Curtis Holmes has been with Alaskan brewing for 30 years and has crafted many of their beers.
Geoff Larson founded Alaskan Brewing with his wife, Marcy, in 1986. Alaskan Brewing is the first brewery in Juneau since prohibition. Their recipes utilize ingredients native to Alaska and they create their own smoked malt using alder. Geoff is a former chemical engineer.
Dusan is the head brewer at Live Oak Brewing in Austin, Texas.
SEASON 3, EPISODE 3: SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM (PART 2)
TOBY TUCKER – DIRECTOR OF SALES, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
GRANT LAWRENCE – TERRITORY MANAGER, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
HEATHER JERRED – TERRITORY MANAGER, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
CURTIS HOLMES – PLANT MANAGER, ALASKAN BREWING
GEOFF LARSON – CO-FOUNDER, ALASKAN BREWING
DUSAN KWIATKOWSKI – HEAD BREWER, LIVE OAK BREWING
Key Points From This Episode:
How to match the intensities of beer and food: Cheese, Seafood, Salads, Chocolate.
What to cook, bake, and marinate with smoked beers and spirits.
What snacks can breweries without kitchens provide people with smoked beers.
Odd Pairings: Wine with pizza, donuts with beers, and Cabernet with Nacho Doritos.
Computer-controlled Smokehouse: Controls smoke density, temperature, and humidity.
Ways Live Oak Brewing makes smoked beers – using different smoked malts.
Why it’s not really about the yeast with a beer, just the smoke.
Why Dusan agrees that smoked beers last a bit longer; lengthen shelf-life.
Transcript - Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em
EPISODE S.3, E.3
[SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM – PART 2]
[00:00:05] TT: We’re going to continue the talk on the subject of smoked beers. We thought it’d be pretty cool to have somebody on to dive a little bit deeper and more of creativeness here by welcoming our very own Heather Jerred, who is the western territory of Canada sales manager. How are you, Jerred, or Heather?
[00:00:32] HJ: Pretty good. How are you doing?
[00:00:36] TT: I butchered that one, didn’t I?
[00:00:39] HJ: It’s not the first time somebody’s called me Jerred.
[00:00:45] TT: It’s the end of the day. I’m struggling here. It’s great to have you on. You’ve been on a show before, and we’re happy to have you join us on future episodes as well. Welcome to the team.
[00:00:58] HJ: Thank you.
[00:00:59] TT: As we discussed, we’ve spent the majority of the episode talking about smoked beers, the styles, and really had some great guests on, but we thought it would be cool to talk specifically about food pairing with smoked beers. Heather, we were talking earlier that we think we’re going to tease this up for a full episode at some point to talk about just general beer and food but specifically wanted to bring you on to chat about food pairing with smoked beers because you are a Certified Cicerone, correct?
[00:01:28] HJ: That is correct, I am. One of my loves is doing their food pairings because I have a long history in the hospitality industry. This is kind of how I got started in craft beer. Still one of my absolute favorite things to do.
[00:01:44] TT: yeah, something to be extremely proud of with that certification. The test and everything you have to do to get that certification is difficult. It’s pretty cool in our brewing world, occasionally you’ll run across somebody that has it in their business garden. It’s really cool. I’m glad you got to do that. Congrats.
[00:02:01] HJ: Thank you.
[00:02:03] TT: We also have Grant Lawrence on again. Hey, Grant.
[00:02:06] GL: Hey, Toby.
[00:02:07] HJ: Hey, Grant.
[00:02:08] GL: Hey, Heather. I’m stoked to have a Cicerone on here and chat a little bit about food and smoked beer, smoked spirit pairings. It’s really cool.
[00:02:21] TT: When we first thought about this, I was like, this is an awesome idea, but then I started thinking about smoked beer. In itself, it’s a very unique beer in that there’s a lot your mouth and your palate have to deal with.
[00:02:38] HJ: There’s so much going on there.
[00:02:40] TT: Right, and I started to think about what would be a good pairing, and I have no idea. The first thing that comes to my mind is a barbecue. But would that clash, Heather? What would you say?
[00:02:54] HJ: I think everybody automatically goes to barbecue because you’re thinking smoked meat and you’re thinking smoked beer. You just think it’s going to go together super, super well. That’s not to say that it won’t, it absolutely will, but that can be a lot. That can be super overpowering. It really wouldn’t be my first choice to pair with.
You’re also going to get a bunch of different smoked styles, too. If you’re doing beechwood smoked versus mesquite or anything like that, they can really contrast with each other and not kind of blend as well on the palate as you want them to. Typically, I wouldn’t say barbecue, but I would say meat. Absolutely would say meat. I like grilled meat in that fact because you’re going to get a lot of smoke flavors coming off of that because it typically has that kind of smoky flavor to it, to begin with, so they should complement each other really, really well.
[00:03:51] TT: I’m glad you pointed out that the type of wood used in the brewing or distilling process probably makes a big difference. We were talking to an individual from Stone earlier, talking about their Smoked Porter. They use peated malt. That’s a very interesting smoked malt in that a lot of times if you’re not used to it—and they use it quite a bit in Scotch really—a lot of people say it’s kind of like a tuna on a burnt tire. Use it well, it’s great. What would you say if you’re looking at something with a really heavy peate or heavy smoke versus something with light cherry wood as far as pairings?
[00:04:39] HJ: I think it also depends on the style of beer going with it. If we’re looking at more of a traditional Rauchbier beer style, those tend to be lager style beer, so they’re going to be a lot lighter on the palate and a lot cleaner in the finish, and we’re looking at a lot more of the smoke porters now. Something like that, I’d probably go with a really nice funky earthy cheese.
[00:05:04] GL: Yeah, that was what I was thinking as well. Something kind of you want to be fatty but also more bright-tasting, I guess. Does that make sense? You want to pull the smoke out of your taste buds, if you will.
[00:05:14] HJ: Peated for me too is when I get peated on the palate, I get that grassy aspect of it too. When I’m thinking of a really funky blue cheese because you want to match intensity. If you do something super delicate like goat’s cheese in that way, you’re not going to taste the cheese at all. It’s just going to wipe. All you’re going to taste is the beer, which of course, you want to, but you want to be able to match your intensities to your beer and your food. Otherwise, they’re going to just lose each other in the process. Honestly, with a peated Smoked Porter, 100% will go with blue cheese.
[00:05:50] GL: A nice piece of Roquefort or something like that. Do you have blue cheese that you like? What would be your go-to blue?
[00:06:00] HJ: I don’t know if I have a go-to blue.
[00:06:02] GL: I’m a big blue fan. I was interested to hear what you said.
[00:06:06] HJ: I really do love blue cheese, but I don’t know if it’s typically something I have in my fridge. Now I kind of want some. I was going to take a heavy Smoked Porter and just look at some of the other Smoked Porters on the market and stuff. I think a steak, grilled with blue cheese and mushroom sauce.
[00:06:29] GL: Oh, that sounds fantastic.
[00:06:31] HJ: I just feel like that is exactly what I want with a Smoked Porter because you get those earthy components from it. The mushrooms, the blue cheese, it’s going to be strong, it’s going to be smoky in the meat. It’s going to be nice and fatty, too. It’s just going to hold up to what the beer is presenting.
[00:06:50] GL: Makes sense to me.
[00:06:51] TT: That sounds great.
[00:06:53] HJ: Are you hungry now?
[00:06:55] GL: Yeah. I love a blue cheese–crusted steak. There are lots of people out there that are kind of like, oh, you can’t put anything on a steak. You’re very purist. I get that, but I don’t know if it’s that I just live in the land of steak or what, but it’s kind of boring. I like stuff like that. I like blue cheese crust, or oscar, or something like that.
[00:07:18] HJ: Absolutely. We’re not saying put ketchup on it or anything. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re saying make a nice blue cheese dressing.
[00:07:30] TT: I think it depends on the steak, too. If you got some glaze on top of a filet, a ribeye, or something like that, you may not need it just because you have a little bit more of that marbling and a little fattiness to it.
[00:07:49] HJ: I’ve been to a lot of high-end restaurants, so I think every single one of them, every steak they’ve ever served has always come with some sort of glaze or house sauce that they put on top of it. I come from the land of Alberta beef.
[00:08:05] GL: That’s right.
[00:08:06] TT: That’s for another conversation. I’ll argue the greatness of Texas Beef versus Canadian beef all day.
[00:08:12] HJ: We’re going to have a cook-off at some point in time. I think for beer, and obviously we’ve all done wine pairings with food over and over again. I think one of the coolest things about beer is just all the aspects of what beer brings to the table and what aspects can be paired with food. The mouthfeel, the carbonation, those things matter when it comes to pairing food. Obviously, the malt, is it roasty, is it biscuity? Then you got your hops in there, too. Is it citrusy? Is it resiny? There are so many cool aspects to pull from when you’re doing pairings. And a smoked malt one, so many different things.
[00:08:57] TT: Great point on carbonation. You don’t get that with most wines. I think it’s just a palate cleanser and kind of opens up all the taste buds for what you got going on with the food.
[00:09:08] HJ: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:09:14] TT: I’m just thinking about the cheese comment, the blue cheese, and I’m kind of off-topic here but when you’re eating a blue cheese with (say) a smoked beer, smoked porter or something, are you including crackers?
[00:09:30] HJ: You can, or a baguette, something super neutral. I don’t often just scoop blue cheese and eat it with a spoonful.
[00:09:42] TT: I’ve been known to.
[00:09:43] GL: I do.
[00:09:45] TT: It’s like, it goes with peanut butter, too.
[00:09:48] GL: One of my all-time favorite blue cheese is, and I think it pairs awesomely with beer; I’ve never had it with a smoked beer, to be fair. Usually, it’s like on the side or something, but there’s this great cheese out of California called Humboldt Fog, and it is a blue goat’s milk cheese that I love. It’s a blue goat’s milk brie.
[00:10:15] TT: Wow. We talked about beef; we talked about something grilled. What about seafood?
[00:10:27] HJ: Salmon. Absolutely to a tee. I don’t know if I would particularly do it, maybe with a Smoked Porter. Just kind of depending on how heavy that roast is in there because that would really overpower the salmon but like a planked salmon with a traditional Rauchbier, just have a beautiful smoked salmon.
[00:10:47] TT: Nice. What about salads? We mentioned blue cheese, some of those kinds of rich salads, anything that comes to mind, Heather?
[00:10:55] HJ: Salads are great, too, because you can put whatever ingredients in there you want. You can top the salad with incredible cheese, and it would kind of bring that in there. What kind of dressing are you going to use? Is it going to be super mild? Is it going to be creamy? Is it going to have different kinds of earthy components in different herbs and spices and that sort of thing? Are you going to use radishes? There are so many different things that you could put in there that would work really well with it.
[00:11:24] GL: I can see radishes working well.
[00:11:26] HJ: I can too. Radishes and carrots. Just all of those, that sounds nice.
[00:11:32] GL: Little […] with some smoked beers.
[00:11:36] HJ: Yeah.
[00:11:38] TT: I know there are so many different things to look at when you’re pairing food and beer, but is there something when somebody asks you what’s just simplified or the basics to remember when pairing beer with food? Let me talk a little bit about it, but if you got to tell somebody here’s kind of your basics on how to get started in 30 seconds, what would it be?
[00:12:00] HJ: Always not strengths. We definitely said that before. You just don’t want to take some things like a super heavy beer and super light food. They’re going to wash each other out. And look at whether you want to compare your flavors or contrast your flavor. We’re talking about pairing a stout with a chocolate cake. There’s a comparative flavor. They’re going to complement each other really well; they’re going to have a super, super dark, chocolatey, roasty flavors in there.
You could also pair a creek with a chocolate cake, which is light, sour, carbonated berry flavor that’s going to also pair really, really well with chocolate. Compare and or contrast and don’t pick anything too strong with anything too light, for the simplest on that.
[00:12:33] TT: Yeah, sounds so good right now.
[00:12:37] HJ: You kind of want some steak and some cake.
[00:12:39] TT: That’s right. I was thinking of cheesecake with a strawberry on top.
[00:12:43] HJ: There is a restaurant in Calgary that is very beer-focused, and they make a chocolate bar, and they put a chocolate roast malt on it, and it is so good. Now that’s kind of what I want.
[00:12:58] GL: Speaking of cooking with beer or spirits, any tips for cooking with a smoked beer or smoked spirit?
[00:13:19] HJ: I’ve never done a ton of cooking with beer other than making beer bread. Anybody who hasn’t done that, it is delicious. You could probably do a really lovely glaze with a smoked beer or smoked spirit, and do it with something like a pork shoulder or something really traditional, almost like traditional German food. These are traditional […] beers—grows together, goes together. These beers were created with lots of braised pork and sausage and stuff like that. Kind of look for that. It’d be really cool to make a sauce out of that.
[00:13:56] GL: Just like boiled down some kind of smoke beer with a high finishing gravity, so it’s all syrupy.
[00:14:03] HJ: Yes.
[00:14:04] GL: Cool.
[00:14:07] TT: I’ll be interested too in marinating. I’ve marinated some things with various beers, but a smoked beer would probably be unique. I wonder if the end result you would pick up any of that smokiness of the beer.
[00:14:19] HJ: I’d say you probably would. It’s such a backbone of it. I can see that just transferring over. That is something we can try.
[00:14:31] TT: If you would be able to have one perfect meal along with a smoked beer, and I know you’ve bagged a lot of different things but start to finish from appetizer to dessert with your choice of a smoked beer—you can name some breweries if you like—I’m just curious to know what kind of dinner would look like from start to finish.
[00:14:57] HJ: Oh wow. I definitely want to start off with what looks like a traditional Rauchbier and a salad; I think that’s great. I think you want to bring in some earthy components in there, like we said, a lot of root vegetables and probably some little bit stronger cheeses in addition to the salad. If you’re going to go for the main course, as I said, I’m probably going to go for the steak. I’m going to want a charcoal-grilled steak. Do that blue cheese dressing and those wild mushrooms on there as well.
For dessert, that is a little bit of a tough one. I forget to stick with almost the Alaskan Smoked Porter. I probably do a chocolate cake with a little bit of chocolate ganache on top because you’re just going to bring out that roastiness. I do think that the smokiness in the beer is going to actually pair quite nicely with the chocolate. Some contrasting flavors there.
[00:16:05] TT: This was a terrible time to record this.
[00:16:11] HJ: I’m getting super hungry now.
[00:16:20] TT: It’s 4:30 here; it’s towards the end of the day. I didn’t eat much lunch—what a terrible time to do this. I think for Grant and me, the real key question is here because we have some really kickass Mexican food down here. Is there any way or any particular Mexican cuisine that would pair well with smoked beer?
[00:16:40] HJ: I could see it going well with, I kind of want to say chorizo, which I obviously know Spanish, but I know that it is used a lot like a pulled pork taco. It would go nice with anything a bit spicy because it’s going to kind of balance that out, especially if you’re going to go on the lager side of things. It’s going to be light and clean and kind of balanced out at the end with higher carbonation when the little cleaner finishes, but even if you went on the sweeter side with a porter, the sweet and spicy contrasting flavors really balanced each other out, too.
[00:17:18] GL: For sure.
[00:17:19] HJ: Yeah, definitely like a pork taco.
[00:17:21] GL: The smoke, like you’re saying, would just mellow out the capsaicin, the peppers, or whatever in your food. Okay, cool.
[00:17:32] HJ: Yeah.
[00:17:33] TT: I could see it going really well with a flan as well, the Mexican-style custard.
[00:17:40] GL: Good point. It’s basically like the Spanish version of Crème Brûlée.
[00:17:52] HJ: Yeah. […] Mexican food with you guys.
[00:17:59] TT: Come down. I’ll eat anything down here, that’s for sure. I will do it. Grant, we mentioned on our podcasts, too, your soiree
, if you will, is butchery a word?
[00:18:15] GL: Sure. Yeah.
[00:18:17] TT: Butchery.
[00:18:19] GL: It was an interesting college job, but it was great. I think you made the perfect point when you’re topping something with blue cheese or something like that, maybe something that’s more neutral like a piece of fillet, 100% agree with.
[00:18:38] TT: Any particular smoked beers that you’re enjoying up in your neck of the woods? Any customers that you know that are producing some pretty excellent stuff that we should know of?
[00:18:50] HJ: Nobody’s really doing them on the regular. We’re getting them a bit more specialty beers. I know Medicine Hat Brewing in Alberta did a smoked stout. I know Cold Harbor and BC were doing a Smoked Porter as well. They’re definitely around; I think that’s something that I don’t think smoked beers are as popular as they could/should be.
[00:19:16] GL: Exactly.
[00:19:16] TT: Yeah. We talked about it a couple of times today. It’s a cool style that seems like the people in the industry like ourselves love them. But it just hasn’t picked up a lot of steam from the general consuming public.
[00:19:33] GL: One trend that I’ve noticed with smoked beers or smoking anything, in general, is that all the distillers tend to love them. I would say that every distiller I’ve ever met, they really enjoy Laphroaig, or smoked beers, or anything that’s smoky seems like the distiller folks gravitate towards them.
[00:19:52] HJ: I feel like that’s not shocking.
[00:19:54] GL: Yeah. I guess it kind of goes hand in hand, right?
[00:19:58] HJ: Yeah.
[00:20:01] TT: Out of the stuff that Country Malt Group carries—it’s a question for both of you—we have a pretty wide variety of offerings from Briess to Bestmalz to even Colorado Malting, for that matter. Not playing favorites here, but Grant, out of the selection that we have, what are some of the malts that brewers may think about trying if they’re new to this style or want to put their toes in the water as far as the style?
[00:20:37] GL: Maybe I’m just a little biased because of my job, the geography here, and kind of the German brewing traditions in Central Texas, but for me, I would say start off with just the Bestmalz smoke. It’s beechwood, so it’s very mild compared to some of the other ones. It makes a beautiful traditional Rauchbier like Heather was saying, just a lighter beer style for the weather and the climate here. Try that one. Then move on to maybe the Briess, the Cherry, or the Mesquite, and then from there go up to—
[00:21:18] HJ: […] Peated?
[00:21:18] GL: Exactly. […] Peated. It’s the sledge hammer, right?
[00:21:24] HJ: Yeah. Maybe start slow. There’s something, I guess maybe is just near and dear, that traditional beechwood smoke. That’s how this actual style of beer started, so I think it’s a good intro into wanting to work with a smoke malt.
[00:21:47] TT: Heather, what about the breweries out there that just don’t have a kitchen? They don’t have the normal food truck that visits, but they have to provide snacks, or they do provide easy snacks. Is there something that just comes to mind as far as something simple that a brewer can offer as a snack for somebody with a smoked beer?
[00:22:06] HJ: Potato chips.
[00:22:08] TT: Oh, good one. Any particular fries?
[00:22:12] HJ: You can obviously do a barbecue because it’s not going to be that super heavy smoke. I would almost just go for a good plane or almost a sour cream and onion.
[00:22:23] GL: Like some salt?
[00:22:28] HJ: Yeah. A really good plain saltiness (I thin)k goes really, really nicely with the smoke. Again a sour cream, and I’m really just feeling that earthy, root vegetable component of it.
[00:22:41] GL: Yes, it’s got a bit of that cheesiness aspect that we’re talking about for sure. What do you think, kettle-cooked or just plain?
[00:22:49] HJ: I would probably go plain, but I’m not a huge kettle-cooked potato chip kind of gal, not that it’s an actual kind of gal, but that’s what I would probably go for. I’ve done beer and potato chip pairings before, and we did a mesquite barbecue potato chip with a porter, and it was one of my absolute favorite pairings. I just really loved those two together.
[00:23:14] GL: That sounds dreamy.
[00:23:17] HJ: Nice.
[00:23:18] TT: Curveball here because we’re talking about odd pairings. If you were to tell somebody, what is the strangest pairing that you came across where you’re like, this really works. This is awesome. It doesn’t have to be smoked beer.
[00:23:34] HJ: I have not tried this since I was out for dinner in Las Vegas, and this is right when I was studying for my Cicerone. My girlfriend and I was with […]. They agreed to do a wine pairing for her and a beer pairing for me, and they did a tomato […] with a milk stout, and it weirdly was good.
I haven’t tried it since I’ve had arguments with one of my friends who’s also saying, no, that’s terrible. That sounds terrible, but it wasn’t because of the acidity from that. Tomatoes are a really hard food to pair with beer. Just how highly acidic they are, and there was just something about that with the creaminess of the milk stout; it just worked so well.
[00:24:21] TT: Do tomatoes fall in that umami category?
[00:24:26] HJ: I would say so, yes.
[00:24:31] GL: Tomato carpaccio, is that sort of like a Caprese salad, or is that different?
[00:24:36] HJ: It’s more kind of like bruschetta but not really oniony and garlicy. Really finely diced with a bunch of different kinds of tomatoes. It was really good. Somebody try that.
[00:25:00] TT: What about you, Grant? What would you say just an odd pairing that you came across or something that people would be surprised that you came across, like this really cool pairing that fit well together, surprisingly.
[00:25:11] GL: I feel like this is a thing now, but it didn’t use to be. The very first time I heard about it, I thought it was weird, but I don’t know. It’s probably commonplace now, like beer and donut pairing, like tastings. I’ve seen that again and again, but I think it can work really well. You can kind of do whatever you want with the donut. They got those crazy craft donut shops who do bacon on top of them and things like that. It was weird to me at first, but I would say that’s pretty neat. It surprisingly works very well.
[00:25:52] TT: I got two odd ones. I’ll start with the wine. I like wine with pizza. Is that strange?
[00:26:13] HJ: Again, what grows together, goes together. Wine is an Italian thing. Pizza is an Italian thing. They’re made to go together.
[00:26:20] TT: Yeah, and I had a buddy that swore by that you got to take a Cabernet and Doritos. I was like, this sounds gross. I was about three glasses in when he told him this. I can’t remember what it’s like, but of course, I was like, oh, that’s awesome, but I haven’t tried it since.
[00:26:40] HJ: What Doritos are you talking about? Cool ranch or just nachos?
[00:26:45] TT: Just the straight nacho.
[00:26:43] HJ: I can see that.
[00:26:44] TT: The other thing is I love the chicharrón, the fried pork skins. I also like to just slather them with […]. I love that in a really clean, crisp lager.
[00:27:06] HJ: I can see that.
[00:27:09] GL: It’s a pretty big thing in Mexico where it sounds kind of weird at first, but it’s like taking some kind of chip or chicharrón or something like that and then just coating it in hot sauce. Pretty common, but…
[00:27:21] TT: It kind of makes them soggy. If you don’t throw it in your mouth immediately, it just starts getting soggy.
[00:27:26] GL: Yeah, cool.
[00:27:28] TT: I used to do that with popcorn, too. Throw […], or tabasco on popcorn and kind of do the same thing. Just like you’re eating mush. That was good.
[00:27:42] GL: I know it’s pretty common in Mexico City, for instance, like dip chicharrón and guacamole instead of chips. With all these diets these days, it’s usually typically diet-friendly to do that, so it’s pretty cool.
[00:27:58] TT: With no carbs?
[00:28:00] GL: Yeah, no carbs.
[00:28:00] HJ: Gluten-free.
[00:28:02] GL: Yeah, gluten-free.
[00:28:03] TT: Except for all the oil they fry it in. That’s what people overlook.
[00:28:09] HJ: Yes, it’s still delicious.
[00:28:12] TT: Well, Heather, this has been awesome, really, really cool. We’re going to get it done. We’re going to set up a full episode to have you on. We’ll talk all things beer and food pairing. We could really keep this rolling for another hour; we’re going to do that.
[00:28:31] HJ: We probably could, and we just get hungry and hungrier the further we go along.
[00:28:36] TT: Let’s do it over a meal. Then we can be eating while doing it and share our thoughts on what we’re pairing our food and beer with.
[00:28:44] HJ: That sounds like a deal.
[00:28:48] GL: Get all the usual suspects together and have everybody submit their favorite beer and food pairing, and then have Heather critique them.
[00:28:57] HJ: Please do. If everybody just started sending me beer and food, I’m not going to be angry about it. That’s something that we can do. I’m on board.
[00:29:17] TT: Another option is we just pick a single beer and say…
[00:29:21] HJ: Everybody come up with your pairing, yeah. Absolutely, I have a friend that runs a boutique beer bar and restaurant, and this is what he does for a living, and we never agree on beer and food pairings. Neither of us is ever wrong. We just never agree on it. We like to go in different directions, and it’s always fun to discuss, go over them, and fight about it.
[00:29:46] GL: Yes.
[00:29:47] TT: Well, cool. Heather Jerred, thanks again for joining us. Heather’s our territory manager in Western Canada for CMG and is so happy to have you on. I’m super excited as Grant as well as to get you on with us on all these episodes going forward.
[00:30:00] HJ: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
[00:30:02] TT: Enjoy the rest of the evening. You go get a steak or something. I’m going to find out what beer I have in my fridge and then figure out what kind of macaroni and cheese to go with it because of the kids.
[00:30:13] HJ: Good luck with that.
[00:30:18] TT: I know. Grant, thanks again, buddy. Good to have you.
[00:30:20] HJ: Thanks all.
[00:30:00] TT: Well, I appreciate everybody listening to this episode of The BrewDeck podcast specifically around smoked beers. It was really cool that we could bring in some unique perspectives and really talk to a handful of people about that style and really encouraged the brewers and distillers out there that if you haven’t worked with some sort of smoked malt, reach out to us.
We’ve got a pretty cool selection of stuff that would really, really work well in your brewery or distillery. I encourage everybody if you haven’t brewed with our Brutus smoked beer, look into it. There’s a cult following. We’re one of them. So we appreciate everybody’s ears, and we look forward to catching up on the next episode of The BrewDeck. Cheers.
[00:31:34] Grant: We are back with another great smoked beer segment. I’m really proud today to have on our podcast, Mr. Curtis Holmes and Geoff from Alaskan Brewing on today. They’re going to share some information with us about their famous Smoked Porter and their techniques around using smoked malt in general. How’s it going, guys?
[00:31:57] CH: Going well.
[00:31:58] Grant: All right. I’ve also got Heather on. Heather Jerred, on the podcast with us today in the segment. So tell us a little bit about smoking your own malt?
[00:32:11] Geoff: Well, you know what, first off, I think I just want to say it’s great to be here. It’s great to be able to sit here and share the time with Curtis. Between Curtis and I, we have 66 years of smoked malt processing and smoked malt use.
[00:32:33] HJ: Just a little bit of time.
[00:30:34] Geoff: Yeah. Little bit of time. In fact, Curtis, you were just smoking malt the other day, weren’t you?
[00:32:41] CH: Actually, we’re going to do it next week. We had to postpone. So next Monday night, we’re going to be doing it.
[00:32:49] Geoff: Awesome. Yeah, I think it’s quite an amazing journey that we’ve been on in regards to using smoked malt. Well, I know Heather and Grant you talked to us about our Alaskan Smoked Porter, which we have no problem with talking about, but we use our smoked malt in a number of different beers, not necessarily always with the intention of having it as a primary flavor component. I think that’s an element that most people will just maybe don’t quite think about. And that’s one thing I think we’d like to share with people.
[00:33:26] HJ: What other beers do you utilize it in?
[00:32:32] Geoff: Well, we just celebrated our 35th anniversary, and so we put out an anniversary beer. It’s a Russian Imperial Stout with a little bit of smoked malt, but we also use some birch syrup and some honey. But the smoked malt, if you weren’t told it was in there, I think you’d be maybe somewhat pressed to say that you got a smoky character. What do you think, Curtis?
[00:34:02] CH: Yeah, I would agree. It’s pretty light. The birch syrup gives a little bit of smokiness as well. When we originally did that beer, we were trying to showcase Alaskan ingredients. The birch syrup comes from up near Anchorage, Fairbanks. The honey was fireweed honey, which is a flower that grows here. But part of that was also our smoked malt, and it helped accentuate the syrup a little bit. I get some phenolic notes from the birch syrup. Within that, the smoked malt is hiding in there as well, but pretty subtle.
[00:34:42] Grant: Yeah. That’s really neat. Just the Alaskan ingredients you guys use in general. I knew about the spruce tips famously, but I had never heard of the birch syrup. Very cool.
[00:34:55] Geoff: Grant, you hit it squarely on the head. There was an interesting element of the smoked character being also from our locale. The old breweries back in the late 1800s, early 1900s were often also malt houses. They would be making the malt to be able to brew the beer. Back then, direct fire heat would be the standard process for that element of the malt production. So we just made that leap of the fact that they’re using probably the wood of choice for that sort of processing, which would be […] the signature character.
[00:35:42] Grant: You’re talking about the kilning part of the malt, drying it with alderwood versus natural gas these days, but yeah, very cool.
[00:35:52] Geoff: Yeah, correct. Curtis, why don’t you just tell them why we smoke at night? I think that’s kind of a funny story.
[00:36:00] CH: Yeah. We have an old smokehouse that we bought from a fish smoker that used to be across the street from us when Geoff first started the brewery and talked to smoked grease Taku Fisheries. When we put it across the street, our smoking process is pretty intense. It puts off this nice white smoke coming off the stack.
You have to be a little careful, because the neighbors think you have a really big fireplace going or something else is going on in the building. It’s also pretty odorous. It smells great. It’s a lot of alder smoke smell to it, but we have a lot of businesses around us with open doors. We didn’t want to also overdo it with the smoke smell.
[00:36:49] HJ: Has anybody actually called the fire department when you have done your smoking? For curiosity’s sake.
[00:36:57] CH: We’ve never had it. We’ve talked to fire departments. They know what we’re doing. We always hang a sign on the door. So somebody comes by and wonders why this nice white smoke’s born out of this smokestack, they know what’s going on. Taku fisheries is located now downtown, about five miles away from the brewery. They’re right on the channel, so we have a Pacific Ocean that runs between the downtown area and a small island called Douglas.
People in Douglas would see the smoke coming off Taku smokers in the winter. They would actually call the fire department because they thought the building was on fire because I kind of fell off the building and go out across the water, and the building was burning down.
[00:37:42] Grant: What is this smoker? I’m trying to picture it in my head. Is it a building, and then there’s a long tube that goes to where the malt is or is it just a fire under malt? Are you trying to do it indirectly, or how’s that work?
[00:37:58] CH: You want me to cover that, Geoff?
[00:38:00] Geoff: Yeah, sure. Go ahead. Give the physical description. I can go getting about the chemistry.
[00:38:10] CH: Yeah, you’re way better at that than me. I just don’t smoke. I guess you’d call it industrial size or food processor–size smokehouse. It’s got a big rack in it that holds about ten trays. The trays are probably 4×4 feet square. It’s designed to process a lot of smoked fish. It has an indirect fire on it. We take the wood chips sawdust, it piles into this little container, and just slowly feeds into a smoldering fire down at the bottom.
Then there’s a fan of kilts that smoke indirectly and blows it past the malt. That way, you’re not getting any ash or embers that blow in across them all that might contaminate it. It’s designed from that you’d be doing fish, and it would be food grade. It’s a pretty nice process. That also helps cool the smoke down a little bit, so you don’t cook the malt too much. You can get a little bit of colorization from the malt just like you would with smoked salmon, but it’s not on any of that char or anything you wouldn’t want to see on the malt. From there, it goes out a stack and exhausts out. You just put as much smoke in as you want to build the character you want.
[00:39:32] Grant: I take it you have some kind of standard that’s based on the PPM of phenol or something like that you’re going for? How does that work? How do you know when it’s smoky enough?
[00:39:42] CH: We have kind of a set recipe. Geoff probably knows a bit more on the chemistry side, so I’ll let him answer on that. But for our side on the machine, it’s pretty much a set recipe. We put in a certain amount of alder chips that we know will smoke a batch of malt, and then we run it for a set time. It’s pretty much like the brewing process. It’s very similar.
[00:40:05] Geoff: Got you. So it’s a computer-controlled smokehouse. It controls smoke density, smoke temperature, and humidity. It is a fairly sophisticated unit used in food processing. As Curtis said, the remote smoke generator controls those particulates, which in smoke generation, you have to be careful of particulates, because they have polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that you try to avoid. That’s the nice thing about our operation. It’s using the technology for something that actually is (I would have to say) probably very much a part of our genetic code.
Let’s face it. Fire and smoky foods (I think) elicit an innate positive feeling towards the fact that that’s a point of security. It’s heat. It’s keeping the wild animals away when you’re thinking about us being in the caveman era. But at the same time, I think Curtis hit it. There’s a really interesting subtle characteristic of using maybe not necessarily in-your-face smoke intensity in your products, and that it creates longevity. It gives them a more of a shelf life, and that makes sense when you think about its use in food preparations for, whether it be smoked meats or smoked fish.
[00:41:33] Grant: I didn’t even think about it from that standpoint of shelf life. Really cool.
[00:41:40] Geoff: Yeah. It was interesting. You talked about noting the percentage of phenols. I visited Bairds Malt House up in Scotland. They use that as a tracker. For us, we’re essentially, depending upon the fact that our processing of malt is done by a computer program. It’s a fairly lengthy program. Basically, it’s a 24-hour program because what we do is dry it at the end of the smoking operation.
One of the other byproducts in burning wood is acetic acid. So it’s extraordinarily important if a brewer were to be making their own, that they dry it thoroughly, because that’ll drive off that acetic acid, which is an inherent byproduct of wood burning. That’s why it’s such a long processing that we do, because we really do want to drive off the acetic acid and just have that smoke character. But you all have a variety of smoked malts available to the consumer or the brewer that wants to use smoked malts, and I think that’s really one thing that we investigated. Our smoke character is different. The answer is, unequivocably, yes.
[00:43:15] Grant: That’s what we’ve been hearing from a couple different brewers on these segments. We were talking to one the other day about mesquite, so I just was really stoked to have you guys on, and I know you use the alder. It was such a neat wood. It’s not everywhere, right? It’s quintessentially Alaskan, I’d say.
[00:43:31] Geoff: Yeah, all there’s like a Northwest product. That was one thing that was very interesting. A story I’ve told many times is that when people would taste our beer, they would comment on it tasting fishy. I was so adamant, no, no, no. I guess it’s a fish smokehouse, but we were really careful. I was talking to Greg Noonan in Vermont, and he was using hickory. He was accused of his beer tasting like smoked ham because of hickory. It’s flavor association.
I think it’s wonderful to be able to sit there and wrap yourself around something that’s local, and that it’s expressed, and that people will recognize. That’s really kind of neat. I think that’s what’s great about being able to sit there and have a product like Alaskan Smoked Porter, just because it’s an interesting characteristic. As with anything, too much of a good thing is not necessarily good, so it’s a delicate balance to make sure that you have the right amount of smoke that’s appealing.
I use the analogy of salt as an amazing ingredient in cooking food. But you put too much in, you ruin it. That’s the one thing that I would say that’s really a point of emphasis for the brewers that want to try this. They’re going to buy it, buy the malt from you all. Just be careful. Actually, it’s easy to be subtle, but if you overdo it, it could be maybe over the top and not what you want.
[00:45:20] Grant: I had a similar discussion to that at one of the beer festivals, where I had a homebrewer come up, and he was really excited. He gave me a bottle of his beer to try because he made smoked Porter. His effort at it, he smoked the hops, who smoked the malt 100% of everything. Surprisingly, the beer was okay. I didn’t think I was going to be able to drink it. Whatever smoke he did, he probably did it light enough that the beer was actually pretty decent.
I’ve talked to people where they’re always surprised that 2%–3% of your […] is often enough to pick it up pretty well. To just point with hickory and the mesquite, they’re really strong woods. Less is more sometimes, and you’ll get more of that character, where if you overdo it, that’s all people can taste, and you can lose the flavor of the beer in there.
[00:46:16] HJ: Did you have a lot of trial and error when you were working, when you first decided to create this beer, or a lot of trial and error with a smoked malt?
[00:46:26] Geoff: Absolutely. As Curtis said, we smoke our malt intensely. Our […] is not necessarily a huge amount of smoked malt, whereas if you get a beechwood smoked malt, you would be able to use quite a bit more in your malt bill. I think it really is a bit of trial and error, because you do have to dial it in.
I remember when the peat malts first came into the United States, they had high, medium, and low. High was extraordinarily intense. You had to be really careful about using too much. Peat reek is a very smoky character. But again, it’s an adventure. It’s a dimension of flavor that people have to just embrace the fact that they’re going to learn.
If people are making their own malt, a couple of suggestions. Of course, I was asked to write a book with Ray Daniels with the Association of Brewers. We talked a little bit about the whole process. I would say if somebody is going to make their own malt, we use a light-colored malt. I would not recommend using crystal malt because part of the process of smoke deposition is really akin to the way malt is made. They have that wet malt that now needs to be dried.
That process, actually, we tried to emulate with dampening the malt so that the malt moisture will allow the water-soluble components that make smoke tasty, smoke aromatically available. Also, there’s a cooling element so that there’s a condensation effect. The two effects are solubility of the smoke and, secondly, condensation of the smoke on the cooler––relatively speaking––malt, because it’s damp.
Then again, I emphasize if somebody is going to be making their malt, be aware that there’s an acidic component that’s very soluble in water, and you will get an acidic acid character, so you must dry the malt. Commercially available smoked malts have done that for you. It’s a wonderful way of learning because I always suggest that somebody’s going to make their own malt, make up a lot so that you have enough time to play with now a homogeneous raw material.
[00:49:09] Grant: It’s a good point. Have a big batch size so you can make a couple batches with it and then tweak from there.
[00:49:19] HJ: I know that you release this in vintages. Do you have a personal favorite vintage of the smoked porter?
[00:49:40] Geoff: Curtis?
[00:49:45] HJ: You got a favorite child?
[00:49:49] CH: Yeah, I have a few. 2008 was a pretty good year. We went quite a few medals off that year. The smoking process is just like the malting process, and that the […] is different every year; it’s a natural product. Vintages (to me) change year to year even though we’re really careful about smoking the same.
I’ve always been surprised every year when we pull a batch out of the smokehouse, how it can taste slightly different. Little more smoky, less smoky, little more woody. I think that passes through the beer, obviously. Yeah, 2008, and then probably, I’m thinking there’s one back in 98–99. It was a really good one that I like too.
[00:50:40] Geoff: I also like the way you describe the smoke character from that. That year is vintage. You basically have talked about the dynamic character of the smoke. You want to wait a little bit for it to mellow a bit.
[00:51:01] CH: That’s an interesting point, too. When we first brewed it, there were people that liked it straight out of the tank. It’s very smoky, a little more ashy, roasted tasting. Some people just drink bottles of it.
Personally, I always wait about four or five months until the smoke kind of subdues, and it melds in with some of the malt characters. I often wait 5–6 months up to a year before I drink my bottles. I’ll try one off the tank, but it’s so – I don’t want to use the term harsh – it’s just really smoky. I like to have it mellow out a bit.
[00:51:40] Geoff: Yeah, there’s maybe an aggressive kind of character, and that’s one thing that we found. When we first brewed the beer, now basically, we labeled it 89, but we actually brewed it and bottled it in December of 88. We were releasing it as a seasonal, and we really didn’t think of it as being able to take age. It was much later when we would be tasting bottles that were a year or two old. I realized there were some real interesting developments and maturity that was coming into the beer.
It was later in 1993. I was in a room. I had convened a few beer writers, including Michael Jackson, Fred Eckert, also Greg Noonan. We also had Tom Dollar of the Salvatore and a few other well-known QC people, Ed Laperle from Ball Corporation, and asked them with old beers, what they would recommend. Do you think this is a beer that could age? There was a resounding affirmation.
Then Michael Jackson had suggested that we think about instead of filtering the beer, letting some yeast stay in the beer for it to have an additional dimension of aging capability. From 93 on, we pretty much have always just let it settle out. It is not with a whole bunch of sediment, but it is essentially a beer that we’ve let live on with the yeast, adding that maybe aging component.
Really, it’s been pretty interesting. From then on, we really did start talking about its aging capability. Again, that was a bit of a journey and discovery. That was really fun. But I would say what’s really cool is you could buy 12 bottles and literally learn over 12 years how that beer develops and changes.
[00:53:59] HJ: That’s awesome.
[00:54:02] Grant: Great vertical.
[00:54:05] CH: I would say if somebody was going to do a vertical, I always like what Geoff taught me a long time ago, is do about every 2–3 years apart from each other because the year to year is pretty subtle. If you get a two- or three-year difference between them, it really stands out how the maltiness comes and goes.
I’ve always been surprised how the smoke will come and go some years. You’ll try one that’s maybe five years old, and you don’t think it’s very smoky. You might try it 2–3 years later, and the smoke kind of come back with it. It’s really interesting how that beer changes year to year as it ages.
[00:54:40] Geoff: Also, I think, if you do a vertical, start with the oldest beer first because the smoke does mellow with time. If you started with this year’s vintage, I think your smoke receptors would be saturated. That’s one thing that when I’m judging a smoked beer category if it’s for homebrew competition, I always use my nose first and then rank the beers in ascending order of smokiness. But I’ll always start with the least smoky because if you start with something too intense, you will not be able to perceive the smoke character because your palate’s saturated.
[00:55:22] HJ: You have ruined your palate, yeah.
[00:55:23] Grant: That’s fatigue, yeah. I wouldn’t have thought of that initially. But yeah, it makes perfect sense when you […].
[00:55:30] Geoff: The only times that we come out of the smokehouse, and we taste the malt, and we’re going, it’s not smoky. It just came out of the smokehouse.
[00:55:41] CH: Pretty much every year, we get done with a batch, and we’re all depressed that we didn’t think we did it right. We walked into the office across the street and just about gas everybody out that we smell like a campfire.
[00:55:58] Grant: Awesome. Heather, I think that covers most of the topics I had out here.
[00:56:09] HJ: Yeah. I think we crossed all the things off the list we wanted to go through. Anything else you want to add? Anything else you want to tell us?
[00:56:17] Grant: Do you have any one-off smoked beers there at your brewery that aren’t bottled, packaged, and sent out? Anything that looks special side project you all are working on smoke beer-wise?
[00:56:32] CH: I don’t think we have anything currently, but usually, as Jeff said, we always have a tote of smoked malt. We tend to smoke in January, February when things are quieter, and then we brew the porter in August, September when we are getting ready for it to come out. We always have a tote of it sitting around.
Some of the brewers will just grab it and throw it in. I’ve seen it in light beers, darker beers. Some are going to just play with it. Sometimes they’ll throw a pound in. But right now, I don’t think we have anything currently that […].
[00:57:05] Geoff: I think, Curtis, again, going back to the fact that our staff, you see the smoked malt as an accent and an ingredient that doesn’t have to dominate the end product. I think one thing that probably is maybe something that I would love to have as a suggestion, as a takeaway, is that look at the smoked malt as not only appropriate for smoked beers, beers that you have as a primary flavor component smoke, maybe even to the disregard of everything else.
I think the beauty of the smoked malt is actually sometimes in its subtle use. Maybe it’s the point where it can be perceived, identified, and named. Oh, yeah, there’s some smoked malt in here. I think even that’s a secondary flavor component, as I would say, then I think you can even have it even more subtle. We put out a beer we usually called Treebeard because it had a multiple wood character. It had, obviously, the smoked malt, which was alder. There was some oak-aged barrel as of this time.
[00:58:20] CH: White cedar, red cedar.
[00:58:22] Grant: Oh, wow.
[00:58:23] HJ: Oh, wow.
[00:58:24] CH: Yeah. It was a fun one.
[00:58:26] Geoff: Again, we were saying this was emphasizing woods influence in beer and not to have anyone would dominate. It was really kind of fun. I would say my big suggestion is, don’t save your smoked malt just for smoked beers. […] it could beat the whole gamut from light to dark.
[00:58:54] Grant: Okay. Good. Excellent takeaway there. We certainly appreciate you coming on today and dropping some knowledge here on the podcast. We would be remiss if we didn’t have Alaskan on with your smoked beer, repurposed salmon smoker into a glorious malt smoker. Very cool.
[00:59:14] HJ: Thank you, both so much.
[00:59:18] CH: Yeah, thanks for having us by.
[00:59:20] Geoff: We both enjoy what we do and what we make. We like to spread that awareness. I think the fact that people are brewing smoked beers all over the US is really heartening for us because, again, it’s a historical element that was refined out of existence because of the use of natural gas and direct heating. I think that was a shame. It’s great to see it being used by other breweries. I’m really happy that you all supply such a great set of products with smoke characters.
[01:00:01] HJ: We’re happy to see it coming back in.
[01:00:03] Grant: Yup, trying to bring it back around. All right. You have a good rest of the day, and we’ll be in touch. This podcast should come out next Friday. We’ll tag you guys on social media and that sort of thing.
[01:00:23] Geoff: Awesome.
[01:00:24] CH: Great. I appreciate it.
[01:00:25] HJ: Thanks, Geoff. Thanks, Curtis. It’s great meeting you.
[01:00:29] CH: Nice meeting you. Have a good afternoon.
[01:00:31] HJ: Bye.
[01:01:20] GL: All right, on to our next segment. Quite a few great brewers on this episode talking all things smoked beer. Our next guest is Dusan Kwiatkowski from Live Oak Brewing in Austin, Texas. If you’ve never heard of Live Oak, you should because they make some amazing lagers and lots of great smoked beer. Pretty stoked to have them on.
I’ve also got Heather Jerred here on the segment as well reporting in from Vancouver. Let’s jump into it. What are some of the ways that Live Oak likes to make their smoked beers in general? I know you guys use some different smoked malts over the years, but is there any kind of philosophical approach to how you do it or traditional? What’s the deal?
[01:02:14] DK: I’d say it’s pretty traditional. We’re kind of imitating the Bamberg-style smoked lager beers of Schlenkerla and Spezial. That’s all beechwood smoked malt and then oak smoke for the Grodziskie Polish smoked beer. It’s a clean yeast beer.
We used to use the traditional ale yeast, but a couple years ago, we switched it over, and we make it with a lager. It’s better and a little easier for us because that’s a yeast we always had. It’s not really about the yeast with that beer, just the smoke. Oak smoke, wheat, and beechwood smoked barley for the Grodziskie.
[01:03:11] GL: All right. Okay, cool. So you’re using both beech wood and oak smoke. We were talking with Steeplejack earlier, and they were 100% oak-smoked.
[01:03:22] DK: Sorry. Those are the two malts we use.
[01:03:26] GL: Got you.
[01:03:27] DK: The Grodziskie is 100% oak-smoked wheat. That’s the malt that we get from the Browar Grodzisk in Poland. They have a maltster who makes the wheat according to their traditional specs, and they do 25 tons a couple times a year. We get enough to make our Grodz from just a couple of pallets a couple of times a year. We don’t make a lot by volume, but we always have it available.
We went over there in 2018 and went to the maltster. We met those guys and saw their facility, which is like a refurbed, reopened Browar Grodzisk Brewery because it closed in the early 90s. They brought it back to life and started making this malt. The brewery used to make their own malt, and now they do everything except they outsource the malt. That’s kind of too much of labor. The malt facility is there, but it’s quite dilapidated, so it wouldn’t be quite the same.
[01:04:50] GL: What part of Poland is that?
[01:04:52] DK: It’s in Grodzisk. It’s 40 minutes south of Poznan, which is right between Warsaw and Berlin.
[01:05:04] GL: Got you. Very cool. I know that’s like a style. It’s near and dear to Live Oak’s heart that you always have on tap. It’s pretty neat. You just don’t see many of them that often. I hope it comes back more.
[01:05:24] DK: When we started making it, we had three pretty high percentage Polish-descent people working here, including myself. We basically have been recreating German- and Czech-style traditional beer, so that was an easy jump.
We had some brewer friends in Oklahoma that actually went over to Warsaw. Actually, there’s a library in Bamberg that has some information. One of them spoke some Polish and met with the Polish brewers in the late- or mid-2000s, and got the yeast, which they had been keep going themselves and their little group since the brewery was closed. They brought it back. Our friends in Oklahoma helped us. That’s when we all start making it, and we were using the Polish ale yeast and shifted to lager.
[01:06:43] GL: Right on. Okay. It’s a pretty low alcohol percent beer, right? It’s like in the threes?
[01:06:51] DK: Yeah, three even.
[01:06:53] GL: Three even, okay.
[01:06:55] DK: Yeah, it’s real low. It’s good for drinking a lot in a hot Texas summer. It’s a good fit.
[01:07:02] GL: Absolutely. Pretty high carbonation levels, too.
[01:07:06] DK: Yeah, it’s champagne-level bubbles.
[01:07:09] HJ: Wow.
[01:07:10] DK: Maybe not quite, but it’s for beer. We can get it in our cans. We can get it at three, two, which is not champagne. But with the beer foam, it’s very, very spritzy.
[01:07:27] GL: Absolutely. Okay. For those out there listening that don’t know, Live Oak puts on this awesome Rauchfest fest, I believe is what you all call it. You’ve done it for a couple years now, where you roll out a whole bunch of smoked beers all at one time. I know there’s Smoaktoberfest; there’s your Heller Rauch. These are just the ones I remember, but any other ones I’m missing there?
[01:07:56] DK: We don’t make them all every year, but it’s almost more or less a smoked version of most of the other beer styles, smoke Schwarz beer, and then this year we made a smoked Amber lager, Bamberger, which is really good. The Schlenkerla Marzen is kind of dark for a Marzen, and our Schwarz beer is like 70%. The beechwood smoked malt is the base malt, so it’s more potent. The Schlenkerla beer and then the Bamberger is a little more like the […] smoke lager. It’s a little lighter, not quite as potent.
[01:08:48] GL: A little more mellow?
[01:08:50] DK: Yeah.
[01:08:52] GL: Is that a bark? Is that like a smoke big bark or…?
[01:08:56] DK: Yeah, it’s very, very similar. It doesn’t have quite as much Munich and Vienna just because the smoked malt is the pils base malt.
[01:09:08] GL: Very cool.
[01:09:09] DK: If somebody made a smoked Munich malt, we could bump up the smoke percentage a little bit, but it’s very close to the bark.
[01:09:22] GL: Okay. Smoked Munich malt, that’s a good idea. All right. I think Rauchfest just wrapped. It’s usually at the end of January.
[01:09:37] DK: Yeah, we just finished it. The time of the year, January, it’s kind of a slow month. There’s not too much going on. It’s usually cold, so you can have the fire ambiance and use the hot beer poker. I can’t remember what it’s called; starts with an S.
We started having the last of the smoke Marzen from fest season. We hold on to a little bit of that. We had that, and then we just time most of our smoked beers to be out at around that time of year. Then maybe through the spring and summer, we’ll make maybe one or two more. But definitely, the wintertime is our smoked beer concentration, so that we can celebrate it properly with a big party. It’s probably the third year of doing making it a big deal. We’ve had them all available at the same time, but I think this is like our third year of doing it.
[01:10:44] GL: It’s definitely something I look forward to. I usually don’t make it to the fest, but you guys have it on tap for quite a while afterwards, so easy to […].
[01:10:53] DK:. Yeah, plus or minus a month or two. We get them all. We still have them all. We haven’t finished off any of them yet.
[01:11:01] HJ: You feel like it was a slow start for the market to really pick up to wanting to get excited about drinking smoked beers?
[01:11:10] GL: For sure.
[01:11:11] DK: Yeah, I think it’s still slowly crawling up. I think it was 2014 is when we started. We made a couple batches of smoked beer before we moved into our new facility. By volume, it’s not a huge chunk, but it’s a flavor that people that are interested in trying new new flavors, new things in beer, smoked beer, it fits in there pretty well. It’s a good beer for festival stuff when somebody is just there ready to just try a bunch of new things.
[01:11:57] HJ: Try everything new, yeah.
[01:11:59] DK: They’re a little more receptive. Some people just don’t like it, and that’s that’s fine. Having such a rich smoked meat tradition here in Texas, too, it’s a good fit. So we’re going to keep doing it.
[01:12:21] GL: Over the years, as Live Oaks been brewing these, would you say that you find yourself maybe brewing a little bit extra each year, like it’s slowly just growing?
[01:12:39] DK: I think the people that like them are getting more excited about having them. They will come out; they’ll get drunk up and prefer it that way. We were making 60 barrels of every batch. A lot of them are just draft only. Sometimes, even some of the foodie restaurant bars are a little hesitant to put on a half barrel of smoked beer.
We can make 20 barrels on our cooker. We’ll do that and make maybe a couple more smoked beers at one time. I think having them come out, get consumed, and not be around too long is better.
[01:13:28] GL: Sure. Would you think having a smoked beer lengthens the shelf life at all? Talking with some other smoked beer brewers, they were like, yeah, we tend to see that smoked beers last a little bit longer shelf life-wise. Would you agree?
[01:13:45] DK: Yeah. I can’t say why but yes. I don’t know. It seems to the Grodz, especially, that one’s, I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with the smoke curing of the malt or something that’s a 100% smoked malt. And that one’s a pretty bitter beer, too. Hop curing, smoke curing, maybe it has something to do with it. But yeah, generally, it does seem like a little bit yes.
[01:14:21] GL: Okay. For anybody out there who’s never been to Live Oaks’ new facility, I say new, how long has your new spot been open?
[01:14:35] DK: 2015. Yeah, 2015 is when we moved in.
[01:14:40] GL: Coming up on seven years, but if you’ve never been out there and you’re in the Austin area, it’s totally worth it. It’s on a beautiful piece of land. They have this huge frisbee golf course. You can have a half-liter of smoked beer, play frisbee golf. There’s nothing better on a nice weather afternoon, in my opinion, if you’re into beer.
[01:14:01] HJ: That’s so nice.
[01:15:02] DK: Tons of beer garden tables to sit out. There’s a lot of room out there.
[01:15:08] GL: Yeah, great food truck serving German food. What’s the food there called?
[01:15:16] DK: Black Forest.
[01:15:20] GL: Yeah. Anyway, it’s just a rocking good time. If you’re ever in the Austin area and you’re listening to this podcast, definitely don’t miss it.
[01:15:30] HJ: Do you recommend one of your smoked beers that’s a good intro to somebody that hasn’t really experienced smoked beers before? Maybe a little gateway?
[01:15:43] DK: The smoked helles is pretty good. That’s our lighter smoke potency beer. There’s not a lot of other flavors in there, too. The smoke, it’s less, but it might be still pretty upfront. That’s why we made the Bamberger.
It’s something with a little bit of Munichy malt flavor and smoke, I think. Those are very complimentary to start with. The Schwarz beer is pretty potent, but that’s probably one of our bestseller smoked beer is the smoked Schwarz beer.
[01:16:17] GL: The Bamberger is in cans, right?
[01:16:21] DK: They are all in cans in the taproom. Then you’ll find some of them on draft out in the world. Maybe a pallet of kegs goes out.
[01:16:37] GL: Sure. Pretty relatively limited. It’s all in Texas, right?
[01:16:42] DK: Yeah, all in Texas. Yup.
[01:16:45] GL: Yup.
[01:16:46] DK: You got to come down.
[01:16:48] GL: Yup, they just got to make it…
[01:16:50] HJ: I don’t think those are going to be in my world. I have to plan a vacation.
[01:16:54] GL: Yup. Awesome. Anything else? Do you want to plug Live Oak while we got you here to do something?
[01:17:03] DK: We’ll be 25 years old in April. We’re having a big anniversary party. A quarter-century, so it’s kind of a big deal. We’re planning some Pilsner collaborations with some of our old friends in town. I think we’re going to have eight pils and then a bunch of other beers. We’ll have a lot of beer available. That’ll be April 23rd.
[01:17:32] GL: Okay, cool.
[01:17:34] HJ: Awesome.
[01:17:37] GL: Thanks for coming on the show today.
[01:17:39] DK: Yeah, thanks for having me on. Thanks for the smoked malt.
[01:17:45] GL: No problem. Cool, man. We’ll let you get back to it. This should air next Friday. It’s the plan. You can get it anywhere. You can download podcasts. You can download The BrewDeck podcast; we’ll give you a shout on Instagram as well.
[01:18:06] DK: Super.
[01:18:07] GL: Awesome.
[01:18:08] HJ: Awesome.
[01:18:09] DK: All right. Thanks, guys.
[01:18:10] GL: Yeah.
[01:18:10] HJ: Thank you.
[01:18:11] DK: Thanks. See you.
[01:18:12] HJ: Bye.