There was a time when exotic beer didn't enjoy the cachet it does today and instead was classified as downright weird. Folks were prepared to accept the division of lagers/ales/porters and stouts), but anything escaping those boundaries was unacceptable. Fruity beers existed, but you had to go to a fancy liquor store to find a Belgian Kriek or Framboise. And those were considered effete and beyond-boutiquey: If you had more than one a year, people looked at you funny.
Nowadays, even the biggest multinationals are brewing batches of Pomegranate-Rosewater Wheat beer for the summer.
But back at the dawn of the microbrew revolution, one of the weirdest-sounding quaffs had to be smoked beer.
Smoked fish was recognized for its appeal, and smoked cheese... well,
that speaks for itself. But a smoked beer? It was too similar to
ashtray-flavored ice cream, and we can all agree the world's not ready
Of course, because the fringe is
always the most fun to forage from, and the basic idea (after malting,
the dry barley is smoked over an aromatic fire like the aforementioned
cheese and fish) didn't sound out of the realm of sanity, so we decided
to try it. The only option at that time (we're talkin' 1990ish) was a German rauchbier (a beechwood-smoked beer) that was downright nasty. I'm German, and I had such a hard time drinking it, I could barely look at a dark Beck's afterward without remembering the shame.
Changing my mind is this Smoked Porter from San Diego's Stone Brewery. What saves the beer from tasting like a wet-hung camp-blanket is its creaminess, that yummy near-sweetness every great stout or porter possesses.
Its marketers opine that it'd be nice with a BBQ pork sandwich... smoked meat and smoked beer? Compared to that raunchy rauchbier (like drinking Liquid Smoke straight from the bottle), this porter is soft and gentle, with a tannish head and only a hint of peat smoke.
This porter would be perfect after you've already enjoyed a lighter beer or two. It's not the kind of beer you'd want to drink several of. It's exotic enough to attempt, perhaps pairing with a smoked gouda or baby Swiss -- or maybe a plate of Tom Jenkins' finest -- but you probably need only one.