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I’ve been a big fan of a local MA brewery’s smoked black lager for some time now, certainly one of my favourite local brews. It’s one of those few beers that tastes fantastic on draft, but still bottles really well too. It’s even better still on nitro – stout-like colours, some roasted notes and creamy mouth feel make beer gas the best way to enjoy this beer.
I decided to try brew a clone of this, modifying the stock Schwarzbier recipe from Northern Brewer. I’ve always done extract brews, where the malt used in brewing is extracted from the grain in liquid form. The other type of brewing, all grain, involves an additional step extracting the sugars from grain a
t a very specific temperature.
Unfortunately for me, there’s no such thing as smoked malt extract – so I had to do a hybrid between these two methods of brewing called a partial Mash.
Along with the Northern Brewer kit recipe, I also had at my disposal an all-grain clone recipe of Smoke & Dagger. Combining the two in Brewer’s Friend gave me this recipe:
1 lb Dry Malt Extract – Dark
6 lb Liquid Malt Extract – Munich – (late addition)
0.5 lb German – Carafa III
0.5 lb German – CaraMunich III
3 lb Weyermans Smoked malt
1Oz Perle Hops @ 60mins
Wyeast – Bavarian Lager 2206 (Pitched with starter)
(Full recipe used on Brewers Friend Calculator)
The brew itself was relatively straightforward, but for the partial mash. Mashing 3lbs of grain in muslin bags is quite difficult, and balancing each bag individually in a small strainer while sparging is a two-person job.
The wort spent 2 weeks, 4 days in primary. Then, the fermenter went straight into the kegerator for lagering. The beer spent 6 weeks lagering, during the last two of which the beer was on CO2 being carbonated.
Here’s the numbers from gravity check:
Now, the most important part – how did the beer turn out?
After pouring, there’s a brown-white coloured head. As with any smoked beer, the smoke comes through most in the aroma – combined with notes of munich malt. Now, the taste. I was quite worried I’d over-done the smoke character with such a large quantity of malt – but it turns out, not at all. It’s very subtle, the perfect balance for most. For me, I’d have gladly taken some more smoke – but 5 gallons is a lot, so I wanted a crowd pleaser.
Besides smoke, the beer tastes dark and caramel sweet – I’d hope professionals would describe things like coffee and chocolate – that’s what I’m getting. It’s got stout-like qualities, much alike the original Smoke & Dagger this recipe was inspired by.
What would I change? The malt-derived sweetness was a little to the fore at first, but as this beer ages (or lagers?) further in the kegerator, it’s getting better. Did the yeast not convert all of the sugars left in the malt? Was there not enough hop bitterness to balance this sweetness? Not sure – something to tweak for next time!
I’m remarkably pleased with how this turned out, and looking forward to experimenting in the future with more smoked malt.