What is Rauchbier? 9 Mind-Blowing Smoked Beers to Try Now

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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.

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For smaller maltsters, there is a chance to experiment with smoke. Beachwood, applewood and cherry wood are the most common for smoke preferences, each bringing their own flavors and aroma to the glass, from sweet to savory. Peet smoked malts can be found, as well as those smoked with herbs like lavender.

The most familiar, and certainly awarded rauchbier in the United States is the Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Company, but these days a local brewery is likely to have a lauch on offer as well. When it comes to rauchbiers, pair them with smoked salmon, barbecue and good times with friends. Campfire not required.

Barrique Barrel-aged Lagerbier; $13/12 oz 4 pack, Wine-Searcher.com. This maintains a refreshing crispness, even after a turn in barrels… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Bierstadt All The Hype; $13/16 oz 4 pack, Wine-Searcher.com. This smoked helles is a collaboration between two respected brewing companies and maintains a crisp lager quality while leaning heavily into beechwood smoked malt… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Dovetail Flanders Rauch; $12/500 ml, BeerMenus. Flanders Red is not a style that often gets the rauchmalt treatment, but this beer makes the case on why it should more often… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Fox Farm The Cabin; $15/16 oz 4 pack, BeerMenus. This is a well-made lager, with crackery malt notes, a crisp yeast quality and a pinch of smoke that takes a while to reveal itself… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

KC Bier Rauchbier Helles; $11/12 oz 6 pack, TapHunter. This is a refreshing rauchbier that has a strong amount of smoke that never comes across as overpowering and allows for the lager base to shine… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Seventh Son Smooth Pursuit; $11/12 oz 6 pack, TapHunter. This is a smoked blonde ale that pours golden yellow with a robust fluffy white head… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Suarez Family Stand to Reason; $16/16 oz 4 pack, BeerMenus. Pouring chestnut brown with a thin tan head, this smoked lager is both crisp and woody… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Switchback Bisou; $8/500 ml, BeerMenus. A smoked saison released by the brewery as part of its Flynn on Fire series, this is spicy and inviting, with flashes of peppermint, eucalyptus and a touch of heat… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Von Ebert Rauch Helles; $15/16 oz 4 pack, TapHunter. Lightly smoky with whiffs of savory baking spice in the background, this helles lager is crisp and refreshing with a touch of orange peel on the finish… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

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Published on January 21, 2022
Topics: Buying Guide