Review: Three Smoky Beers (partly from Whisky Barley)

Many of us love the smoky taste in whisky, which, simply put, is distilled from smoky beer. However, when we think of smoky beer, there is not much reference – or a highly unusual one with the famous Schlenkerla from Bamberg, which tastes a bit awkward, heavy and simple at first. Today I would like to introduce you to three smoky beers that rock. I am proud to have co-worked on one of them, the Murder Malt for the ‚Braukunst live‘-Festival in Munich 2012, where many independent brewers presented their gold. You should go there and enjoy this universe of beer next year!


Rittmayer Hallerndorf ‚Rauchbier‘, 4,9% (European Beer Star Gold Award 2007, 2008 and 2009)

Comment: Lager-like with fine sweet malt, some lighter barley aromas, whiffs of lemon, dark toast, chestnuts, smoked ham, cereals, caramel and sugared almonds, suede, slightly more acidic than the others. Aromatic smoke with wonderful wood notes (cedar, sandalwood and loads of beech, which is traditional in Frankonia) hovers over the combo, used in small amounts. In the mouth it has a fine balance between beer aromas and the soft discrete smoke and is very moreish and quaffable, also easily accessible. Elegant, fresh and clean smoke for everyone, so to speak, yet complex enough for the connoisseur. The ideal starter into the world of smoky beer.

Score: 91 (this is right down my alley)


Rittmayer – Hallerndorf  ‚Smokey George‘ aus orig. schottischem Whisky-Rauchmalz, 5,0%

Comment: The producer (same as above) is an ardent fan of smoky Single Malts and a member of the Highland Circle. This beer can be a testimony of that. Darker but still in a lager-like area, quite yeasty in comparison, clearly malt-driven. Discretely sour, earthy-peaty and oily (this is the dark and dirty one of the three), pretzel dough, burnt caramel, walnuts, old couch leather, the most phenolic of the three. You can actually smell the whisky barley it is made from. Just like sitting inside a field – this is the leading theme here. Dark and big aromas of malt roll over the tongue in creamy fashion, whisky malt, oil and resin coat the mouth, like hanging on the exhaustion pipe of a Harley. This is a big one with a little sour and dry side kick. The finish is soothing and moves the whole experience into harmony. One for rough Islay fans.

Score: 90 (really good and complex – great stuff if you are into this profile)


Helios-Braustelle/Freigeist Bierkultur ‚Mac Heath’s Murder Malt – Cal. 45‘, 6%

Comment: This was the official Festival Beer of the ‚Braukunst live!’2012. Our plan was to connect the worlds of beer and whisky, just like the two Munich Festivals did connect . But it was hard to get peated malt within a short frame of time, but we did it. This rare beer has a stout base, it is the sourest of the three. Brewed by my friend Sebastian Sauer at Braustelle, this surely is complex: Dark whole grain bread, traces of banana, only little smoke or phenols in the nose though. Fatty acid, some yeast, scorched earth, tar and whiffs of resin. I love how two worlds collide here: the dark aromas and the exotic fruit, quite mindboggling and intellectual. It also is the most demanding beer in this comparison with a dry, slightly adstringent and sour touch that is not for beginners. Belgian sour-bitter reminiscences come up in some moments, also dark coffee, oak and 100% cacao chocolate. Medium intensity and weight, long finish with whiffs of smoke and tar.

Score: 87 (lovers of this style might score it higher)

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