Homebrewing Info

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

How to Incorporate Smoke into Your Beer


A Brief History of Smoke

- Historically, smoking malt was the only way brewers could dry grains aside from drying malt in the sun. Kiln drying became more common starting in the 18th century and eventually took over nearly universally in the mid-19th century.

- Bamberg, Germany is one of the last vestiges of traditional Rauchbier, still home to the breweries Schlenkerla and Spezial which both produce a variety of smoke beers.

- Today a few breweries like Alaskan (Smoked Porter), Stone (Smoked Porter), and Chuckanut (Rauchbier) are redefining and rediscovering the possibilities of using smoked malt.


General Info about Smoked Beers

- The phenols in wood smoke are antioxidants so they act as preservatives, aiding the stability and longevity of the beer.

- Smoked character goes especially well with malty lagers (Munich Helles, Märzen/Oktoberfest, Bock, etc.), Scottish styles (using a touch of peated malt), and darker, richer ales such as porters.

- That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment with other styles though! Try blending a smoked beer with other styles to see how you like the result.

- Smoking your own malt opens a wide variety of wood options (apple, pecan, oak, hickory, mesquite, etc.)


Types of Smoke

- Wood-Smoked Grains

            - Beechwood-smoked (Classic Rauchmalt from Bamberg, Germany)

            - Alder-smoked (Alaskan Smoked Porter)

            - Cherrywood-smoked (Briess Specialty Malt)

            - All other varieties – DIY!

- Peat-Smoked Grains

            - Peat is a kind of turf that typically forms in wetlands.

- Peat fires can smolder undetected for years or even centuries. They also contribute significantly to worldwide carbon emissions.

- Many people have a natural aversion to peated character. Be cautious if you use it; start with 1-2% of the grist in a lighter beer and 3-4% of the grist in a darker beer and see how that treats you. That may still be too much for many people.

- Chile Peppers & Spices

            - Chipotle (smoke-dried jalepeño)

            - Smoked Paprika

            - Smoked Salt (Gose?)

- Liquid Smoke

- Be very cautious if you do use it. It can have a charcoal character and good results have not been reported.

How to Use Wood to Smoke Grains

- Prep

- Soak your wood and let it dry

- Rig up a screen or mesh tray that fits in your smoking device.

- Use a spray bottle and chlorine-free water to get the grains lightly damp (not wet). This prevents scorching and allows smoke character to absorb.

- Spread the grain out evenly, preferably less than an inch in depth.

- Smoke

- Use steady, even smoke that is not too hot (no flames or glowing coals).

- Turn the grains every 5-7 minutes for even distribution and absorption.

- Smoke for 15-25 minutes depending on intensity desired (generally shorter for lighter beers, longer for darker beers).

- Age

- Dry the grains in your oven on the lowest setting with the door cracked open

- Store the smoked grains in paper bag for 4-7 days; this lets the grains breath and off-gas undesirable characteristics.


Homebrewed Examples

- Grätzer (50% rauch; 4% ABV; Saaz)

- 33% Rauch (plus mixed grain bill)

- 100% Rauch (100% Beachwood)

- Chipotle Gruit (unhopped; various mulled and fresh spices including chipotle chile pepper and smoked paprika)


Commercial Examples

- Schlenkerla (Beechwood smoked)

- Left Hand Smoke Jumper?

- Alaskan Smoked Porter (?% alder-smoked)

- Hair of the Dog Adam (3.2% Peat)

- Rogue Chipotle Ale (with smoked chipotle chile peppers)



- BYO Magazine – http://www.byo.com/stories/beer-styles/article/indices/11-beer-styles/309-brewing-smoked-beers-tips-from-the-pros

- BYO Magazine – http://www.byo.com/stories/beer-styles/article/indices/11-beer-styles/863-hot-tips-for-making-great-smoked-beers

- Wikipedia (it’s never wrong!) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoked_beer

- HomeBrewTalk.com – various threads

- White Beer Travels - http://www.whitebeertravels.co.uk/schlenkerla.html