The most polarizing style of beer today is not one necessarily known for hops, but rather malt. The rauchbier, or smoked beer, carries aromas of, well, smoke, which is either inviting or off-putting depending on a drinker’s preference.
Whether wafts of bacon, campfire or ash, there is a lot to love when it comes to rauchbier, and a growing number of breweries are embracing this vast style thanks to a rise in local and artisan maltsters, as well as imported malts that are kilned in traditional methods.
In the past, all beers were rauchbiers thanks to malts being dried through smoking methods, lending an aroma of the flame’s byproduct to the malt and then the beer. As heating processes evolved, smoked malts fell out of fashion, although several breweries in Bamberg, Germany still abide by tradition, the most famous being Schlenkerla.
Rauchbiers can be any beers that use smoked malts, but the majority of brewers will use a helles lager base or a porter to push the smoke across to the palate. There are breweries like Dovetail in Illinois and Switchback in Vermont with dedicated rauchbier programs that are keeping things traditional but also experimenting with styles outside of the norm. There are even robust online communities that promote and discuss all things smoked beer.