Here’s 2 Brewery’s Strategies for Creating a Smoked Beer Release

Back in the day, most beer was smoked beer. But now because of advances in technology, smoked grains can be made specific to be celebrated. Next weekend at Goodlife Brewing in Bend, Oregon, a slew of breweries are doing just that with the return of Diff’rent Smokes as a wide range of beers will be served that are made with smoked malts or other smoked ingredients. 

Two of the beers that will be on hand include a beer from Spider City made with cherrywood smoked malts as opposed to the more common beechwood smoked; and a smoked apple Lager from 1188 Brewing.

Almost all of 1188’s customers — except regulars to the John Day, Oregon brewery — are new to smoked beers said John Spencer, who said they only usually pour this brand at the pub or taphouse with no distribution.

““We list it as a smoked beer on our tap list board and offer tasters,” he said. “We let the customers decide whether they like it or not as it’s usually the first smoked beer they have tasted.

“It’s usually a ‘like’ or ‘don’t like’ kind of thing as conveying the level of smoke in it is kind of hard.” 

When developing a smoked beer recipe, says Melanie Betti, the owner and brewer for Spider City, it is best to think about the style you are trying to achieve. 

“Beer drinkers like to try different styles of beer,” she said. “A smoked beer should have clear flavors of smoke that are balanced by the other malts used in the recipe.” 

Knowing the flavor profile of each smoked grain you are considering using and picking a smoked grain that will complement the rest of your recipe is key.

READ MORE: Sensory Tips to Recognize Smoke-Tainted Hops

In Spider City’s taproom, Betti said they explain the beer style, and the idea of balance, in a good smoked beer. 

“We also let the customer sample our smoked beer so they can experience this style of beer,” she added.

Spencer did add that you are basically cutting out 50% or so of your customers by putting a smoked beer on tap, so a small batch can be fine when projecting a sales timeline. 

“If we didn’t have our two-barrel system, we probably wouldn’t do a smoked beer every year as they tend to be slow movers,” he said. “We don’t half-ass the smoke or try to hide it, if we brew a smoked beer we are brewing a smoked beer.”

Not having to smoke their own malt, Spencer said they ordered a bag of beechwood-smoked malt and used the entire sack to not leave leftovers while using a smoker to smoke the apples to add for a cold side addition.

Since many malt houses offer many different styles of smoked barley for purchase, Betti said it makes it a lot easier for a modern brewery to incorporate smoked malts into a recipe. 

“That is exciting for the world of beer,” she said.

Tickets are now available online for $20 and will be $25 at the gate. More info online at

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