Food & drink

Craft Beer: Getting all fired up with a smoky rauchbier

Kinnegar Rauchbier
Paul McConville

I MAY be risking the wrath of Greta Thunberg, but it's hard to beat an open fire.

Coal may be both a dirty word and dirty thing, but as the cold nights bite, gathering round a fire is quite a comforting thing.

Of course, fires, be they fuelled by coal, wood or straw, once provided a vital component of the beer brewing process.

They were used to dry out malted barley before technology became a lot more sophisticated and other methods came along.

Drying out malt over fire got in ready for brewing, but also infused it a smoky tinge which, depending on the fuel of the fire, could be anything from pleasant to rank.

Nowadays, a beer with smoked malt - or rauchbier - is seen as a speciality and only brewed sporadically.

Over 200 years ago, due to the drying methods, almost all lagers had a slightly smoky quality and disguising the extent of that was one of the many skills a brewer needed to have.

Despite technological advances, many brewers liked the idea of smoking their malts and modern brewers occasionally tip the hat to these old methods.

One such is Kinnegar, who have brought a range of beers to celebrate their 10th anniversary. This includes their stab at a rauchbier.

Clocking in at 5 per cent abv, it pours a deep brownish red colour which initially looks like stout-level blackness, but you do pick hints of more autumnal colouring.

There's a slight off-white head and, as you'd imagine, there are some smoky aromas wafting out.

I've had a bit of a hit and miss experience with modern rauchbiers in the past. Some overegg it a bit when it comes to the smokiness and you end up with something that's almost savoury and a little overbearing for my palate.

This, though, pitches things just perfectly. It's a lager, so there's a nice level of smoothness to it and the smoked malt brings a slightly warming feel and even a hint of spice.

It's perhaps a saving grace that a festive cheeseboard had yet to make it into the house, because this is the sort of beer that would wash down a wedge of Brie or hunk of Cashel Blue quite easily.

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Food & drink