Brew Review: Smoke

21 Sep

Brew:  Smoke

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style:  Smoked Baltic Porter (8.3% ABV)


Smoke, a limited release that shows up in the early part of winter, usually November or so.  This one is different in that it is bottled instead of canned like the rest of Surly’s lineup (with the exception of Darkness).   Described on their website as such:  “Ebony-hued, Smoke wafts out of the bottle and into your senses, borne on the wings of European traditions, wrapped in American innovation. Lager-brewed, like any true Baltic Porter, with smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany, the home of Rauchbiers, then mellowed by oak-aging.”  So they are taking a classic style from Europe and giving it a touch of American originality.

Smoke pours out a thick and black.  The Baltic porter is very evident in the way this beer looks.  Deep dark and heavy.  There is a little tan head that pops up but this was a bit cold when I poured it out so warmer it probably would have produced a larger head.  This beer looks like a robust or Baltic porter, not much light escapes, but there are hints of ruby red around the edges.

The first sniff at this brew and you can tell that this is a smoked beer.  The smoked grains come up right away and give you that charred, ashy or fire feeling.  Not as dominant as some other brew (see Otto by Victory) but still very noticeable. Further past the smoke there is some chocolate and blackened malts that pop up and lend some sweetness to the fiery start.  

The first sip is greeted by the fact that this brew looks like it should fill you up with one drink but its surprisingly light on the tongue.  Much lighter than I was expecting even with lagering for a while and aging on oak.  The smoke is also prominent right off the start.  However, this is not an overpowering smoke taste.  It is lighter than expected and pleasantly wafts throughout the sip.  Within the smoke there is some chocolate and chocolate bitterness that cut through the smoke well. 

This brew was a few months old at this point, probably 5 months, so the smoke will probably continue to fade and mellow out as it gets older.  I like that the smoke smell and taste don’t overpower and find their place within the brew.  I wanted some more roast and chocolate flavors but I think those will also come out with time.  Great brew for the style.  Most Rauchbiers are totally smoky and feel like your drinking a campfire.


Final Grade: A-


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