Ellenville's Number 1 Trip Advisor Restaurant!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smoke beer gains fans with unique, odd flavor

Smoke beer gains fans with unique, odd flavor

By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer

As Joe Kearns lifted the glass to his nose, he liked what he smelled.

Christmas ham.

It was his first sip of smoke beer. And he was hooked.

''It was liquid smoked meat,'' said Kearns, an assistant brewer at Hoppin' Frog Brewery in Akron. ''It was so smooth. That's what got me.''

Not everyone's reaction is the same.

Mike Krajewski had an instant dislike to his first taste many years ago. Too smoky.

''I like to have campfires, but I wasn't sure I wanted to drink one,'' said Krajewski, a homebrewer from North Ridgeville.

So it goes for rauchbier, also known as smoke beer — a style once described by the late Michael Jackson, the renowned beer writer, as a ''strange brew.''

Even with the explosion of craft and imported beer in the U.S., the smoke style remains an oddity.

Aside from Alaskan Smoked Porter, Rogue Smoke Ale, Stone Smoked Porter and Schlenkerla, commercial smoke beers can be elusive. (Alaskan Smoked Porter, the U.S. pioneer of smoke beer and one of the winningest beers at the Great American Beer Festival, isn't even available in Northeast Ohio.)

That's because smoke beers aren't for everybody, especially with the majority of U.S. beer drinkers still guzzling yellow American-style lagers with little or no flavor.

What is smoke beer?

Smoke beer is made by exposing malted grains to heavy smoke.

In the case of Schlenkerla in Bamberg, Germany, beechwood logs are burned. The Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau uses local alder wood.

The malt absorbs the smoky flavor and that is passed along in the beer. Beer historians figure that all beer was smoked at some point, since fire was used to dry grains.

For the average beer drinker, that flavor can be overwhelming.

There's definitely a smokiness. It just depends on your individual taste whether you think it's too much, not enough or just right.

Schlenkerla — which produces several varieties, including a marzen and urbock — doesn't taste like Stone, which doesn't taste like Rogue, which doesn't taste like the Alaskan.

No matter. For some people, smoke beer is like licking an ashtray.

''I've heard a lot worse,'' said Brett Joyce, president of Rogue Ales in Newport, Ore.

Those who produce smoke beer also have heard the term undrinkable.

Even so-called beer snobs can't agree on the style, with disparaging remarks posted alongside glowing reviews on the online site Ratebeer.com.

''With unique beers like these, the most important thing to do is to leave your preconceived notions at home or wherever you can leave them. Bury them,'' said Greg Koch, chief executive officer of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif.

Not popular

Rogue Smoke Ale happens to be the worst seller among the brewery's offerings. But it has a fervent, devoted following so there's no way the brewery would ever drop the beer, Joyce said.

''Nobody is going to leverage their brewery with a smoke ale,'' he said. ''It's one of those styles that if you love it, you really love it. It's not for most people.''

And that's just fine for brewers like Rogue and Stone, which have built national reputations for pushing niche beer into the mainstream.

''The popularity of a style is irrelevant,'' Koch said. ''Our job is to make what we think are great beers.''

His favorite beer-tasting experience, he said, involved sitting around a friend's house talking about life, eating cheese and sampling several years' worth of aged Alaskan Smoked Porter.

''When you're in the mood for something like that, there's no other replacement,'' Koch said.

Local smokes

Ohio Brewing Co., the downtown Akron brewpub, had a smoked Scotch ale as a seasonal draft for a while last year.

''It was one of the more popular beers and went faster than I thought it would,'' brewmaster Chris Verich said. ''There were some people who absolutely loved it and it's the only one they would drink.''

The beer will make a reappearance because of its popularity, he said.

And Hoppin' Frog will soon join Stone and Rogue this year in producing a 22-ounce bottled rauchbier.

Kearns, an assistant brewer there, and head brewer Fred Karm are working on test batches for an imperial smoked porter that may hit store shelves in about three months.

It's a job that Kearns relishes.

''I've been on the pursuit for the perfect rauchbier ever since [that first taste],'' he said.

And now he's helping create it.

Meanwhile, Krajewski, the homebrewer, avoided smoke beer for years. Even after giving it a second try, he still didn't get it.

But his attitude changed as he started smoking his own meats and pairing the beer with smoked food. Now he enjoys it.

Krajewski's advice for others trying smoke beer for the first time?

''Give it a chance. Put aside the smokiness for a moment and appreciate the beer underneath,'' he said.


Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.

Smoke beer once called a "strange brew" by the late beer writer Michael Jackson remains an oddity today even with the explosion of craft and imported beers in the United States. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal Illustration) (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL)

As Joe Kearns lifted the glass to his nose, he liked what he smelled.

Christmas ham.

It was his first sip of smoke beer. And he was hooked.

''It was liquid smoked meat,'' said Kearns, an assistant brewer at Hoppin' Frog Brewery in Akron. ''It was so smooth. That's what got me.''

Not everyone's reaction is the same.

Mike Krajewski had an instant dislike to his first taste many years ago. Too smoky.

''I like to have campfires, but I wasn't sure I wanted to drink one,'' said Krajewski, a homebrewer from North Ridgeville.

So it goes for rauchbier, also known as smoke beer — a style once described by the late Michael Jackson, the renowned beer writer, as a ''strange brew.''

Even with the explosion of craft and imported beer in the U.S., the smoke style remains an oddity.

Aside from Alaskan Smoked Porter, Rogue Smoke Ale, Stone Smoked Porter and Schlenkerla, commercial smoke beers can be elusive. (Alaskan Smoked Porter, the U.S. pioneer of smoke beer and one of the winningest beers at the Great American Beer Festival, isn't even available in Northeast Ohio.)

That's because smoke beers aren't for everybody, especially with the majority of U.S. beer drinkers still guzzling yellow American-style lagers with little or no flavor.

What is smoke beer?

Smoke beer is made by exposing malted grains to heavy smoke.

In the case of Schlenkerla in Bamberg, Germany, beechwood logs are burned. The Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau uses local alder wood.

The malt absorbs the smoky flavor and that is passed along in the beer. Beer historians figure that all beer was smoked at some point, since fire was used to dry grains.

For the average beer drinker, that flavor can be overwhelming.

There's definitely a smokiness. It just depends on your individual taste whether you think it's too much, not enough or just right.

Schlenkerla — which produces several varieties, including a marzen and urbock — doesn't taste like Stone, which doesn't taste like Rogue, which doesn't taste like the Alaskan.

No matter. For some people, smoke beer is like licking an ashtray.

''I've heard a lot worse,'' said Brett Joyce, president of Rogue Ales in Newport, Ore.

Those who produce smoke beer also have heard the term undrinkable.

Even so-called beer snobs can't agree on the style, with disparaging remarks posted alongside glowing reviews on the online site Ratebeer.com.

''With unique beers like these, the most important thing to do is to leave your preconceived notions at home or wherever you can leave them. Bury them,'' said Greg Koch, chief executive officer of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif.

Not popular

Rogue Smoke Ale happens to be the worst seller among the brewery's offerings. But it has a fervent, devoted following so there's no way the brewery would ever drop the beer, Joyce said.

''Nobody is going to leverage their brewery with a smoke ale,'' he said. ''It's one of those styles that if you love it, you really love it. It's not for most people.''

And that's just fine for brewers like Rogue and Stone, which have built national reputations for pushing niche beer into the mainstream.

''The popularity of a style is irrelevant,'' Koch said. ''Our job is to make what we think are great beers.''

His favorite beer-tasting experience, he said, involved sitting around a friend's house talking about life, eating cheese and sampling several years' worth of aged Alaskan Smoked Porter.

''When you're in the mood for something like that, there's no other replacement,'' Koch said.

Local smokes

Ohio Brewing Co., the downtown Akron brewpub, had a smoked Scotch ale as a seasonal draft for a while last year.

''It was one of the more popular beers and went faster than I thought it would,'' brewmaster Chris Verich said. ''There were some people who absolutely loved it and it's the only one they would drink.''

The beer will make a reappearance because of its popularity, he said.

And Hoppin' Frog will soon join Stone and Rogue this year in producing a 22-ounce bottled rauchbier.

Kearns, an assistant brewer there, and head brewer Fred Karm are working on test batches for an imperial smoked porter that may hit store shelves in about three months.

It's a job that Kearns relishes.

''I've been on the pursuit for the perfect rauchbier ever since [that first taste],'' he said.

And now he's helping create it.

Meanwhile, Krajewski, the homebrewer, avoided smoke beer for years. Even after giving it a second try, he still didn't get it.

But his attitude changed as he started smoking his own meats and pairing the beer with smoked food. Now he enjoys it.

Krajewski's advice for others trying smoke beer for the first time?

''Give it a chance. Put aside the smokiness for a moment and appreciate the beer underneath,'' he said.


Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.

_________________________________________________________________

I have seen lots of smoked Porters hitting the market. The concept is great. Everyone I have tasted has been great. Especially right now in the middle of the winter. Aroma Thyme Bistro, Ellenville NY, offers the Stone Smoked Porter.

Aroma Thyme Bistro offers over 150 craft beers.

No comments:

We would never expect you to eat this shrimp, nor do we serve farmed Asian shrimp

One Awesome Blender

There was an error in this gadget