Stylin’ & Profilin’ – What is a Rauchbier?

Stylin’ & Profilin’ is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either. In addition, Stylin’ & Profilin’ takes a glance at various elements of craft beer culture to further enhance your knowledge and know-how!

What is a Rauchbier?

Smoke. Lovely in some instances (cigars, meats, cheeses, fruity flavored hookah nonsense), wretched awfulness in others (stale cigarette odors for days, coming from your fireplace when you forget to open the flue or your engine when you don’t change the oil). In regards to the former, it can add a delightful, complex layer of flavor that meshes well with many other accompaniments. In regards to the latter, change your oil regularly, sir.

But what about beer? Surely, the addition of smoke to beer can’t impart flavors one would willingly want to consume, right? I mean, it’s smoke. Not Lucky Charms or Hostess Cakes.

Learn now, you will, of the long history of smoked brews and why they’re still popular today.

A smoked beer is also known as a Rauchbier, which literally is German for ‘smoke beer.’ Doesn’t get much more self-explanatory than that. Picture it: Germany – several hundred years ago: brewers used direct fire during malting that contributed smoke flavors to malted grain. Those smoke characteristics carried over to the finished beer, giving it a smoky aroma and flavor upon consumption.

As brewers began incorporating advanced methods of malting utilizing indirect heat, the use of direct fire began to dwindle save a small number of breweries in Bamburg, Germany, who kept the Rauchbier torch brightly burning (ha…pun). These days, the tradition lives on with many of these same breweries making beers with malts smoked over beechwood, delivering a smokiness comparable to hickory.

Traditional Rauchbiers are brewed as lagers, but many present-day interpretations of smoke beers have resulted in stouts, porters, and ales projecting smoky flavors and aromas, too. Today’s brewing practices often find innovators putting modern spins on classic approaches (juicy IPAs, pepper and dessert beers, for example), some of which are met with great fanfare and others…well, not so much.

Rauchbiers are definitely a style met with resistance by many. But those who grasp strongly to beers of German persuasion speak highly of this style and seek it out frequently.

If you’re looking to shake things up with your food/beer pairing ventures, a Rauchbier could just be the underdog you’re looking for to steal the show. They pair quite well with full-flavored foods, both smoked and unsmoked. Pork chops, lamb chops, pork ribs, roasts, salmon fillets, hams, sausages, and cheeses are all fair game. You may think the combination of smoked beer AND smoked foods would be overkill, but they play together quite beautifully. Like anything, you can’t formulate your own opinion until you try for yourself. So…try for yourself!

Click here to discover a list of 81 popular Rauchbiers, courtesy of BeerAdvocate.





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