As grilling season arrives along with the summer sun, entire neighborhoods are flooded with the sweet smell of wafting smoke. It’s time to take your barbecue party skills up a notch by pairing the fruits of the flame with an equally smokey beer. Whether you like to grill vegetable kabobs, premium rib eyes or free-range chicken, you’ll find a smoked beer that showcases the flavors of your food in a caveman-friendly style.
Smoked beers are both old and new. For centuries, Germans have created the distinctly flavored brew by using malted barley that has been dried over an open flame. This imparts a deep, smoky character to the beer. Over the years, kiln drying (vs. open flame drying) of the malt became the easier and more popular option, and smoked beers almost died out.
The resurgent interest in smoked meats and fish has birthed a trend of smoked cocktails, which has inspired a whole new slew of smoke-flavored beers. They pair well with hearty winter stews, and even better with a summertime barbecue dinner. Smoked beers are best for those who like their brews with an earthy flavor and not-so-subtle tang. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (Brauerei Heller-Trum, Bamberg, Germany) – As the name suggests, this beer is fully German – and first brewed in 1405. Not part of the current trendy bar scene, this brewery has been run by the same family for six generations. It doesn’t get more authentic than Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen – the “Original Schlenkerla Smoke Beer”.
2. Smoked Porter (Epic Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, Utah) – Notes of chocolate and coffee create a nostalgic flavor in this thick porter, which uses cherry wood smoked malt. Silky and smooth, it’s perfect for a lazy evening around the campfire with friends.
3. Bacon Brown Ale (Uncommon Brewers, Santa Cruz, California) – For those who enjoy bacon on everything, try a porky pint of this tasty brown ale. It’s made by steeping a bacon-cured pork leg in the beer before it ferments. Relish the easy finish and subtle flavors of this uniquely smoked ale.
4. Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans (Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California) – Undertones of chocolate and vanilla dance together in this popular smoked beer, a new twist on a classic. It’s lighter than many, and pairs lovely with all kinds of desserts.
5. Class of ’88 Imperial Smoked Porter (Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon) – Featuring roasted and smoked malts, this smoked porter presents a rich aroma of intense chocolate. Producing in conjunction with Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, this heady brew goes well with grilled ribs and spicy dishes.
6. Smoked Porter (Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Elmsford, New York) – Using smoked malt that has been imported from Germany, this dark porter features a mild, sweet flavor with notes of espresso and dark chocolate. Pair it with meaty dishes or enjoy on its own.
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Image: Another Pint Please