Five Smoky New England Beers to Sip Around the Hearth
There are only so many ways to wield a hop cone, which is why a number of local breweries are mining the distant past for inspiration. Lately, that’s meant getting downright ancestral, as the most intrepid channel the pre-industrial brewing techniques of Bamberg, Germany, and its smoky Rauchbier style. Using malts fired over fragrant beechwood, brewmasters are achieving aggressive flavor profiles that fall somewhere between single-malt scotch and liquid barbecue. Once divisive, the style has even captured the attention of casual beer fans—particularly in the fall, as slow-roasted meats and New England boiled dinners start to reappear. Here, five fire-flavored beers to sip around the hearth.
Queen City Brewery Steinbier
To create this labor-intensive lager, brewer Paul Hale heats 300 pounds of Greywacke stone over local hardwoods for several hours. With the aid of welder’s gloves and a winch, he lowers the white-hot rocks into the wort, instantly scorching the malt sugars in a dramatic plume of smoke. The result: toasty and nutty, with a finish reminiscent of burnt caramel.
Pretty Things Babayaga
Inspired by the powerful scent of rosemary-roasted sausages at London’s Borough Market, Dann and Martha Paquette created this “export-strength stout,” brimming with barley roasted over rosemary in their own backyard. A seasonal offering that changes from vintage to vintage, Pretty Things’ latest smoke bomb is its most tempting and intense to date.
Jack’s Abby Brewing Fire in the Ham
Leave it to a brewery centered around Bavarian beer culture to fall under the spell of Germany’s Franconia region. The most potent in founder Jack Hendler’s smoke-drenched arsenal is his aptly named Fire in the Ham, brewed with nearly 100 percent smoked German beechwood for a nose heavy on black pepper and, yes, cured country swine.
Schilling Beer Co. Karl
These New Hampshire newcomers are a Europhile’s dream, with a portfolio that nimbly maneuvers between Trappist-style tripels, grassy Belgian pales, and even esoteric wheat beers like this sessionable smoked Hefeweizen. Guaranteed to disarm vegetarians, Karl’s pronounced bacon-y backbone nonetheless ends clean, thanks to a crisp, fino sherry–like finish.
White Birch Brewing Tavern Ale
Influenced by the loggerhead ale created by Concord, New Hampshire’s famed Butters’ Tavern, White Birch founder Bill Herlicka devised this hearty hangover cure, which maintains the original beer’s nuanced campfire essence minus the brewing theatrics (an egg stirred in with a hot poker).
photographs by marian siljeholm (bottles)