I had my first smoked beer a little over two years ago, something that many Americans have never even heard of, let alone tried. It was a Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, a smoked malty beer with a full body and a mind-boggling amount of smoked character. As I said, I had never had (nor heard of) a smoked beer before, and so I was blown away. For a while, I enjoyed them on a rare occasion, but had never made a smoked beer.
Recently, my wife requested that I make her a smoked beer, and I was only too happy to oblige, and so I made a smoked porter (which at the time of this writing has aged for a couple months and is keg conditioning). I really enjoyed making this beer, as the mash and boil smelled amazing, and so I was intrigued to learn more.
When I sat down to read this book, I had no idea the history lesson or chemistry lesson that was in store for me. I expected a book which of course would cover the obligatory history of smoke in beer, but spend the majority of it’s time covering how to formulate a good smoked beer recipe, but this book packs way more than that. It covers 70 pages of history and historical kiln designs before getting into modern producers of smoked beer.
Current high-profile producers of smoked beer and their processes are given about another 65 pages of coverage, providing information on their smoking process, wood type, kiln types, and beer types, as well as differences between countries and then some breakdowns of different beer formulas used by a handfull of smoked beer producers.
The chemistry of smoke is given the next 30 pages or so to describe exactly what happens when you smoke malt, some do’s and don’ts, as well as important advice for avoiding some nasty flavors in your malt. This chapter was a bit heavy for me the first time through, but then again, I wasn’t reading this book as a primer for smoking my own malt. If that ever becomes a goal of mine, I’ll be sure to go through this chapter more carefully, which brings me to the next chapter, smoking malt. This chapter provides a variety of methods for smoking your own malt, ranging from slow and high-yield, to fast and low-yield.
The last chapter, which is possibly the smallest chapter in the whole book, is focused on giving you some recipes to brew a wide variety of beer styles using smoked malt. While this is what I was expecting to find in the book, I actually enjoyed the other chapters much more. This is followed by a nice appendix of some ideas for cooking with smoked beer.
I really did enjoy this book, albeit not for the reasons I thought I would. I don’t plan to smoke my own malt anytime soon, but I now feel well informed and prepared should I choose to. And if nothing else, I hope this inspires some others who haven’t tried a smoked beer to do so, they’re not like any other beer you’ve had before!