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Make Your Best Rauchbier

The Rauchbier is a smoky style of lager that has some surprising ingredients. Longtime homebrewer Josh Weikert walks you through the steps to make your best.

Josh Weikert Mar 12, 2017 - 7 min read

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Too many brewers live in fear of smoked malt. They say to themselves and each other, “Rauchbiers are great! But don’t go overboard on the smoke. Who wants to drink a beer that tastes like sausage?”

First, the answer to that question is, “Um, almost everyone.” Second, and more importantly, “going overboard on smoke” doesn’t really mean what people think it does. It isn’t necessarily about how much smoked malt you use—it’s the variety you use. If you’re making a Rauchbier, jump in with both feet and ensure that you’re getting a clear and un-muddied smoky character.


Rauchbier (German for “smoke beer”) is something of a retronym. Lots of beer used to be smoked beer since a wide range of malts were kilned (dried) over wood-fueled fires. The advent in the eighteenth century of relatively smokeless kilning (thanks to coal-fired kilns and better ventilation) meant that malt could be kiln-dried without also being smoked, and that’s how we have the smoke-free beers of today. Some—particularly in Bamberg, Germany—decided they actually liked those smoke-filled beers, and thus, the Rauchbier survived. Today, it’s a fairly common craft and homebrewed beer style and is generally considered a smoked version of the Oktoberfest or Märzen styles. This is a malt-driven German lager, characterized by its distinctive smoked flavor and aroma, which can range from subtle to prominent.

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