoked Beer: 9% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Some carbonation. Clear. Large yellow white mound of a head.

Nose: Caramel. Wet wood (kind of like sail ships). Custard. Smoke. Blended whisky. Kippers. Blue cheese.

Body: Syrup. Blue cheese. Light medicinal notes. Blended whisky. Orange zest. Custard. Brown sugar. Apricot. Smoked beef.

Finish: Brown sugar. Shortbread. Blue cheese. Syrup. Smoked beef.

Conclusion: Ok, smoked, this is smoked. I was not expecting smoked. In fact, this is not much at all like what I expected from the name – and that comes with a mix of the good and the bad. Where shall I start? Hmm, I’m feeling like a Little Mr Negative today, so let’s start with the down side.

Well it is a high abv beer and doesn’t deal with it particularly subtly. The body is sweet and syrupy, really declaring itself as boozy in the simplest manner possible. It doesn’t feel like there has been any attempt to optimise the attenuation for a balanced beer. Despite that the thick texture is pleasant and it doesn’t feel too harsh to drink – just simple and boozy.

The upside? Well the smoke is subtle but most wonderfully it brings a delicious blue funky cheese aroma with it. Even better it follows that into the body – the blue cheese weights in heavily and it is that which turns the thick boozy texture into a chewable and tasty beer rather than a sickly one. It similarly brings a smoked beer character, making a whole smorgasbord in a glass.

Oddly the whisky of the name seems like less of an influence than the aforementioned notes. There is a kind of cheaper whisky blend character and an obviously alcohol and sweet character – generally the only real call I can see that stands out is a spirity character at times to the main body.

So, what happens when you bring all these different strings of its bow together? Well it is ok, a bit raw, but for all that I love its blue cheese notes. Frankly it could do with lower abv I feel – as a more restrained beer this could be excellent.

Unfortunate as it is, by the end the sweet side of the beer overwhelmed the blue cheese. However it had its moments, and they were wonderful moments, even if it is far from a masterclass on how to do a brew.

Background: Not 100% sure why this is called whisky bier, I don’t think it has been barrel aged. Trying to pick words I recognised out of the German I think this was made using whisky malt, but I could be wrong. As always no expense has been spared in my research. Another beer that was a birthday gift from friends. Many thanks! Drunk while listing to some 4Bitten, saw them live a few years ago and they made enough of an impact that I still listen to them to this day.

Against The Grain Mac Fanny Baw

Against The Grain: Mac Fanny Baw (USA: Smoked: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow brown. Massive off white bubbled head with a slight orange hue. Some moderate carbonation.

Nose: Big smoke. Iodine to turpentine. Peat. A burnt to a crisp steak. Spice. Wood (cedar wood?) Wood fire ovens. Hickory smoke.

Body: Aromatic wood (cedar?), Dried beef jerky. Light caramel. Salt touch. Bready middle. Peat. Smoke. Slight brown sugar to treacle sponge.

Finish: Light oak. Smoke. Dried meat – beef and smoked pork, with salted character. Drying and spicy.

Conclusion: I wish I had spent more time sniffing wood. Ok that may be a statement that needs more explanation. Just maybe.

The thing is, as well as the distinct medicinal and huge smoke aroma, this has a very distinctive aromatic wood element. An element which then follows through the body into a spicy and wood filled finish.

Of course, I’d be damned if I could say which wood though. Hence the original statement. Which ever one it is, it really adds to the experience here making a really smoky beer a much more complex experience than more attempts at a similar style.

This is quite the substantial rauchbier with an almost bready chewyness to it – though thankfully the smoke is more peat than ash tray. Some smoked beers can go beyond my smoke tolerance, but this comes in big yet with dried, salted, and yes smoked meat elements that gives me something I can grip. It feels like the beef jerky kind of level of meat, all the succulence is gone, leaving just hard chunks of flavour that fight back.

In some ways it reminds me of Yeastie Boys‘ Rex Attitude but with much more complexity due to that wood effect and slight underlying sweetness. It may not be the most varied rauch – I have run into a few stunners I am trying to find again to review, but it is a decent attempt.

This is a beer that will dry you out, between the abv, smoke and the salt, it is very possible I would have enjoyed this more in a smaller bottle. Or by sharing it. Though I will admit that it does look awesome in the big glass.

It is a hard beer to get used to, that thick almost turpentine meets medicinal effect is massive on the lead in, the wood and smoke chews on the main body, and the spice and salt make it drying on the way out. It is very lovely, but does wear out its welcome before the end due to its sheer weight.

So share this beer. Or have it with food. Just do something to mix it up so it doesn’t overstay its welcome. But if you do that you will find it a very well crafted beer.

Background: I generally find things with “Against” in the name are good – see “Against The Day”, “Rage Against The Machine”, “Rise Against” and “Against Me!”. I also find the name Mac Fanny Baw funnier than it has any right to be. So of course I picked up a bottle of this from Independent Spirit. This is a rauchbier aged in Bourbon barrels with added Alderwood smoked salt, that I drank while listening to Bad Religion’s Against the Grain. because of course I did.

Five Points Brewdog Smoke and Mirrors

Five Point: Brewdog: Smoke and Mirrors (England: Smoked Porter: 7.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate coffee froth brown head.

Nose: Burnt coffee. Smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Big smoke. Cured ham. Malt drinks. Smooth. Salt touch. Black cherry hint. Light chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Bitter coffee. Smoke. Toffee. Cured meat. Brown bread. Bitter. Light salt.

Conclusion: Aaaand, we have a big beer to round off the weekend, and trust me, this is big in all the ways that count. Big smoke, big bitter coffee and chocolate, big thick texture. Big, but actually not too insane abv at 7.8 % abv.

It is very classy, very smooth – the smoke is big, but rounded – an addition rather than an ash tray. It feels very mouth filling and very much well balanced – you feel like your mouth and been smeared with a sheen of coffee tasting oils.

It plays its elements very solidly in the middle of the smoked porter range, not unusual in what is delivered, but refined to within an inch of its life.

Smooth but not light, heavy flavour but not intrusive. This may not push boundaries, but it has learned from every lesson on how to do the job well. I wish I could say more about it, but I fear I would be repeating the standard porter spiel. Coffee heavy, smooth – it ties itself to the style impeccably.

A very nice beer and a great end to a great weekend.

Background: The end of Collabfest 2014! I can review other drinks now! Despite the staff reminding me , I forgot to get a photo of the board after they put this, final, beer up. Oops. This is smoked porter. Seems almost passé after all that came before. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Brewdog Alechemy Smoked In History

Brewdog: Alechemy : Smoked In History (Scotland: Smoked Porter: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Inch of tight bubbled froth as a browned head.

Nose: Sour dough. Cigarette ash. Shortbread. Light salt.

Body: Sour dough. Smoke. Dried meat. Maybe dried beef and ham. Chalk. Roasted character. Slight salt. Some bitter coffee.

Finish: Dried ham. Charring. Slight salt and roasted character. Ash.

Conclusion: Drinking a bit of history. So, the question is, do I like history? That seems like quite a big question to contemplate over just a third of beer. So let’s go with something simpler and just see if I like the beer.

Well, while it is not a particularly heavy beer, it is very smoke dominated, or to be more accurate almost ash dominated. There isn’t a huge weight to it, but it isn’t lacking in an item to draw your interest.

It is also slightly soured, in a sour dough kind of fashion (which seems to be a common note in collabfest this year), so it has callings to the more grounded dark beers, as well as the ash. There is some coffee in the background, not as heavily as you would expect in a porter, and as mentioned that sour dough, but really, the smoke is the thing.

It isn’t to an insane level, never, say, Rauchbier style, and for all its smoke it is surprisingly drinkable. It is also, unfortunately, not exactly complex. You are getting a bit of a one trick pony. Still, that is better than not having a pony.

Ponies are their own reward.

Next up on lines I never thought I would write in a tasting note.

So, yes, it has a pony. Metaphorically speaking. It has a good quality and it uses it well. There is kind of other elements, a bit of dried meat – smoked of course – hardly a huge deviation from the other elements, so all part of the same…pony… meat.. thing….I should work on a new metaphor. Still, satisfactory overall.

I am starting to think my reviews get odd if I do too many in one weekend.

A decent brew that works its one trick well.

Background: Well, this has to come under oddest special ingredient of all time. This has been smoked with timber from The Discovery. Well, holy shit, that is quite epic. So, anyway, yeah, wow, that aside, this is the thirteenth beer on day two of the collabfest 2014! Thankfully I am not superstitious. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Brewdog - U Boat

Victory: Brewdog: U-Boat (Scotland: Smoked Porter: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small browned head that diminishes to islands. Still main body.

Nose: Smoke. Cured ham. Dry roasted peanuts. Beef brisket.

Body: Slight medicinal. Smoke. Dried beef. Light vanilla and caramel. Salt rocks. Dusty touch. Malt chocolate and coffee. Slight sour cream. Soft lemon underneath?

Finish: Bitter chocolate and smoke. Smoked beef. Light salt. Pulled pork. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, high concept review. This is Alice Porter, but smoked. Boom! Job done. You are welcome.

What? You haven’t drunk Alice Porter?

Fuck.

Guess I’d best do a proper review then.

Up front the smoked character is evident, lots of smoked meat, with even a slight salt rock character, reminiscent of Islay whisky style, but lighter. However under that is a solid porter, though the chocolate and coffee notes are actually quite at the back – informing the character without being the character. Instead there is that kind of sour cream character that Alice Porter had, backed by caramel sweetness which combines in a soft of salted caramel way with the main notes, a nice kind of swing to the beer.

So, we have here a smoked, salted caramel, porter chocolate and coffee, contrasted by sour cream kind of beer. Try saying that three times fast.

It is good. Surprisingly moreish for the high abv and the weight of flavour, that slightly cloying sour cream manages to make it very drinkable by taking off the edge of the harsher characteristics . The salt elements give it a nice tingle of harshness, but not too heavy – just enough to dry the mouth and make you want to indulge more.

An evolution, not a revolution of the style, but a very good one.

Background: You can ferment a porter with lager yeast? Apparently so. At least if you use smoked malt as well. This is the latest in a long line of Brewdog collaborations – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to Rise Against’s Endgame. Yes Rise Against are definitely growing on me.

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