Im not going to lie, I always thought things like smoked beer, milk stouts and Belgian Fruit Lambics were only for those who had big beards and rode around on fixed gear bikes. It didn’t feel right buying them – I felt out of place and maybe a little intimidated by them.
However, after receiving a box of smoked beer for Christmas I have been getting more and more into these foreign, weird and intriguing styles of beer. I feel bad turning my back on Bud Light and Coors behind since they have been my best pals over the weekend since the mid 1970’s.
During my ‘research’ I have been pleasantly surprised and a whole new world has opened up to me.
Since smoked beer was the first ‘trendy’ beers I was introduced to it only feels right to start off with it in this series of beer related posts.
What is Smoked Beer?
I am glad you asked, smoked beer is beer made from malted barley dried over an open flame. This method of brewing beer go back to the 16th and 17th centuries where it was just easier (and about the only way) to dry and malt barley over a flame.
How is Smoked Beer Made?
Smoked beer is traditionally made by using malted barley that has been dried over an open wood fire or flame. Now dayd you can use a pellet smoker, electric smoker or even a natural gas smoker to achieve the same smoked flavor.
The Different Kinds of Smoked Beer
As you can imagine there are a lot of different smoked beers out there. But what are the best types of beer to smoke?
Honestly, that all comes down to personal preference, or the preference of the brewer who is making it. This is because the smoky part come from the beer comes from the malted barley and every beer has barley in one way or another. Some of the most popular smoked beers include:
- Marzen/ Oktoberfest
- Balti Porter
- Red Ale
- You get the idea right?
Where Can I buy Smoked Beer?
Smoked beer is most popular in Germany where two of the original breweries still make it the old fashioned way. These breweries are located in the small town of Bamburg Germany. The two breweries are called Schlenkerla and Spezial.
However, here in the States and throughout the rest of the beer drinking world smoked beer is becoming more and more popular. Now days you can can it at almost any liquor store or your favourite brewery (if not they probably have something in the works).
If you can’t find anywhere local (and you don’t want to fly to Germany), don’t stress. There are plenty online retailers and breweries that deliver!
How To Smoke Beer At Home
If you are an at home brewer, you are in luck! You can smoke your own beer. As mentioned above you can have any style of smoked beer – so in the recipe below I will only be outlining the steps on how to smoke your own barley for making smoked beer. If you need a beer recipe – let me know in the comments and I will update this post to include a beer recipe too!
Depending on what type of beer you are going to be brewing will change which type of wood you will be using for the smoke.
In general, Beechwood and Cherrywood are the most common and more traditional woods to use – however, I would recommend any lighter more fruity woods for the best results. Pear
If you are using woods such as Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Pecan or Walnut just keep in mind these are a stronger wood and will give off much more flavour. I would advise to mix one of these woods with a lighter, more fruity wood.
But at the end of the day just give it a go and experiment with what ever you can get your hands on.
When it comes to the actual smoking I would recommend using a gas or electric style smoker. This is because the malt is smoked at a low temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and gas or electricity is easier to maintain a low temperature with.
– Anyway on to smoking the malt!
Smoked Malt Recipe (for brewing beer with)
- Mesh bag
- Spray bottle full of water
- wood / wood chips
- Malt a light malt so it absorbs more smoke flavor
- Prepare your smoker as per your manufacturers instructions for cold smoking. You want to pre heat your smoker for 120° F.
- Soak your malt for 5 – 10 minutes then drain to moisten. If you have a fine mesh bag to hang in your smoker I would recommend using this. This will allow you to move the malt around evenly throughout the smoke so every grain is evenly flavored.
- Once your smoker has pre heated and you have a nice clean smoke add in your malt.
- Smoking should take around 4 hours. Throughout the smoke you want to keep your malt moist, so every half hour or so check and if it needs moistening spray with your water spray bottle.