Sharing my hard work in learning about, brewing and even drinking beer.

I am a beer nerd, homebrewer and hopefully future beer competion judge. I am working my way through sampling, learning about and hopefully brewing all eighty current BJCP beer styles. It's hard work, but somebody has to do it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Where there's smoke...

I am a fairly low-tech brewer. I have no means of controlling my fermentation temperatures, so I have to rely on the weather. So, like most traditional European brewers, I brew in the winter. Since my basement is about 50 degrees in the winter, I thought I'd attempt a lager. Inspired by 'Brewing Classic Styles' I decided to try a rauchbier, even though I'd only tried the style once, at the East End Brewery. If you think that homebrewing is a test of patience, try brewing a lager. 3-4 weeks of fermentation, then 4-6 weeks of lagering.

Rauchbier, for the uninitiated, is a smoke-flavored beer. This is obtained by using malts that are dried over a fire, usually beechwood.

As you might imagine, this is a full-flavored beer, and I thought that it would be perfect for grilling season. It is also very difficult to find a commercial example of the style. However, I was able to find THE classic in Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer Urbock at Beer Nutz on Freeport Rd. in Fox Chapel. According to the label, Schlenkerla uses all smoked malts in this beer and it is quite evident. On first opening this beer there is a strong smoked-meat aroma, almost like bacon. The smoke flavor is not as strong as the aroma, but it is certainly the focus. Imagine drinking a nice, malty bock beside a campfire while eating a slightly burnt hot dog.

My rauchbier was much less smoky as the recipe in 'Brewing Classic Styles' only called for a third of the malt to be smoked. The smoked malt is readily available at homebrew stores or online. The beer had a nice lager crispness to it and smokiness, but I would prefer more of both.


and the drinking's easy. At least it should be.

Summer, however, does not come easily here in the 'Burgh. It rained almost every day in April and, May was not much better until about the last week. To celebrate finally getting a few nice days, I decided to explore some traditionally 'summer' styles. First up was American wheat (or rye) beer, which the BJCP style guidelines describe as a "refreshing wheat (or rye) beer that can display more hop character and less yeast character than their German cousins."

This is a bottle-conditioned beer, which I hadn't realized. I poured most of the beer into my Sam Adam's glass, and (unintentionally) left a bit in the bottle. About 3/4 of the way through I poured the rest in to discover that it was mostly yeast. Surprise! The added yeast mellowed the sweetness of the beer, and did not detract from the taste.

This beer is remarkably easy drinking for a beer that clocks in at almost 6% alcohol. It has a smooth body with a slightly sweet flavor with a hint of a honey flavor. The aroma is floral and herbal. The biggest thing that I noticed is that this beer was not as tart or astringent as wheat beers can sometimes be.

Overall, if you have a generous budget and want to throw a kicking summer party, this would definitely be a beer that I would recommend.