• 22. Smoke-Flavored and Wood-Aged Beer


    1. 22A. Classic Rauchbier
    2. 22B. Other Smoked Beer
    3. 22C. Wood-Aged Beer

    22A. Classic Rauchbier

    Aroma: Blend of smoke and malt, with a varying balance and intensity. The beechwood smoke character can range from subtle to fairly strong, and can seem smoky, bacon-like, woody, or rarely almost greasy. The malt character can be low to moderate, and be somewhat sweet, toasty, or malty. The malt and smoke components are often inversely proportional (i.e. when smoke increases, malt decreases, and vice versa). Hop aroma may be very low to none. Clean, lager character with no fruity esters, diacetyl or DMS.

    Appearance: This should be a very clear beer, with a large, creamy, rich, tan- to cream-colored head. Deep amber/light copper to dark brown color.

    Flavor: Generally follows the aroma profile, with a blend of smoke and malt in varying balance and intensity, yet always complementary. Märzen-like qualities should be noticeable, particularly a malty, toasty richness, but the beechwood smoke flavor can be low to high. The palate can be somewhat malty and sweet, yet the finish can reflect both malt and smoke. Moderate, balanced, hop bitterness, with a medium-dry to dry finish (the smoke character enhances the dryness of the finish). Noble hop flavor moderate to none. Clean lager character with no fruity esters, diacetyl or DMS. Harsh, bitter, burnt, charred, rubbery, sulfury or phenolic smoky characteristics are inappropriate.

    Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium to medium-high carbonation. Smooth lager character. Significant astringent, phenolic harshness is inappropriate.

    Overall Impression: Märzen/Oktoberfest-style (see Oktoberfest) beer with a sweet, smoky aroma and flavor and a somewhat darker color.

    History: A historical specialty of the city of Bamberg, in the Franconian region of Bavaria in Germany. Beechwood-smoked malt is used to make a Märzen-style amber lager. The smoke character of the malt varies by maltster; some breweries produce their own smoked malt (rauchmalz).

    Comments: The intensity of smoke character can vary widely; not all examples are highly smoked. Allow for variation in the style when judging. Other examples of smoked beers are available in Germany, such as the Bocks, Hefe-Weizen, Dunkel, Schwarz, and Helles-like beers, including examples such as Spezial Lager. Brewers entering these styles should use Other Smoked Beer as the entry category.

    Ingredients: German Rauchmalz (beechwood-smoked Vienna-type malt) typically makes up 20-100% of the grain bill, with the remainder being German malts typically used in a Märzen. Some breweries adjust the color slightly with a bit of roasted malt. German lager yeast. German or Czech hops.

    Vital Statistics:
    1.050 - 1.056 1.012 - 1.016 20 - 30 14 - 22+ 4.8 - 6%

    Commercial Examples: Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, Kaiserdom Rauchbier

    22B. Other Smoked Beer

    Aroma: The aroma should be a pleasant balance between the expected aroma of the base beer (e.g., robust porter) and the smokiness imparted by the use of smoked malts. The intensity and character of the smoke and base beer style can vary, with either being prominent in the balance. Smokiness may vary from low to assertive; however, balance in the overall presentation is the key to well-made examples. The quality and secondary characteristics of the smoke are reflective of the source of the smoke (e.g., peat, alder, oak, beechwood). Sharp, phenolic, harsh, rubbery, or burnt smoke-derived aromatics are inappropriate.

    Appearance: Variable. The appearance should reflect the base beer style, although the color of the beer is often a bit darker than the plain base style.

    Flavor: As with aroma, there should be a balance between smokiness and the expected flavor characteristics of the base beer style. Smokiness may vary from low to assertive. Smoky flavors may range from woody to somewhat bacon-like depending on the type of malts used. Peat-smoked malt can add an earthiness. The balance of underlying beer characteristics and smoke can vary, although the resulting blend should be somewhat balanced and enjoyable. Smoke can add some dryness to the finish. Harsh, bitter, burnt, charred, rubbery, sulfury or phenolic smoky characteristics are generally inappropriate (although some of these characteristics may be present in some base styles; however, the smoked malt shouldn't contribute these flavors).

    Mouthfeel: Varies with the base beer style. Significant astringent, phenolic smoke-derived harshness is inappropriate.

    Overall Impression: This is any beer that is exhibiting smoke as a principle flavor and aroma characteristic other than the Bamberg-style Rauchbier (i.e. beechwood-smoked Märzen). Balance in the use of smoke, hops and malt character is exhibited by the better examples.

    History: The process of using smoked malts more recently has been adapted by craft brewers to other styles, notably porter and strong Scotch ales. German brewers have traditionally used smoked malts in bock, doppelbock, weizen, dunkel, schwarzbier, helles, pilsner, and other specialty styles.

    Comments: Any style of beer can be smoked; the goal is to reach a pleasant balance between the smoke character and the base beer style. IF THIS BEER IS BASED ON A CLASSIC STYLE (E.G., ROBUST PORTER) THEN THE SPECIFIC STYLE MUST BE SPECIFIED. CLASSIC STYLES DO NOT HAVE TO BE CITED (E.G., "PORTER" OR "BROWN ALE" IS ACCEPTABLE). THE TYPE OF WOOD OR OTHER SOURCE OF SMOKE MUST BE SPECIFIED IF A "VARIETAL" CHARACTER IS NOTICEABLE. Entries that have a classic style cited will be judged on how well that style is represented, and how well it is balanced with the smoke character. Entries with a specific type or types of smoke cited will be judged on how well that type of smoke is recognizable and marries with the base style. Specific classic styles or smoke types do not have to be specified. For example, "smoked porter" is as acceptable as "peat-smoked strong Scotch ale" or "cherry-wood smoked IPA". Judges should evaluate the beers mostly on the overall balance, and how well the smoke character enhances the base beer.

    Ingredients: Different materials used to smoke malt result in unique flavor and aroma characteristics. Beechwood-, peat- or other hardwood (oak, maple, mesquite, alder, pecan, apple, cherry, other fruitwoods) smoked malts may be used. The various woods may remind one of certain smoked products due to their food association (e.g., hickory with ribs, maple with bacon or sausage, and alder with salmon). Evergreen wood should never be used since it adds a medicinal, piney flavor to the malt. Excessive peat-smoked malt is generally undesirable due to its sharp, piercing phenolics and dirt-like earthiness. The remaining ingredients vary with the base style. If smoked malts are combined with other unusual ingredients (fruits, vegetables, spices, honey, etc.) in noticeable quantities, the resulting beer should be entered in the specialty/experimental category.

    Vital Statistics:
    - - - - -
    Varies with the base beer style.

    Commercial Examples: Alaskan Smoked Porter, Spezial Rauchbier, Stone Smoked Porter, Schlenkerla Weizen Rauchbier, Schlenkerla Ur-Bock Rauchbier, Rogue Smoke, Arcadia London Porter, DeGroen's Rauchbock

    22C. Wood-Aged Beer

    Aroma: Varies with base style. A low to moderate wood- or oak-based aroma is usually present. Fresh wood can occasionally impart raw "green" aromatics, although this character should never be too strong. Other optional aromatics include a low to moderate vanilla, caramel, toffee, toast, or cocoa character, as well as any aromatics associated with alcohol previously stored in the wood (if any). Any alcohol character should be smooth and balanced, not hot. Some background oxidation character is optional, and can take on a pleasant, sherry-like character and not be papery or cardboard-like.

    Appearance: Varies with base style. Often darker than the unadulterated base beer style, particularly if toasted/charred oak and/or whiskey/bourbon barrels are used.

    Flavor: Varies with base style. Wood usually contributes a woody or oaky flavor, which can occasionally take on a raw "green" flavor if new wood is used. Other flavors that may optionally be present include vanilla (from vanillin in the wood); caramel, butterscotch, toasted bread or almonds (from toasted wood); coffee, chocolate, cocoa (from charred wood or bourbon casks); and alcohol flavors from other products previously stored in the wood (if any). The wood and/or other cask-derived flavors should be balanced, supportive and noticeable, but should not overpower the base beer style. Occasionally there may be an optional lactic or acetic tartness or Brett funkiness in the beer, but this should not be higher than a background flavor (if present at all). Some background oxidation character is optional, although this should take on a pleasant, sherry-like character and not be papery or cardboard-like.

    Mouthfeel: Varies with base style. Often fuller than the unadulterated base beer, and may exhibit additional alcohol warming if wood has previously been in contact with other alcoholic products. Higher alcohol levels should not result in "hot" beers; aged, smooth flavors are most desirable. Wood can also add tannins to the beer, depending on age of the cask. The tannins can lead to additional astringency (which should never be high), or simply a fuller mouthfeel. Tart or acidic characteristics should be low to none.

    Overall Impression: A harmonious blend of the base beer style with characteristics from aging in contact with wood (including any alcoholic products previously in contact with the wood). The best examples will be smooth, flavorful, well-balanced and well-aged. Beers made using either limited wood aging or products that only provide a subtle background character may be entered in the base beer style categories as long as the wood character isn't prominently featured.

    History: A traditional production method that is rarely used by major breweries, and usually only with specialty products. Becoming more popular with modern American craft breweries looking for new, distinctive products. Oak cask and barrels are traditional, although other woods can be used.

    Comments: The base beer style should be apparent. The wood-based character should be evident, but not so dominant as to unbalance the beer. The intensity of the wood-based flavors is based on the contact time with the wood; the age, condition, and previous usage of the barrel; and the type of wood. Any additional alcoholic products previously stored in the wood should be evident (if declared as part of the entry), but should not be so dominant as to unbalance the beer. IF THIS BEER IS BASED ON A CLASSIC STYLE (E.G., ROBUST PORTER) THEN THE SPECIFIC STYLE MUST BE SPECIFIED. CLASSIC STYLES DO NOT HAVE TO BE CITED (E.G., "PORTER" OR "BROWN ALE" IS ACCEPTABLE). THE TYPE OF WOOD MUST BE SPECIFIED IF A "VARIETAL" CHARACTER IS NOTICEABLE. (e.g., English IPA with Oak Chips, Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, American Barleywine in an Oak Whiskey Cask). The brewer should specify any unusual ingredients in either the base style or the wood if those characteristics are noticeable. Specialty or experimental base beer styles may be specified, as long as the other specialty ingredients are identified.

    Ingredients: Varies with base style. Aged in wooden casks or barrels (often previously used to store whiskey, bourbon, port, sherry, Madeira, or wine), or using wood-based additives (wood chips, wood staves, oak essence). Fuller-bodied, higher-gravity base styles often are used since they can best stand up to the additional flavors, although experimentation is encouraged.

    Vital Statistics:
    - - - - -
    All stats vary with base style. OG and ABV is typically above-average. SRM is often darker than the unadulterated base style.

    Commercial Examples: J.W. Lees Harvest Ale in Port, Sherry, Lagavulin Whisky or Calvados Casks, Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, New Holland Dragons Milk, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, MacTarnahan's Oak-Aged IPA, Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout, Greene King Olde Suffolk Ale, Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Special Reserve, many microbreweries have specialty beers served only on premises often directly from the cask.