In Smoky Beers Part 1, we looked at a wave of new smoky beers that had been created using peat (the smoky fuel that is used to create smoky whisky) at different parts of the process. The idea was to see if we could notice the differences between each when we tasted them, and to see how extreme the differences were.
In Smoky Beers Part 2, we are going to taste two smoked beers that have been made in the traditional German way; both being smoked over beech wood. One is the classic Schlenkerla Marzen Rauchbier, the other is a new exciting version; Anspach & Hobday Smoked Brown. We were interested to try them, compare them, and see how they differ from peat smoked ales.
When you brew beer, the first part is to malt your barley by wetting it, tricking it into growing, which breaks the starch in the barley down into sugar. You then dry the barley before it has a chance to properly grow. To dry the barley, you need to heat it, and before hot air drying machines, they would have used smoke from wood fires or peat fires.
The first reference to Schlenkerla Beech smoked ale was in the 1405, which gives you an idea of how long they have been beech smoking malt to make beer. In Scotland, they would have peat smoked malt to make whisky (and probably beer too).
Peat vs Beech Wood
The main noticeable difference on nose and palate, is that beech wood smoked ales tend to be more meaty, with big honey ham notes, whereas the peat smoked ales we have tasted so far have had more iodine notes, oily notes and earthy notes. Some of the peaty ales in part one had a dash of meatiness, but it was tiny in comparison to these beech wood smoked ales.
Anspach & Hobday vs Schlenkerla Marzen Rauchbeir
To be honest, there wasn’t a clear winner. We found them both fascinating, complex ales with lots going on, but we are going to have to sit on the fence. They were both weird and tasty.
Brewed in Bamburg, Germany. Malt Smoked over Beech Wood Fire
Get it here for £3.15
Palate: Meaty notes, creamy notes, oily notes. If there was such a thing as a bacon and sponge cake, this would be a well done bacon and sponge cake.
Anspach & Hobday Smoked Brown
Brewed in London, England. Bamburg Beech Smoked Malt. Matured on Oak Chips
Get it here for £3.25
Palate: Meaty gravy, raisins, a slight rubbery note, honeycomb notes. It’s got richness and complexity.
If you have any suggestions for smoky beers we should taste, let us know. We are always keen to try new beers.