Called Oak Smoked Lager, this beer is a light golden lager brewed with locally grown barley that had been intentionally smoked during the malting process to impart some incredibly unique and palate impacting qualities. Although we didn't want to technically categorize this beer as a Rauchbier (because Ryan didn't think it was quite smokey enough!), which are the traditional German style smoked lagers, this new beer is close enough that it couldn't hurt to brush up on the history of that style, seeing as there are so many similarities between the two.
Rauchbier is German for "smoke beer". Rauchbier's typically tend to be medium bodied lagers, but weizens, bocks, and porters have also been brewed using a significant amount of smoked malt, allowing them to be considered specific versions of this style. There are a few German tales surrounding the origin of Rauchbier, however the most logical explanation for why certain beers would have smokey attributes is most likely due to the malting techniques used over a few centuries ago. In order for cereal grains to be used in brewing, they are first germinated and then kilned (indirectly heated) to varying degrees, transforming the grain into malt. Prior to the early 19th century, when certain advancements in kilning technologies were created, most malts were heated through the combustion of burning wood (most commonly beechwood). The kilns were large chambers with perforated floors to allow the heat to pass through and impact the grain. Inevitably, gasses and smoke from the burning wood would also pass through imparting flavor to the malt. It's not unlikely that most kilned malts had some degree of smokiness and imparted different levels of smoke flavors to many beers brewed at this time. Today, Rauchbier is one of a few remaining styles where not only are these smokey flavors desired, but a requirement of the style. If you have never experienced the impact of a beer made with a significant amount of smoked malt, it is truly a one of a kind experience.
What makes our new Smoked Oak Lager even more unique is that it was brewed entirely from malt that was grown in Antrim County, and then smoke malted similar to the traditional methods described above, using all oak wood during the smoke malting process. You may recall, that just up the road in the community of East Jordan, our friends at Valley View Farm have started to grow barley specifically for brewing, and by teaming up with another high quality Michigan establishment, Pilot Malt House, just south of Grand Rapids, we now have the opportunity to use some of the best barley grown in Michigan to make the most locally grown beer possible. We recently featured or first beer ever brewed entirely with barely grown in Antrim Co called the Gleaner Bock, and now Oak Smoked Lager marks the second beer featuring the combined efforts of Valley View Farm and Pilot Malt House. Below are links to both a video created during a visit to Valley View Fram, along with a podcast we recorded while there were here brewing the Gleaner Bock, in case you want to learn more about these excellent farmers who are contributing to the Michigan craft beer industry in their own new way.
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