You may have noticed that smoke is starting to creep its way into some British beers. Not since tugging away on cigarettes was banned in pubs have so many beers been infused with the whiff of burning embers as brewers continue to plunder the recipe archives for alternative ways to impregnate their own beers with unusual flavours. It used to be the case that flame-grilled booze seekers would have to jet over to Germany for a traditional smoky ‘rauchbier’, but now we reckon the taste for smokingly good beer is set to be a more globally common thing.
The smokiness in these beers is created by brewing with malts that have been dried over fire, with the lingering fumes transferring from malt to finished beer. Some brewers use just a touch of these malts to give their beers – most commonly stouts and porters – a subtle flavour of the night to compliment the toasty flavours of dark roasted malts; others plunder whole sacks full, creating beers that give the impression you’re sharing your pint with a kipper.
Thankfully the smokiness in Ansbach and Hobday’s The Smoked Brown lies somewhere in between. Inspired by an age when London’s breweries would routinely kiln dry their grains over fire, this beer uses German rauchbier malt for an Anglo-German offering that is mightily impressive.
The beer itself displays a dense smog of deep chestnut brown. It looks mysteriously smoky and enticing, giving off slightly sour yeast and oak aroma. The flavour has a bitter juniper fruitiness combined with a deliciously oaky dryness which is accentuated by the smokey malts. Rather than those smokin’ flavours burning their way through the beer to dominate, it feels more as if they’ve shifted the characteristics of the other ingredients in unusual ways, creating exciting new flavours and a depth of interest that makes many beers seem bland by comparison.
It’s a luxurious beer. A pipe and slippers brew to while away the evening hours. I hope my prediction of a resurgence of smoked beers comes to fruition, but already Anspach & Hobday have set the bar very high.
This beer came from Beer Merchants
Brewery: Anspach & Hobday, Bermondsey, London
Beer name: The Smoked Brown