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Smoking Is Cool: The Unique Allure of Rauchbier

It’s one of the beer world’s great flavor combinations: malt in harmony with the primal appeal of smoke, coolly and cleanly fermented. Best of all, brewing a great smoked lager isn’t all that difficult—as long as you know your malt.

Josh Weikert Sep 26, 2022 - 14 min read

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Of all the myriad forms of lager, the one I always order when I see it on a tap list is rauchbier. Why? Because, for all the reasons that beer pairs well with grilled, roasted, and smoked meats and cheeses, beer ingredients pair beautifully with smoke as a flavor in the beer itself.

Whether it’s grain, honey, nuts, toffee, raisin, or chocolate flavors from the malts, or floral and earthy notes from the hops—all these and more are perfect complements to smoke, with the potential to become something greater than the sum of their parts.

These days there is another dimension to the fun of combining these flavors: A wider range of smoke flavors is now available to work into your beer. Back in the long-ago days of 2007—when I started homebrewing—we were just starting to see decent smoked malt hit the shelves, and it was still obligatory for recipe writers and homebrew-shop staff to warn us away from peat-smoked malt and (shudder) Liquid Smoke. Nowadays, you can tune your smoke to harmonize with your beer in the same way that pitmasters adjust their wood for their chosen meats.

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