Smoke beer, or rauchbier, as it’s called in Germany, holds a significant place in the history of beer making. It’s theorized that in the early days of brewing most beer was smoked simply because malts were dried directly over open flames. While contemporary technologies have changed things, the tradition of smoke beer remains strong.
Travel to Bamberg, Germany, as brewer Matt Levy of Threes Brewing in Brooklyn did some years ago, and you’ll discover that the majority of beer there is still brewed in the rauch style. It was this visit that inspired him to make not just one but two smoke beers at his brewery in Gowanus. For both beers, his approach emphasizes subtlety and accessibility.
Speaking about his Solid Air smoked lager, Levy says that he strives for a style that’s “flavorful but ethereal, refreshing and drinkable.” He prefers a more nuanced flavor profile, emphasizing elements such as “cappuccino, tree bark, plum, and apricot fruit leather.” And if Solid Air, using 70% smoked beechwood malt, is designed to be an approachable rauchbier, Levy’s Short Fuse—a foudre-fermented smoked helles—is lighter still. Coming in at a sessionable 4.2% ABV, and using only 10% smoked malt, the smokiness in this beer takes a back seat to such flavors as toasted marshmallow and vanilla. Which, despite its levity, is still comfortingly “warming to the belly.”
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Feature photo by Emily Hawkes