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German Rauchbier, smoked beer

Posted by Insanity , 17 April 2013 · 323 views

homebrewing beer
Rauchbier (German: smoked beer) is a style of beer with a distinctive smoke flavor and aroma, of varying degrees from mild to very intense.  The smoke qualities come from the malted barley being dried over an open flame often beechwood.

Prior to the industrial era where the kiln drying of malt started to become more widespread, the drying of malt was done over an open flame, and sometimes in addition to direct sunlight exposure.  The type of fuel added a characteristic to the malt, which was often carried over the to beer itself.  Hay and straw were used to add a lower smoke characteristic, while various woods were used for the specific flavors they added.  Many beers made prior to the widespread use of kiln-dried malt likely had some degree of smoke flavor to them either from the malt used or from the proximity to such production.

With the widespread use of kilns, which kept the smoke away from the malt, also lead to more and more breweries choosing to no longer use the brown or smoked malt.  As time went on, many beers lost the smokiness.

Today one of the classic examples of a smoked beer or Raucbier is Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier brewed by the historic brewpub Schlenkerla in Bamberg, Germany.  There are three varieties; urbock, märzen, and weizen.

Outside of Europe, smoked beers are encountered less with about five breweries in the U.S. producing a smoked beer.

Most smoked beers use the smoked malt (German Rauchmalz) for anywhere from 20% to 100% of the grain bill. The Aecht Schlenkerla uses 100%.  The smoke characteristic varies accordingly with the amount of the smoked malt used.  The more intensely smoky beers are often described as being like smoked ham or bacon, or smoked meats in general.  One person had told me to him it was like drinking a campfire.  Obviously not all smoked beers are for everyone, but as there are a variety of them, with a range of smoke in there, there is a decent chance someone can find one they like.

Deciding to brew one myself I settled on the following grain bill.

80.0% Smoked malt
11.4% Pale malt
8.6% Munich 10L malt

Mashed @ 154F for 60 mins, sparged out @ 168F.

Total boil time 75 minutes.  I choose Hallertau hops, a traditional German noble hops.

1.25 oz Hallertau hop pellets 4.3% AA (~5.4 HBU) for 60 mins in the boil.

Pitched a German lager yeast, White Labs WLP830.

My expected gravity was 1.054, and my achieved gravity was 1.049.  Assuming a 75% attenuation, I would expect a beer of ~4.8% ABV.
Being the first time using such a large ratio of smoked malt in a beer, I am wondering if it retains less water than a pale malt as it looked like I had a bit more than 5 gallons in the fermentor.

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