Smoked beer

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Schlenkerla Rauchbier straight from the cask

Smoked beer (German: Rauchbier) is a type of beer with a distinctive smoke flavour imparted by using malted barley dried over an open flame.[1] The Rauchbiers of Bamberg in Germany, Schlenkerla in particular,[2][3] are the best-known of the smoked beers.


Drying malt over an open flame may impart a smoky character to the malt. This character may carry over to beers brewed with the smoked malt. Prior to the modern era, drying malted barley in direct sunlight was used in addition to drying over flames. Even though kiln drying of malt, using indirect heat, did not enter into widespread usage until the industrial era, the method was known as early as the first century BC. Also, there have been various methods over the years of preparing cereal grains for brewing, including making beer from bread,[4][dead link] so smoked beer was not universal.

Beginning in the 18th century, kiln drying of malt became progressively more common and, by the mid-19th century, had become the near-universal method for drying malted grain. Since the kiln method shunts the smoke away from the wet malt, a smoky flavour is not imparted to the grain, nor to the subsequent beer. As a result, smoke flavour in beer became less and less common, and eventually disappeared almost entirely from the brewing world.

Bamberg Rauchbier[edit]

Bamberg smoked beers

Certain breweries, however, maintained the smoked beer tradition by continuing to use malt which had been dried over open flames. Two brewpubs in Bamberg, Germany — Schlenkerla and Spezial — have continued smoked beer production for nearly two centuries. Both are still in operation today, alongside seven other breweries in the same town. Both dry their malt over fires made from beechwood logs, and produce several varieties of Rauchbier ("smoke beer" in German).

Smoked beers outside Germany[edit]

In Armenia, Kilikia Brewery in Erevan produces smoked lager, both pale and dark.

In Australia, Redoak Boutique Beer Café produces a smoked beer called Redoak Rauch Bier.[5] Feral Brewing Company, in Western Australia, makes a Smoked Porter.

In Brazil, Eisenbahn produces a smoked beer called Eisenbahn Rauchbier, using malts imported from Bamberg.

In Britain, Kent Brewery produces Firestarter,[6] Meantime Brewery in London produces Winter Time, a smoked old ale, and Kelham Island Brewery in Sheffield produces Brooklyn Smoked Porter in association with Brooklyn Brewery.

In Canada Le Corsaire, Dieu du Ciel, Les Trois Mousquetaires and La Tour à Bières breweries also produce a Rauchbier, as does Toronto brew pub C'est What, who call it Big Butt.[7] Half Pints Brewing Company in Winnipeg, MB produces Smoktoberfest as a seasonal beer. Russell Brewing Company, BC Smokey The Beer.

In Denmark, Hornbeer Brewery produces a smoked beer, called Røgøl (Danish for Smoked Beer)

In Finland, Vakka-Suomen Panimo produces smoked beer called Prykmestar SavuKataja (smoked juniper).

In Greece, 'Craft Microbrewery' from Athens produces a smoked beer, called "Smoked Lager".

In Italy, Birrificio Lambrate in Milan produces "Ghisa", a smoked beer with Bamberg's typical features.

In Japan, Honshū brewery Moku Moku produces a smoked ale, the brewery's name being a reference to the use of smoke screens by ninja. The brewery is part of a cooperative that also smokes ham and makes sausages.[1]

In The Netherlands, Emelisse produces a traditional German Rauchbier, as well as a smoked porter and a peated imperial Russian stout. The De Molen brewery also have several different smoked beers, such as Bloed, Zweet & Tranen and Rook & Vuur

In New Zealand, the Invercargill Brewery seasonally each winter brew a rauchbier named Smokin' Bishop, made using Manuka.[8] The Yeastie Boys make a beer named Rex Attitude which uses 100% peat-smoked malt.[9]

In Norway, Haandbryggeriet produces a smoked, juniper-flavoured beer called Norwegian Wood.[10]

In Poland, few bigger and local craft breweries produce their smoked beers. "Dymy marcowe", "Podymek" from Pinta Brewery, "Smokey Joe" from AleBrowar and "Dymy Olbrachta" from Old Town Brewery "Jan Olbracht" located in Toruń are available in beer pubs and specialized shops periodically. In addition, the nearly extinct Grodziskie/Grätzer is making a comeback. It contains smoked wheat malt.

In Slovakia, an exclusive family brewery Pivovar ERB from Banska Stiavnica produces a smoked lager, called "Údený ležiak 12%" which is made from smoked malt from Bamberg.

In Sweden, Närke Kulturbryggeri produces smoked beers called Anders Göranssons Bästa Rököl and Tanngnjost & Tanngrisnir, Eskilstuna ölkultur produces Röksta rökbock, a bock type lager, and Nils Oscar Brewery produces Nils Oscar Rökporter, a smoked porter. Helsinge Ångbryggeri makes Helsinge Rököl. On the island of Gotland are dricku or in Swedish Gotlandsdricka' being brewed, a homemade smoked beer originating from the Viking Age.

In the United States, the Alaskan Brewing Company, Frey's Brewing Company, Great Basin Brewing Company,[11] New Glarus Brewing Company, Revolution Brewing in Chicago, Surly Brewing Company, and Samuel Adams make and distribute smoked beers influenced by the Rauchbiers of Bamberg. Triumph Brewing produces a beer it calls a Rauchbier, served at its brewpub. Devils Backbone Brewing Company has served both smoke lager (Smokehaus) and Smoke Porter at its brewpub in Virginia.

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