What's burning? Smoked beer from Maine


It's been a pleasure sampling super dark beers, loyal reader. But my palate needs a break from the dark side, so I'm making a momentary detour into an uncommon style: smoked beers.


Long ago, most malts were dried with burning coal, wood, or peat, each of which imparted a unique smokey aroma to the beer. These days, maltsters use kilns to dry malt, which don't impart a smoked flavor. Smokiness is a choice, and brewers have to go out of their way to add smoked flavors. Depending on the length of time malts are smoked, and what woods are used, smoked beers can range from slightly toasted, to full-on liquid bacon! These beers shine when they're paired with savory proteins of all kinds — meats, cheeses, and of course, smoked barbecue. Cheers!


Hidden Cove Brewing Knave Smoked Porter

FormatSampled: 550 ml corked bottle

ABV: 6.8%

Availability: Purchased at Maine Beer and Beverage Co.

Tasting Notes: Pours a jet black, with a fizzy head of rich brown foam. Aroma has cocoa, bourbon and subtle smoke. The initial flavor is a miraculous whirl of chocolate bonbons, bourbon, and smoke. It's like sitting in a mahogany paneled library, in front of a tray filled with rich chocolates and brandy snifters, while a fire crackles merrily. It's opulent and savory. The body is medium-thick, adding to the already ponderous richness. The aftertaste is of dry, dark cocoa, spiced and amplified with wafts of rich, dense, briny smoke. Were it up to me, I'd promote the Knave to a full on Dark Knight.


Penobscot Bay Brewery Wildfire Rauchbier
Format Sampled: 22 oz. capped bottle

ABV: 5.4%

Availability: Purchased at Maine Beer and Beverage Co.

Tasting Notes: Pours a dark amber, with a voluminous pillow of white foam. Aroma has savory, meaty smoke, and brassy spice. The initial flavor is a savory burst of contradictory flavors — liquefied pulled pork, lemon rind, deeply toasted rye bread, and sweet caramel, all blended together in a dizzying swirl. Whoa. For all the complexity, it's surprisingly easy to drink. The body is light, and the heavy, savory smoke quickly dissipates into a familiar union of restrained noble hops and lightly toasted malt. This latter flavor is comfortingly reminiscent of a dark, German lager.


Oxbow Barrel Aged Smoked Farmhouse ale

Format Sampled: 550 ml capped bottle

ABV: 6.5%

Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a glistening amber with no head. Aroma has a whiff of smoke, an acidic slap of white balsamic vinegar, ripe cherry tomato and molasses. The initial sip is bracing and acid. It's a clean, complex sourness, a cross between lemon juice and an aged champagne vinegar. For all the acid, there is very little bitterness. In the aftertaste, there's a lovely barrel character, and a ghostly wisp of smoke. This isn't a heavy, smokey beer. It's a tart, complex, tipple that would serve well as an aperitif, or pair amazingly well with salads, pizzas or seafood.

Last modified onTuesday, 21 February 2017 18:47