Tasting a few Smoky Beers

Smoky BeersThis week we got two new smoky beers in: Weird Beard Boring Brown Ardbeg Barrel Aged Imperial Bitter (longest name ever) and Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude. This got us thinking: why don’t we do a tasting of peat influenced beers?

This week we got two new smoky beers in: Weird Beard Boring Brown Ardbeg Barrel Aged Imperial Bitter (longest name ever) and Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude. This got us thinking: why don’t we do a tasting of peat influenced beers?

We added the Fynebank, as it is one of our favourite smoky beers, and it fits quite nicely into this tasting.

Why these three beers are interesting in a tasting

While it isn’t a perfect experiment, it is interesting to compare these beers for a couple of reasons:

  1. The Fynebank is brewed with 10% lightly peated barley while the Rex Attitude is brewed with 100% heavily peated barley. We wondered how noticeable the difference would be.
  2. The Weird Beard doesn’t contain peated barley, but was matured in an Ardbeg smoky whisky cask. We wondered how this smoke from the cask would come across on the beer, and how it would compare to the two beers brewed with peated barley.

Results:

  1. On the nose, the Fynebank and Rex Attitude were not that far apart, but on the palate, the Fynebank has a touch of smoke, whereas the Rex is a breath-taking smoky, peaty, mucky beast. This tallies with our experience of smoky whiskies, in the sense that often highly peated single malts don’t betray their intense phenolic nature until you taste them. It seems the nose finds it difficult to distinguish ‘peaty’ from ‘very peaty’, but the tongue easily senses the difference.
  2. The Weird Beard has more smoke on the nose, and more iodine notes through the nose and palate. The Weird Beard has smoked meat notes, whereas the other two do not. Interestingly, if we didn’t know it was matured in an Ardbeg cask, we would have guessed a Laphroaig cask maturation, due to those iodine notes.

Check out our tasting notes below:

WeirdBeardBoringBrownBeerArdbeg

Weird Beard Boring Brown Beer
Ardbeg Barrel Aged Imperial Bitter
8.2%. Buy it here while you can

Nose: Black Forest smoked ham, spicy pepper notes, dark chocolate notes and honey with a dash of peat reek (almost like a Laphroaig iodine note).

Palate: Peppery, with bacon and more of that smoked ham note, chips with lots of salt, onions and a peaty note at the finish.

Overall: Weird Beard are one of the more exciting London brewers, and this imperial bitter shows off the quality of the bitter as well as the smoke from the cask. Less beastly than the Rex on the palate, but still a smoky beast.

FyneBank

Fyne Ales & Springbank FyneBank
Peat Smoked Golden Ale
10% Springbank Peated Malt (12-15 ppm), Pale Malt, Torrified Wheat 
4.6%, Buy it here

Nose: Wet barley notes, oily phenolic notes, slight whiff of the sea and the malting floor.

Palate: A lovey balanced palate, with a dash of smoke, a malty note and an oily note.

Overall: We tried this first out of the three, which was the best way to taste it, as this is a light, delicate balanced peat, and the other two are beasts. In comparison to the Rex, there is a noticeable difference between a proportion of peat, and completely peated barley.

Rex Attitude

Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude
Heavily Peated Golden Ale
100% Heavily Peated Baird’s Distilling Malt
7%, buy it here before it all sells out

Nose:  Smoky notes, with a mixture of vanilla, sweet notes and boggy, muddy, peaty smoke. Like the smell of the wash at Lagavulin. Smoky, but not as smoky as we were expecting.

Palate: Wow, this is a beast. Big, earthy, smoky, peaty, chocolaty, mucky. The nose held back ever so slightly, the palate really doesn’t.

Overall: Yeastie Boys are a great brewer from New Zealand. We like extreme flavours, and this delivers on its billing as an extreme beer. Whisky fans, buy this. Such a good beer for understanding smoky whisky.

It was really interesting to taste the difference between barley peating levels and the influence of residual peat. Next month, we will try some German smoked beers and perhaps a few whiskies too.

Drinkmonger

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