Friday, April 03, 2009

The Session # 26: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em

Its the first Friday of April which means its Session time. For the unititiated the first Friday of every month is designated as The Session. A virtual beer tasting hosted each month by a different blogger of beer, and each with a different theme. This month's host is Lew Bryson, the theme is Smoked Beers.
I gotta say I was pretty excited about this month's theme. The style is somewhat rare, and there aren't many to choose from in the Houston market, but it shows how complex beers can be even when made with 4 simple ingredients: hops, yeast, water, and malt. Its malt in this case that is the important ingredient. No matter what style of smoked beer you sample this month, the malt is the key, its the part that gives it that smokey flavor. One of the flavor components that I always uses concerns the malty flavor of a beer, it may be toasty, or roasted malts or even choolately. This comes from the way that malts are dried, which today is mostly through roasting. However this wasn't always the case, malts used to be smoked over wood fired. This is still the traditional method used in Hamburg, Germany, the center of the world for smoked beers (or rauchbier). Hamburg not only makes many different smoked beers, they also produce most of the smoked malts that are used by breweries around the world. Smoked malts give beer a unique flavor (think of Scotch where the whiskey producers use peat smoked malt), that can range from smokey, woody, and even smell like bacon (my personal favorite). I've been fortunate to have a rauchbier from Hamburg, and I've been able to compare it to some American versions as well. For this Session I sampled an American version of smoked beer: Stone Smoked Porter.
The Beer: This beer weighs in at 5.9% and pours a rich dark dark brown almost black with a thin taupe colored head. The nose is rich and malty, initially more chocolately notes before noticing a slight smokyness a little bit of brisket. The mouthfeel is thick and chocolatey, roastey, and woody. Its very dry, it seems to suck the moisture from my mouth. There is some smokeyness, but its subtle, a little too subtle for me. There are notes of raisins, and figs and light coffee notes. A very solid porter, but lacking in much smokeyness. I was really hoping for something a little bit more in my face, especially from Stone who is known for putting some potent beers out there. Its good, but not great, and gets a B- from me.

Well that's it for me for this month's session, check back later this weekend for a link to the roundup.

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