Tag Archive: Smoked Beer


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.

Pressure Drop Freimann’s Dunkelweiss

Pressure Drop: Freimann’s Dunkelweiss (England: Smoked Dunkelweizen: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Dark cloudy brown. Massive browned mounded head.

Nose: Very smoked meat –bacon and salami. Peat. Some crisp wheat.

Body: Malt chocolate. Smoke and smoked bacon. Brown sugar. Wheat. Salami. Prickly feel. Cola bottles.

Finish: Brown sugar. Wheat. Smoke. Chocolate. Liquorice and treacle. Cola.

Conclusion: There is more to this than I first gave it credit for. You see, I had this on keg a few weeks back and it was nice but very one note. Utterly dominated by the massive smoked meat. Fun, but due to being so one note I was bored by the end.

No massive meat jokes please.

Here the smoked meat is still a chewable and appetising plan A for the beer, but let it flow around a bit and you can see that they have a plan B for when A gets a tad dull. Plan B is the base dunkel weisse showing through, malt chocolate and a wheat texture, giving something a bit easier to cling onto and get some relief from the weighty meal that plan A lays before you.

What doesn’t work quite as well in Plan B is a kind of cola and brown sugar sweetness that comes in. Now, I would often be impressed by a counterbalancing element like that, and I can see what it is doing, trying to add a sweet element as an offset, but it doesn’t quite work here and just ends up as a sickly touch.

Thankfully it isn’t really that big of an element, just a slight side note. The main course of the beer, while not wide ranging, is one you can really get your teeth into. So, while it isn’t as good as say the best of the Aecht Schlenkerla smoke beers (and even they can be hit or miss for me depending on the version), but it still gives enough to get your teeth into.

A satisfying beer, and not a style you often see on offer, let alone in the UK, so I applaud Pressure Drop for their willingness to take risks. It holds up well enough, but not enough to be special.

Background: I do like a good weisse, Dunkel or otherwise, but as prolific as they are in Germany, they are hard to find made elsewhere. So when I saw that this London Craft Brewery had not just turned out a Dunkel Weisse, but a smoked Dunkel Weisse I decided to give it a try. Then, a few days after I bought the bottle I found it on tap at the porter. So I have now tried this in two formats. This was finally drunk the day after going to See Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac for the second time this year, and so I was listening to the newly picked up “Logic Of Chance” album. I was unsure about using the Aventinus glass for a 330ml bottle, but I guessed a vigorous pour would result in a just right head, and so it did. This was picked up from the forefront of the Bath bottle scene, “Independent Spirit”.

Black Rocker

Brewdog: Cromarty: Black Rocker (Scotland: Smoked Black IPA: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Off white head.

Nose: Smoke. Smoked bacon. Medicinal touch. Tobacco pouch. Peat. Smoked sausages. Cannabis*. Bitter coffee.

Body: Smoked bacon. Touch of salt. Black cherry. Dark malt flavour. Shortbread. Brown bread. Black olives. Citrus hops.

Finish: Smokes sausage, Salt. Beef slices. Barley. Light hop character. Bitter and charring. Peppercorn. Spice rack. Toasted teacake. Light citrus.

Conclusion: A good one to end on. Both in that is a good beer and that it has enough weight of flavour to still be noticeable at this point. It is smokey, weighty, malty and more things ending in y. It gives far more weight and flavour than its, not small, abv would suggest.

It is a beer that seeps in, with slow reveal of smoke, tobacco and meat. An acquired taste to be sure but a delectable one. It is rich with spice dashed over the meaty core, as if seasoning ready for cooking. The mixing of elements feels very professional and makes for a nice ride through the flavours.

It is more smoked dominated that a lot of the beers tried today, a point that I would hold against it if it didn’t use the smoke as an emphasis on the other characters such as smoked meat, or working against strong flavours like the rye spice character. The sheer contrast earns it a lot of forgiveness for the smoke over dominance.

There are some light citrus and hop characteristics that are barely evident beneath the main body, but do give a small attempt at keeping it varied. Even with that it is not hugely varied, but the simple push is well done and full bodied. Like a Black IPA made with meat rather than hops.

I just reread that last statement. I think I may be drunk.

Too heavy to drink too much of, but still excellent in moderation. Treat it like a smoked stout and you will be spot on for the amount you can enjoy. Very nice.

Background: Collab Fest 2013! Every Brewdog bar collaborated with a local brewery to make a beer for the fest, resulting in a grand total of twelve beers released over one weekend. So, what could I do? Normally I limit myself to two of three reviews in a session, but these would only be on for the weekend. So, for you, my readers, I sat in one eight hour stint, drinking thirds, with a glass of water and a chapter of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone between each drink to help clear my palette. I suffer so for you. This was the twelfth and final beer of the day! Woo, mission complete. After drinking this I returned the empty glasses to the bar and got a high five for completing my quest. Managed to hit first time as well. This is a variant on Comarty’s Red Rocker, a smoked black rye IPA. I hope my write ups have remained legibly despite pulling an all dayer for this one.

*Note – I am not an expert on this one I will admit.

Querkus

Ridgeway: Querkus (England: Smoked Porter: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Grey dust head.

Nose: Bitter coffee and sweet chocolate. Smoked meat.

Body: Smooth. Smoke. Salt touched meat. Vinous back. Sour cherry sweets. Toffee. Light gin edges. Sherbet lemon. Steak. Slight brandy in the middle. Fizzy feel but not carbonated style. Raisins.

Finish: Sweet red wine. Smoke and meat platters. Bitter coffee. Vanilla. Oak. Raisins. Quite drying.

Conclusion: The thing with smoked beers is that often smoke becomes “The thing”. Even if the beer isn’t pure smoke, which happens often, it is often “The gimmick” which defines the beer. So you end up with a solid beer with smoke, but rarely with another twist (By the way, don’t ask who I’m quoting here, probably myself for all I know).

This has a smoky and accompanying smoked meat character, but also a lovely vinous red wine like influence that puts a whole new spin on things. It is rich and slightly fruity and the contrast between the two poles is just a delight.

There is a touch of the traditional coffee and chocolate there but they are the dance floor on which the two twists of smoke and wine twirl upon. Now, the beer could do with a touch thicker texture, it feels slightly fizzy and sherbety at times, though maybe a touch of ageing will smooth that out. I feel if the beer was a bit smoother and thicker it would feel like an utter luxury of a beer.

As is it is a very nice beer, and at the cost you can pick it up for it is remarkable value for money. It punches way above its abv and price. So, a very nice beer, great use of smoked character but doesn’t rely on it. Frankly it feels too high quality to have too often, lest you get too used to it, like having steak every day. Not perfect but really pushes what can be done without ramping up the abv and cost.

Background: “Where are the rest of the collabfest beers?“ I hear you ask. Actually I don’t because, you know, internet, but I’m using a rhetorical flourish here, go with it. I figured twelve Brewdog collaborations back to back may leave out fans of other brewers so I’m going to be intermingling my other tasting here and there to keep some variety going. This is another one picked up when Sainsbury were doing their new beer range. I’m fairly sure I saw Querkus is a top x list one day or another so I thought I’d grab a bottle to give it a try. This is a smoked porter aged over chips of French oak.

%d bloggers like this: