Rauchbier (with Home-Smoked Malt)

Probably properly pronounced “roushbeer”, this is a style I don’t see around that often. I think one reason is it’s hard to make commercially, or rather a hassle, but the other reason is smoke in beer can turn people off. I personally love it. It reminds me of eating while I’m drinking…basically the best combo one could imagine. But I can also understand why someone would hate it…sorta.

Rauchbier is a German smokey beer, which literally means “smoke beer” in German. Borrowing from Wikipedia as to why it’s smokey: “Prior to the modern era, drying malted barley in direct sunlight was used in addition to drying over flames. 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.

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.”

The classic smoke flavor would be beachwood, which for some Rauchbier’s I’ve had almost impart a bacon sort of flavor. I’m however not a smoke connoisseur, so to me most smoke flavor will taste the same. For this recipe I used mesquite wood chips (thought they were hickory until after I used them) and mesquite charcoal. Mesquite can impart a pretty strong smoke flavor, so doubling down on it isn’t ideal.

Here is how I smoked a portion of my malt:

1. Soaked a few handfuls of wood chips for 15 minutes in water (the longer the better).
2. Pulled 1/3 of the grist and put it into my hop strainer.
3. Lit the coals and put them to one side, and put the grains to the other side.
4. Added the soaked chips to the coals.
5. Covered the grill and let the grains smoke for about 20-30 minutes (dabbing and stirring them occasionally with water and opening the grill so it wouldn’t get too hot).

Last time I used a 1/3 of the grain bill, I thought the smoke level was right for my liking, which is pretty strong. If one wants less I’d say use closer to 1/4 or less of the grist. I also recommend using a proper cold smoker as the heat can sometimes denature the enzymes if it gets too hot for too long. I don’t have one, so there’s that.

I will note that my OG was too low for the proper style (which was 1.046, but according to the BJCP it should be no lower than 1.050). So this is more of a session-ish Rauchbier.

Here is a video of the brew day if one feels so inclined:

Recipe:

Batch Size: 1 Gallon
OG: 1.046 (Whoops)
SRM: 15
Est ABV: 4.5%-ish
IBU: 25
Boil Time: 60 Min

Malt:
1.75 lbs (73.5%) – 2-Row
5.0 oz (13.4%) – Melanoiden Malt
3.0 oz (8%) – Acid Malt
1.0 oz (2.5%) – English 77
0.5 oz (1.3%) – Carafa III
0.5 oz (1.3%) – Special B

Mash:
60 Min @ 153F

Hops:
.15 oz Perle (8.5% AA) @ 60 Min

Yeast:
WLP029 German Ale/Kolsch

Here’s what went down:

Brewed 1/21/17

I didn’t treat the water with anything.

1/23/17: Good fermentation.

IMG_0230

1/29/17: Gravity at 1.010.

2/18/17: This fucker got contaminated. I haven’t had a contamination in the 4+ years I’ve been brewing. It’s not even a “good contamination”. It’s all solventy and weird tasting. Does it matter that the smoke flavor is spot on?

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