At long last, barbeque season is upon us! The perfect homebrewing accompaniment? Rauchbier!
Rauchbier is a style of smoked beer from Bamberg, Germany, notable for its use of smoked malt (rauch means “smoke” in German). The traditional rauchbier recipe is essentially a smoked Oktoberfest amber lager. The smoky flavor from the malt pairs exceptionally well with grilled meats and vegetables, so why not give it a try for this summer grill season?
To get a sense of how much smoke flavor you want in your rauchbier all grain recipe, try some different commercial rauchbiers. One popular brand from Bamberg is Brauerei Heller-Trum/Schlenkerla. Domestically, Sam Adams occasionally brews a smoked lager, as do Victory, Ballast Point, and a number of other American craft breweries. Ask your local bottle shop for rauchbier recommendations.
If you’re looking for a subtler smoked flavor, 20% smoked malt may be all you need in your rauchbier all grain recipe. For smoked beer die-hards, up to 100% smoked malt can be used in the grain bill.
Several breweries in and around Bamberg smoke their own malt using beech, cherry, or alder wood. If you so choose, you can smoke your own malt on your home grill.
Rauchbiers, such as the one below, are often brewed using a decoction mash and fermented as a lager. This rauchbier all grain recipe, from the book Homebrewing for Dummies, won 1st Place at the American Homebrewers Association National Competition. Happy brewing!
Beech Beer (a classic Rauchbier)
(five-gallon recipe, all-grain)
4.5 lbs. Klages (base) malt
2.5 lbs. smoked malt
2.25 lbs. Munich malt
1 lb. Vienna malt
.5 lb. Crystal 40L
1 oz. Hallertauer hops (:105 minutes)
.5 oz. Hallertauer hops (:15 minutes)
.25 oz. Hallerauer hops (:02 minutes)
.25 oz. Saaz hops (dry hop)
Wyeast 2206: Bavarian Lager (4L yeast starter recommended)
Directions for the decoction mash: Mash crushed grains in four gallons of clean water at 105˚F. After 20 minutes, remove one-third of the mash and bring it to a boil. Return this portion to the mash. The new mash temperature should be 125˚F. After 10 minutes, remove one-third of the mash and bring it to a boil. Return this portion to the mash. The new mash temperature should be 149˚F. After 30 minutes, raise mash temperature to 154˚F. After 30 minutes, raise mash temperature to 168˚F. After 30 minutes, sparge with clean water at 168˚F, collecting about 6.5-7 gallons of wort in the brew kettle.
Directions for boil and fermentation: Add one ounce of Hallertauer hops at beginning of 1 hr, 45 min boil. Add half an ounce of Hallertauer hops with 15 minutes remaining. Add a quarter-ounce of Hallertauer hops with 2 minutes remaining. Chill wort to approximately 50˚F and ferment at that temperature for 28 days. Rack to a secondary fermenter and condition at 35˚F for 28 days. Add Saaz hops during the last 5-7 days of the secondary fermentation. Bottle or keg, aiming for 2.2-2.5 vols CO2.
Are you a fan of smoked beers? Do you have a rauchbier all grain recipe you’d like to share with us?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.