The summer sipping season has finally arrived, and the availability of summer styles such as hefeweizen, witbier, pale ale, fruited light lambic, pilsner and kolsch occupy crowded patio tables. Most craft beer lovers think the light beers of the season will do the trick for summer food pairing, but let’s cast our brew palate to more sustaining brews that naturally partner with the whole purpose of summer — BBQ season!
Tradition has always considered the light brews of summer as natural companions for summer BBQ, and to a large degree this is correct as most of these pale styles have a palate clearing ability that cuts through greasy foods and creamy cheeses. However, this ability and the sharp hoppy dry acidic character of these beers do not often do complimentary duty with protein-heavy foods like barbecued meats. Light acidic beers tend to stand as contrasting sapidities which work well in these pairings. However for my tastes, in pairing up brew and BBQ, complimentary flavours seem more satisfying — and nothing seems to complement and enhance smoky BBQ meats like smoked beers.
“Smoked beers” are not smoked per se. These beers are made with malts which are dried over natural flame from burning wood or peat. After the malt is finished it imparts a smoky character to beer brewed with these fire-dried malts. It’s worth mentioning that most current smoked craft beer has evolved quite a bit from the traditional Germanic Bamberg style rauchbiers, such as Aecht Schlenkerla. These traditional rauchbiers are in-your-face, almost overpowering in their smoke flavour and quite a shock to a palate accustomed to lighter and less intense brews. Modern crafters have discovered that the judicious use of smaller portions of smoked malts provides a delicious complimentary enhancement to many different styles of beer.
Some of the traditional smoked brews are the heavier Scotch ales and German rauchbier, but recently I’ve sampled an increasing number of delicious smoked craft porters, stouts, amber ales, lagers and wheat beer which paired well with food and also drank easily by themselves. Smoked porters and stouts have the extra benefit of amalgamating the deep roastiness of dark malt with the light smoke demeanour of smoked barley — tasty stuff.
Locally we have a few crafters offering seasonal smoked brews — Beau’s All Natural Brewing has a smoked hefeweizen humorously branded “Smokin’ Banana Peels,” a very decent wheat ale with a light smoke to it — great with ribs. Mill Street Brewing has an unfiltered rauchbier based on a sturdy amber lager and Amsterdam
Brewing offers a smoked Oktoberfest lager. Both pair perfectly with barbecued meats. Niagara Oast House Brewing makes a very nice smoked Irish stout that goes well with fresh oysters. Last but not least we have C’est What’s “Big Butt” — a smoked dark ale with fennel which, every time I’ve tried it, was a natural companion for a smoky BBQ chicken.
Usually found at the LCBO, you can get Dieu du Ciel‘s “Charbonniere” — a great smoked Marzen from Quebec — made for seared back ribs or savoury pulled pork BBQ. Les Trois Mousquetaires is also available seasonally and is one of the best smoked weizens I’ve tasted — this is a sure table mate for BBQ buffalo or venison burger topped with emmentaler. Occasionally we may also see Sam Adams “Bonfire” or other imported smoked porters or scotch ales. When you see them available stock up — and think BBQ.
Side Launch Brewing Company
This may be old news for some, brand new for others, but for us grizzled old froth quaffers it is great news. We all see the craft brewing trade expanding in the Ontario market, with new brewing companies and breweries springing up monthly. But what has me really excited about this latest opening is it is an excitement based in anticipating new brews from a true local craft beer pioneer/legend. Michael Hancock, the original brewer/owner of Denison’s Brew Pub (one of Ontario’s first craft brewing enterprises) is now head brewer and partner in a new enterprise. Dubbed “Side Launch Brewing”, Michael now has access to a new state of the art microbrewing platform which is producing Denison’s old favourites in a new brewery — and with a new water source.
Denison’s Dunkel has been rebranded as Side Launch Dark Lager, Denison’s Weissbier will be renamed Side Launch Wheat. I’ve had them both on tap and think something has even improved on this dynamic duo of rock-ribbed classic local craft brews. Watch for them on tap at your favourite beer oasis, and for new offerings from this brewer — lots of promise here based in experience and craftsmanship.
Taste of the Month
BraufactuM Roog, a crafted rauchweizen (smoked hefeweizen), comes from Germany. A new brewer, BraufactuM has recently acquired import agents in Ontario and now has a presence in the local market. The offerings are said to be “craft beer with a German twist.” The brewery founders’ vision is to develop Germany’s cultural asset (beer) by brewing artisanal beers outside the established tradition — a daunting task in the cradle of the brewing art. The result is an eclectic first-rate mix of styles and ingredients.
The offering I particularly want to recommend is one I have been merrily sipping away at for the past few weeks on tap at a local craft beer oasis. Named BraufactuM Roog, this is a rich unfiltered all-natural German smoked hefeweizen (rauchweizen) done with lightly smoked malt and the new Hercules hop. It taps out a shimmering clouded rusty red-brown with a moderate puffy tan cap. Aromas of clove, over-ripe apple, banana and smoked almonds greet the nose. Medium-bodied with a sturdy malt character yet a pleasant earthy-fruity bearing. The flavour profile starts with a big wash of nutty-biscuity malts slamming the palate — joined almost immediately by a smoky-nutty fruitiness that balances. The hops are in a supporting role here, adding a spicy compliment to the primary flavors. Finishes lightly dry but satisfying with a light smoked almond after taste.
This is an artisanal smoked beer where the smoke is subdued and complimentary in a brew that is deeply satisfying and delicious. This is also a brew that just begs to be paired with barbecued rotisserie spiced ham. Try it if you see it on tap. I hope the agents get some bottled product on the LCBO shelves soon. This brewer also has a highly rated Marzen, Schwarzbier and Scotch ale that I hope to see available here soon as well. Keep an eye open for BraufactuM beers, they are made to pair with good food.
THE MALT MONK is the alter ego of D.R. Hammond, a passionate supporter of craft beer culture. He invites readers to join in the dialogue at maltmonksbeerblog.wordpress.com