[Ed. Note: Jhon is back with another guest post. If you missed his first one then read about souring beer with probiotics!]
We are going to delve into a beer style that gets a lot of flak for how it is executed. The smoked beer tends to get many noses turned up to it, “It tastes like Bacon!” they shout, “It’s like drinking barbecue sauce!” they moan. I’m here to bat that nonsense aside and show you that when done correctly they are fantastic.
The first part of the process is the most difficult, finding smoked malt that isn’t foul. There are three easily acquired smoked malts: Beechwood smoked, Oak smoked, and Peat smoked. I’ve never had a beer with these malts that weren’t either bacon or barbecue flavored. Gods help you if you ever have one with any amount of peat smoked.
Now you ask well if all smoked malt is bad how do I make a smoked beer?
Make your own smoked malt!
First you have to find wood that you like; I elected to go with Alder wood given its use in smoking salmon due to its mild flavor. At low heat, Alder doesn’t burn as much as it smolders. Making it perfect for smoking malt!
Alder wood isn’t difficult to find but for some reason I cannot find malt smoked with it commercially anywhere. The wood pictured above came from Amazon, five pounds will cost you between $12 and $20 dollars. I cannot take all the credit for this adventure as I enlisted the help of a friend of mine to actually smoke the malt.
Steve here smoked the Munich malt over the Alder wood for eight hours for me. You should probably give him a beer for his kindness.
Now that you’ve a wood selected the next step is to figure out what malt you want to use. Given that specialty malts are already kilned and malted I elected to go with a base malt, that malt being Munich. I thought the bready and robust character of Munich would do well with smokey notes behind it. I would love to experiment further with smoked beers and see what malt does best when smoked, but that is an adventure for another day.
The process for smoking malt was actually written up in an article of BYO that you can access here. Here is the recipe I used:
Smokey and the Bandits Warning Shot
- 10 lbs. Maris Otter malt
- 2 lbs. Flaked Oats (I toasted my oats)
- 1.3 lbs. Smoked Munich malt
- 1.5 lbs. Roasted Barley
- .75 lbs. Pale Chocolate malt
- .25 lbs. Perla Negra
- .75 lbs. Crystal 77
- Mashed at 156°F with a batch sparge
- 90-minute boil
- 1 oz. Magnum at 60 mins
- 1.070 OG
- Yorkshire Square Ale yeast (I made a pretty significant starter for this to assure a full attenuation)
I fermented this batch for about two weeks as it was a bit larger than my usual beers and the yeast also required a lower temperature than my average fermentation (65-69°F) so I wanted it to have all the time it needed to carry out its task.
Appearance – Black as pitch with a nice tan head that lingers in the glass for long after the initial pour.
Aroma – Malt forward nuttiness with gentle wisps of smoke, chocolate, and roasts.
Flavor – An explosion of malt character, each grain in this beer has a voice that sings harmoniously. The chocolate and smoke character melt well making the beer feel like a fine chocolate
I am very pleased with how this beer came out. I will definitely brew something like this again. I’ve got a few other projects coming down the line so I’m not certain what the topic of my next article will be; I’ve got a Dulce De Leche beer and a humidor barleywine that I’m debating on doing. If you think either of these are interesting, please leave a comment notating your thoughts