It should come as no surprise that meaty flavors can be expressed in spirits and beers. In some cases they're made by traditional methods, and in other cases they're a bit unconventional.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution smoky beers were the norm. Jack Rose beer director Nahem Simon explains, "In warmer climates malts were dried in the sun to stop sprouting. But in the northern parts of Europe, especially in the U.K., cloudiness would hinder the drying process. So they would dry over an open fire. The smoke would end up in the malt, and then, of course, end up in the beer."
"So depending on the wood, you can get different flavors in the beer," says Simon. "Flavors from peat are more iodine and seaweed; beech wood is very sausage-y and bacony flavored; oak gives a lot of campfire and smoked salmon; and cherry wood gives a sweet smoke, along with hickory and apple wood."
With the introduction of modern technologies, other ways of drying malt were introduced that eliminated the smoke that some considered an undesirable flavor. However, some breweries viewed the smokiness of its beers to be a signature flavor, and continued with their long held traditions.
One of the best known of these breweries is Aecht Schlenkerla in Bamberg, Germany, whose rauchbiers (smoke beer) can be found on at City Tap House and ChurchKey. Local beech wood is used in the kilning process giving it a very natural bacony flavor, which can sometimes be hard to find in beers that contain actual bacon.
And this fall, Jack Rose will be serving a smoky beer that Simon is making in collaboration with 3 Stars' Dave Coleman and Mike Dee, and Jerkface Jerky's Eric Judycki. The beer is still in the planning phase with ingredients to be determined, but it is sure to incorporate smoked malt and jerky in the production process.
Other smoky beers get even more adventurous, and can stretch across the spectrum of dense and light beer styles. Simon cites Saucony Creek's Kutztown Lagerbier, which is featured on draft at Jack Rose. It features malts smoked over Kutztown Ring Bologna. Brewer and former X-Games star Matt Lindenmuth's wanted to create a tribute to his hometown and brewing headquarters, and that came in form of its bologna. Simon says, "All I grew up knowing about bologna was Oscar Mayer. But this has a touch of smoke and a slightly fatty umami that's surprisingly good."
If half smokes sound a little better than bologna, Bluejacket features The Butcher, a dunkles dopplebock inspired by Red Apron's half smoke. It gets its meatiness from malts smoked over applewood, cherrywood, and hickory, and a touch of the spice mix used in Red Apron's half smokes.
"People are opening up to rauchbiers the way that they opened up to other styles like sours. They get really excited when they hear about a beer that tastes like bacon," says Simon. "Rauchbier is one of my favorite styles, and I'm excited to collaborate with 3 Stars on one and get more people interested in them."
· The Five Days of Meat [-EDC-]
Nahem Simon [Photo: Jack Rose]