SMOKED BEERS OF BAMBERG

Beers, Breweries & Homebrew Recipes;

As part of my job it’s sometimes necessary to travel for work and recently I’d been asked to go to Bamberg for a week…disappointed as I was I packed my bags and with a heavy heart I set off….

In reality I was really looking forward to it, Bamberg is the world capital of smoked beer and smoked beers are one of my all-time favourite types of beer, whether peat smoked or wood smoked I love them and find them both evocative and emotive.

Within 5 minutes of arriving I found a great little pub with an excellent beer menu, being a huge fan of Yeastie Boys Rex attitude and xeRRex I plunged straight in to Smokey George and wasn’t disappointed. 100% peat smoked goodness with acres of TCP and bandaids! – Peat smoked beers are an acquired tasted, they are exceedingly smoky and proved to be a little too hard going for my compadre’s.

Schlenkerla & Spezial are the two kings of smoked beer in Bamberg, both producing fantastic rauchbier examples and interestingly both serving all their beer from wooden barrels…and lucky for us it was Bock season so we got to try both of their strong lagers.

These smoked or rauch beers are created by using malt that has been kilned over open fires or embers, fed by either beech wood, oak or peat. This is a tradition in Bamberg that’s been continued at Schlenkerla and Spezial for almost two centuries. Getting to visit those two brewpubs and soak in the atmosphere was an amazing experience for me.

Inspired by the trip I got home and started brewing to try and answer “How can homebrewers brew smoked beers like the ones I’d tried in Bamberg”. First thing to remember, don’t be shy with the smoked malt, Schlenkerla Marzen uses 98% beech smoked malt and for me is not quite smoky enough!

Below are two recipes I’ve worked on since returning, both successfully produce that traditional German smoke effect I was after.

SMOKED PORTER RECIPE (20L)

This is my own recipe for a smoked porter I would have liked to use more smoked malt but I actually needed some character from the dark malts. For more smoke try using peated malt, up to 100% is fine if you’re big into your smoke, but remember it’s an acquired taste – normal amounts are around the 5-15% mark.

OG: 1.080 Approx ABV: 8.5% IBU’s 40

INGREDIENTS

Grain:

5.65kg Beech Smoked

0.75kg Brown malt

0.67kg Dark Crystal

0.33kg Chocolate malt

Hops:

15g Herkules Bittering

Yeast:

Fermentis SO5, Mangrove Jack M07

BREWING & FERMENTATION

Mash in at 64C for 90mins

Fermented at 18-20 degrees for 5 days.

 

LIGHTLY SMOKED HELLES 20L (a tribute to Schlenkerla Helles)

One of my favourite beers from the trip was the Schlenkerla Helles, I recommend anyone to try it -this beer actually uses no smoke malt but picks up the smokiness from their brewing kit that’s used to brew their other beers. The smokiness is subtle and gives it real drinkability whilst keeping that crisp and refreshing, as we don’t have access to smoke engrained brew kit I’ve created a recipe that achieves that same subtle smokiness but from the malts.

1.048 OG, Approx 5% ABV, IBU 25

INGREDIENTS

Malt:

4.8kg Weyermann Pilsner malt

0.26kg Weyermann Acidulated malt

0.4kg Weyermann Beech smoked malt

Hops:

12g Herkules

Yeast:

WLP833 Ayinger Brau yeast, Fermentis W34/70, Lallemand Diamond, Mangrove Jack M84

BREWING & FERMENTATION

Mash:

Double decoction

Mash in 500C for 35 mins

Decoct part of the mash and heat to 650C for 15 mins then continue heating to boil for 15mins

Add back to main mash which raises the temperature to 640C and hold for 20mins

Decoct part of the mash and boil for 15mins

Add back to the main mash raising the temperature to 680C and hold for 20 mins

Heat to 750C and hold for 10 mins

Mash complete, runoff in the normal manner and boil for 90mins

Fermentation:

Fermentation at 10C raised to 16C for two days at the end of fermentation for a diacetyl rest, transferred and then lagered. I’ve gone with the 1 week per degree of plato rule of thumb for lagering time so 12 weeks total.

 

Formerly of Fullers, Thornbridge and Buxton. Now a freelance Black IPA advocate, homebrew geezer and creator of Baby Back Bacon Black IPA™

3 Comments

  • Reply December 14, 2014

    Matt Dutton

    Good article as always, i have a Smoked Helles currently lagering away with a very similar recipe. I shot a bit lower with only 4% smoked malt & used Hallertauer Mittlefruh for hopping but otherwise the same.
    Can’t wait to taste the results, only another 10 weeks to wait. I didn’t manage a decoction mash tho, so had to make do with a single infusion at 64c.
    Initial tastes are good, but would you expect the smoke to fade in time?

  • Reply December 15, 2014

    JK

    Hi Matt,

    Nice to see I’m not the only one loving on the smoke!

    Great question, most of my experience with brewing smoked beers is with peated malt and I’ve noticed that the smoke character does fade somewhat after a year or so. I’d imagine that it will fade, perhaps not as noticeably in a pale beer but I don’t foresee it hanging around that long?

    Cheers

    JK

  • […] Schlenkerla Helles  thanks to Phil Lowry and Beer Merchants (link to my clone recipe for this beer here) I’ve become even more obsessed with smoked beers leading me to brew a tribute to Schlenkerla […]

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