On a bitterly cold December lunchtime, I visited the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers, Dorset, with my friend and beer guru Alastair. This is a pub without a bar and there are hardly any tables but it has a log fire you could roast a wild boar in, a charm beyond any pub I have ever encountered – and a vast selection of beer. We thumbed our way through the beer menu and selected a few bottles that looked interesting. One of them was Rauchbier, a German smoked malt beer, which hails from Marzen and Bamberg. It was dark ruby in colour with a slight sweetness and faint taste of smoke, but there was nothing heavy about it and it was not overburdened with hoppy esters. It was, in fact, a lager.
We are used to pale lagers but dark lagers exist too. The best known is Dunkelbier but there are others, Rauchbier among them. Rauchbier simply means smoked beer. At one time all beers were smoked by default because the malts were dried over an open flame from wood or charcoal. The invention of coke allowed for the drying of malt to be smoke-free and pale malts were available for the first time as temperatures could be controlled more easily. Unlike the smoked malts of the whisky distillers, Rauchbier malt has no phenolic qualities, it just tastes a little smoky.
- Yield: 25 litres
- 2.7 kg lager malt
- 1.5 kg smoked malt
- 1.5 kg Munich malt
- 700 g CaraMunich malt
- 50 g Hallertau or Saaz hops
- 2 tsp dried carragheen
- 1 sachet Oktoberfest lager yeast
- 50 g sugar for priming
- Mix the malts in a fermenting bucket and stir in 14 litres water at 77°C. The mash heat should be 67°C. Cover and keep warm for half an hour.
- Now add 2.5 litres water at 80°C. Stir, then re-cover and wrap to maintain the temperature. Leave to stand for a further hour.
- Sparge with water at 78°C until you have 25 litres wort.
- Transfer the wort to your copper. Boil for a total of 1½ hours, adding the hops at copper-up and the carragheen 15 minutes from the end. Leave to stand for 40 minutes.
- Transfer the wort to your fermenting bucket, straining out the used hops. Liquor down until the specific gravity is at 1055, then cool rapidly.
- At around 20°C, aerate and then pitch the yeast. It should start fermenting within 5–15 hours. Once fermentation has started, place your bucket in a cool place such as a shed or a fridge dedicated to the task; it needs to be at around 10–12°C. Leave to ferment for about 10 days, skimming the froth from the top every now and then.
- Rack into a barrel or wide-necked fermenting vessel when the specific gravity has dropped to 1012–1015 and move the brew to a warmer location (20°C) to get the fermentation going again. This is called a ‘diacetyl rest’ when the yeast removes the diacetyl produced during a low-temperature fermentation. Leave for 3–4 days.
- Now move the brew to a cold place – ideally around 5°C.
- After 6 weeks, prime and leave in cask or bottle.