One thing I love about the cold weather is that thick, smoked wood scent that sometimes hits your nose when you walk outside grey November day, and you jealously know that some neighbor is having a fire blazing in the hearth. Smells like bacon. And bacon scented air is one of the few perks of the cold weather. I mean with bacon mania having its own Wikipedia entry, I’m clearly not the only one with a developing passion for all things smoked.
Which brings me to the type beer I’m reviewing today- a Rauchbier, the German word for smoked beer. While this is now a harder style beer to find, at one point the smoked tastes and aromas found in Rauchbiers were common in nearly every beer.This changed in the 19th century when ways to dry grains changed, giving way to the beers of today, where the malts are crisp and dried without any added notes from the drying process.
I don’t know as much about this style beer as I would like, it’s hard to find, and something I didn’t fully like until recently. So when I saw Jack’s Abbey Fire in the Ham (5.4 abv, 20 ibu) on the shelf at the store, I figured it’s another Rauchbier that I could use to further develop my appreciation of the style. Brewed in Framingham, Massachusetts this beer is based off the smokey lagers found in Bamberg, Germany, this beer says that their malts were dried over beechwood, departing upon them the smokey aroma that is the base for this beer.
The beer pours honey colored, and is a little hazy with a one-finger white head that quickly went away. But the most noticeable characteristic of this beer was the smokey ham and bacon scent, reminiscent of the smell of campfire wood. The strong notes of pork and wood definitely made me think of a BBQ, and even though this beer is vegan, I could not shake the associations with meat. It was very prevalent.
I’m new to smoked beer for the most part, so tasting this was a bit of a challenge for me. It seemed well-balanced, despite the strong smoked taste you could still pick up the subtle hops in the background. The most dominant note though, however, was the smoked malts and at times I found it hard to taste the rest of the beer beyond that flavor, which is my biggest problem with smoked beers. I have a proclivity to get too hooked on the smokey meat flavors, which I suppose is what you are supposed to do with these beers.
Though I have lots to learn about this style, I’d try this beer again, paired with baked beans or some hearty cheese, in an instant.