Beer writer Lew Bryson picked the topic for this month’s Beer-Blogging Session: Smoked Beers. Luckily, I didn’t even have to go get something special for this one. I have two smoked brews in the cellar at the moment.


The first brew in the basement fridge I’ll share with you is Weyerbacher Fireside. The label is charming and rustic. It promises to be a delightful glass of smokey, malty goodness.

The aroma is malty. There is a subtle hint of smoke, but it is minor next to the waves of tangy malts and caramel. The flavor is similar: rich in malt character with some graininess, some subtle pepper and fruit, and even more subtle smoke.

It’s tasty, but it’s not smokey enough. I recall one of my favorite smoked beers – Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock – and decide that Fireside is too timid. I want more in-your-face campfire from my smoked beers.

It is a good beer. It is slightly warming with alcohol, and has a nice malt profile that is rich and flavorful. But it is a disappointing smoked beer.

Next up… homebrew!

Hump’s Smoked Maple Stout

Now this is more like it! Admittedly, this too is a bit weak in the smoke department. Neither of these beers are the smoke bombs that you’d find from a beer whose label reads “Aecht Schlenkerla.” The Schlenkerla brews are the only commercial German Rauchbiers I’ve had, and the only ones I know are available in these parts (though I’ve recently read about Spezial and wonder if they’re available in Atlanta). I wonder if all authentic Bamberg rauchbrews are as smokey as these prodigal exports…

So the homebrew, which is on draft in the fridge at the moment, pours a deep black with a very thick, light tan head. The aroma is grainy with light notes of chocolate and smoke. The smoke flavor comes from some applewood-smoked British Pale Ale malt (6 ounces in a 5-gallon batch). The smokey quality to the beer was rich and full of life at first. It has smoothed out – almost too much.

The flavor is chocolatey and sweet (the base style is Sweet Stout, made with a fair portion of Grade B maple syrup). It is missing a roastiness and richness that I like in the style – back to the drawing board!

The smoke qualities are stronger than in Weyerbacher’s Fireside. Both beers get a thumbs up. Both beers need more. Fireside needs more smoke. Smoked Maple Stout is about right, but the underlying base beer could use some tweaking.