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A Beginners Guide To Smoked Beers

Smoked beer is a unique style of beer which gives you a sensation of drinking a smoked sausage or a bacon. Smoked beers have a distinctive smoky flavour derived from malted barley which is dried over an open flame. Prior to the malt kilning and roasting, drying barley was a painstaking process where it was left in the direct sunlight prior to smoking. Since then, there have been many advancements in brewing techniques but there are still some breweries who smoke their malt in-house to produce one of the classic and historical styles. Let’s take a look at the beginners guide to smoked beers.

Smoked Beer Styles

Some breweries have retained the old school smoking techniques by continuing to dry their malts over open flames. By doing this, the beers impart a rich and distinctive smoky flavour which does not overtake other delicate flavors that need to share the spotlight. Down below, we’ve listed some of the traditional smoked beer styles which have emerged from these brewing methods.

1. Rauchbier

Rauchbier in German, literally translates to “smoke beer”. This beer style is a historical speciality of the city of Bamberg. Malt is simply smoked on beechwood logs by passing the hot air from a fire to dry it. The smoke character in the malt varies by maltster and some breweries produce their own smoked malt known as rauchmalz.

Schlenkerla Rauchbier. Picture source: Schlenkerla Brewery

Rauchbier is malty rich with woody/smoky, bacon or ham like flavours. It is bottom fermented German lager which is richer than a Märzen.

2. Piwo Grodziskie

This style is historical and a unique beer which was developed ages ago by the rulers of Prussia and Germany. Piwo Grodziskie is pretty popular in the Polish city of Grodzisk. In this, wheat malt is smoked on Oak wood and it lends a different flavour than beechwood log.

Smokiness in Piwo Grodziskie is less intense and very subtle compared to the Rauchbier. This style is very low in strength and highly drinkable.

3. Lichtenhainer

Lichtenhainer is a sour and smoked German wheat beer. For this historical style, smoked barley malt is added to wheat malt and fermented with lactobacillus and ale yeast. Lichtenhainer belongs to the same family as Gose, Berliner Weisse and Grodziskie.

Food Pairing

When you think of smoked beers, the first thing that comes to our mind is grilled or barbecued meats. It’s often easier to pair complementary flavours not just with the smoky aromas and taste, but with attention to the malt sweetness present in many other smoked beers, especially in the traditional smoked Märzen lager, and some of the richer barbecued sauces.

Apart from this, Smoked cheddar harmoniously pairs well with smokey or bacon-like notes from a Rauchbier. With the variety of smoked beers available today, the beer and food pairing is endless.