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Smoked beer is a fitting style for fall

By Daniel Hartis
Daniel Hartis
Daniel Hartis is the author of “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City” and the editor of the website CharlotteBeer.com.

North Carolina is a land infused with smoke. From tobacco fields to whole hogs cooked low and slow, smoke has wisped its way through Southern culture.

It’s especially apparent this time of year, when smoke rises from leaf piles and chimneys, foretelling fall far better than a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.

There was a time when that combination of spices was used mostly in pies – before we discovered it made for more marketable lattes, bread, cheesecakes, doughnuts and, yes, beers.

Pumpkin beers are held up as autumn incarnate, fall in a glass, and yet smoked beers could be just as fitting for a fall seasonal.

“Smoked beer” is a catchall term for beers brewed with smoked malt. The base style of the beer could be just about any type, though most usually fall in the porter or lager camp (the latter is called Rauchbier in Germany).

The source of the smoke can vary, too. Peat, long used to make Scotch whisky, imparts an earthiness, while cherry and beech can call to mind smoked meats such as bacon and ham. Hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, pecan, maple or mesquite, can contribute unique qualities. The intensity of the smoke can vary from barely-there to all-consuming, depending on how much smoked malt is used.

Fullsteam Brewery in Durham smokes its own malt over hickory to brew Hogwash!, a smoked porter. In Hillsborough, the staff at Mystery Brewing uses cherrywood-smoked malt in Thornfield's End, the smoked rye stout they brew every fall.

Here in Charlotte, Triple C Brewing uses cherrywood-smoked malt in its Smoked Amber, which is an accessible introduction to smoked beers.

All are very food-friendly, especially served with hearty smoked fare.

Daniel Hartis is the author of “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City,” and the editor of the website www.charlottebeer.com. Email: cltbeer@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter, @charlottebeer.
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