journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

Smoke-Flavored/Wood-Aged Beer

Les Trois Mousqetaires – S.S. Rauchbier

Date: Thursday, January 27, 2011
Brewery: Les Trois Mousqetaires
Beer: S.S. Rauchbier
Category: Classic Rauchbier
ABV:
6.00%
Brewed in: Canada (Brossard, QC)

Rauchbier (smoked beer) is apparently a very difficult style of beer to find in Edmonton. This was one of the few examples I could locate. It is brewed out of Quebec and is quite highly rated. I was excited to try this one.

As a quick background and side note, many people think of Rauchbier as an interesting novelty or specialty brew these days. The history behind the style of beer though is much richer. It may have been the only style of beer brewed in Germany at one point as they traditionally dried out their malts over a fire. This inevitably imparted smoky characteristics to the beer. Since other methods were developed the Rauchbier only lives on through brewers who choose to maintain the process.

On to the tasting.

It pours almost as dark as a Stout but when held to the light reveals a deep chestnut color. I poured aggressively and a thick and appealing two finger head developed in my 1 liter dimpled stein. The head endured for minutes and left some sticky and stringy lacing on the glass.

The aroma, obviously, was quite smoky. If you could liquefy the experience around a campfire this is likely what you would get. The smoke aroma reminds me specifically of smoked bacon or wood chips. Despite the strength and uniqueness of the smoke you can still easily identify the malts in the nose. The more subtle presence I can pick out is dark fruits.

The taste is very bold and flavorful. It is very rich and malty and reminds me a bit of ales brewed Belgian style. The finish is all smoke. The taste of smoked wood and smoked meat lingers satisfyingly after the swallow. You can still pick out the dark fruits along with a new touch of caramel and dark chocolate.

The beer is medium bodied with noticeable but light carbonation. It has a smooth mouthfeel and is bit thicket in the mouth that a straight lager or ale.

Some say you get accustomed to the smokiness by the end; however, I must have sipped it slow enough as I was accustomed to nothing by the end. It was very enjoyable and a pleasing first foray into rauchbier.

Rating:



Innis & Gunn – Original

Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Brewery: Innis & Gunn
Beer: Original Oak Aged Beer
Category: Wood-Aged Beer
ABV:
6.60%
Brewed in: Scotland

Innis & Gunn OriginalTypical beer pour yielded a quick dissipating one-finger coarse white head. Minimal lacing occurred.

The aroma offered is unappealing giving me the impression the brewer has tried to mask the overpowering skunk smell with copious amounts of vanilla. There are faint smells of oak but the aromas expected from beer (i.e. where are the malts and hops?) are noticeably absent.

My tongue immediately picks up a skunky flavor paired with some bitterness from the hops. Gradually the vanilla hits but is undermined by a metallic aftertaste. The tastes that have the potential to impress are impaired by what tastes like a skunk sprayed some tinfoil. These flavors have no place in a beer.

The beer is light to medium bodied with moderate carbonation in the mouth.

The beer is dangerously close to being undrinkable for my palate; however, I have the distinct impression that the brewer has taken a very sub-standard beer and tried to turn it into a premium brew by dumping it in oak barrels.

History lesson: In fact, that is precisely what has happened. Originally a Scottish company intended to make a scotch whiskey that had a beer finish. To achieve this the distiller filled the oak barrels with beer in order for the barrels to soak up the beer flavors in the wood. The beer was then discarded and the barrel was filled with scotch whiskey.

Some workers of the distillery braved up enough to sample the discarded beer and discovered it was both drinkable and very unique. Innis & Gunn was spun-off to exploit this discovery.

Now Innis & Gunn has the beer brewed by an “unnamed” brewery which is then put in white Bourbon barrels from the United States to age.

Conclusion: An interesting beer to try but I won’t be seeking it out again. I would sample other Innis & Gunn varieties but I would not entertain the thought of buying the Original again unless I found information stating that they have significantly improved their initial beer.

Rating: