Tasting Notes: Classic Rauchbier (Beer #36)

October 14, 2012 by Jack

On the last Sunday in August a friend and I brewed two batches of Classic Rauchbier. We followed the recipe from Brewing Classic styles, splitting the base malt 50/50 between smoked malt and typical base malt. I used Weyermann Rauchmalz, he used home-smoked US 2-row malt that had been smoked with a blend of alderwood and fruit woods. Here are some tasting notes for my batch:

Vital Stats:
Target OG: 1.055 Actual OG: 1.053
Target FG: 1.015 Actual FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.4%
Color: 14.9 SRMĀ (Calculated)
Bitterness: 25.7 IBU (Calculated)
Yeast: White Labs WLP830 German Lager Yeast

Deep amber to brown in color. Slightly hazy. Large, foamy, light tan head with moderate-to-good retention.

Balanced malt and German hop aromas backed by a light ham-like smokiness. Hops are floral and spicy. Malt is sweet and munich-like, with a biscuity undertone. There is a biting acidity in the smell.

Medium-sweet with a malty backbone. The hops balance it out somewhat, but overall too sweet. Hop flavor is floral and slightly grassy. Smoke is light to moderate, serving as a sort-of seasoning to a somewhat-too-sweet Oktoberfest style beer. Smoke character is reminiscent of ham. There is a bit of a salty flavor, as if the water was over-adjusted. Hop bitterness and grassiness carries into the finish. Finishes dryer than it initially tastes. No esters, phenols (aside from smoke), diacetyl, or DMS.

Medium-full body with a thinning finish. Medium carbonation.

Too bad my glass wasn’t perfectly clean. (Note the bubbles on the sides.) Thanks, crappy dishwasher!

Overall relatively smooth as a lager should be, but there is a slight astringency.

Overall Impression
This is a tasty beer and it’s hard to pick out significant flaws, but it is lacking that certain something to get the drinker really excited about it. Additionally, it is not nearly smokey enough for me. Overall it is a little too sweet and a little too biscuity. The day we brewed this, the dude who brewed the home-smoked batch was supposed to bring a sack of Pilsner malt but forgot it. So we used US 2-row for the base malt. I think it contributed too much sweet maltiness to the flavor.

Classic Rauchbier is a wonderful style, and I will be brewing another one soon in an attempt to really nail it. I want to have a knock-your-socks-off example ready for next spring’s TRASH & NHC competitions. What I plan to change:

  • Moar Smoke! For this batch, the base malt was split 50/50 between Weyermann Rauchmalz and Briess US 2-row. Next time I will probably use Weyermann Rauchmalz for the entire base portion of the grist bill.
  • No US 2-row malt. Smoked malt varies in intensity from batch to batch. Next time I will plan to use all smoked malt for the base, but if the batch is significantly smokier than the last one, I will use German Pilsner malt and not US 2-row in its place.
  • Water adjustment. I think the water for this beer might have been over adjusted. It tastes a little salty. For the next batch I will use Bru’n Water as I typically do to compute the salt additions.
  • Lager longer – This beer should lager for several months before drinking it, but I tapped it after just a few weeks due to impatience and lack of beer in the pipeline after having not brewed all summer. The next batch will lager for quite some time before I tap it.

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