Just like their distilled cousins, smoked beers can be bold, complex, and, at times, aggressive. “It’s like a slap of flavor in the face,” says Goose Island Brewing head of research and development Mike Siegel. “They can pretty much overpower everything else.” Fans of campfires and leaf piles, however, light up at the possibilities of smoked brews. Thanks to a diverse foundation of flavors and various methods of imparting smoke character—smoked malts, scotch barrels, spices, and so on—there’s a beer to please every type of smoke fan. Your guide to entering the smoke show starts here.
If you love Peated Scotch whisky…pour some Goose Island Islay Scotch Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
To make this heavy hitter, Goose Island takes their potent Bourbon County Stout and ages it in casks that held peat smoke-laden Ardbeg whisky. “I think it’s one of the most flavorful beers, with an incredible complexity and aroma, that we’ve ever made,” says Siegel. With 13% alcohol, this is best served near room temperature to emphasize the smoky tobacco notes.
If you love well-aged bourbon…pour some Aecht Schlenkerla Oak Smoke
Schlenkerla has been synonymous with smoked lager for centuries. Each fall they offer this specialty featuring oak-kilned malts. In contrast to their usual beechwood, oak lends char and toasty nuances, similar to a charred oak barrel.
If you love smoked salmon…pour some Alaskan Brewing Co. Smoked Porter
Created in 1988, this smoked beer is a pioneer turned perennial classic. Malt is smoked over alderwood for a sweeter, gentler flavor often applied to smoked fish. Bonus: This beer is offered in vintages and will evolve with cellar aging.
If you love the smell of hookah tobacco…pour some Surly Smoke Lager
This smoked Baltic-style porter includes beech and cherrywood smoked malts against a backdrop of dark, sweet fruit notes, including raisins, figs, and plums. Oak aging adds even more allure for the whisky drinker, as wisps of smoke and licorice appear on the finish, made lush by the addition of oats
If you love the smell of campfire cooking…pour some Alvarado Brewing Faith No S’more
This imperial stout was conditioned on toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate to mimic s’mores in a glass. Beneath that heady confection lies a mashbill of oak-smoked wheat and roasted barley, offering a delicate campfire character
If you love bagels and jewish delis…pour some Shmaltz Brewing Company Pastrami Pilsner
Relax, vegetarians: brined beef never touched this brew, laced with kosher salt, black pepper, mustard seed, caraway, and horseradish flavors. Munich and pilsner malts offer a bready character, while smoked malt lends meaty aromas. Nosh away!