Schlenkerla Rauchbier from the cask, Bamberg

Smoked beer (German: Rauchbier) is a type of beer with a distinctive smoke flavour imparted by using malted barley dried over an open flame.[1]


Drying malt over an open flame in a smoke kiln may impart a smoky character to the malt. This character may carry over to beers brewed with the smoked malt. Before the modern era, drying malted barley in direct sunlight was used in addition to drying over flames. Even though hot air kiln drying of malt, using indirect heat, did not enter into widespread usage until the industrial era, the method was known as early as the first century BC. Also, there have been various methods over the years of preparing cereal grains for brewing,[citation needed] including making beer from bread,[2] so smoked beer was not universal.

Beginning in the 18th century, hot air kiln drying of malt became progressively more common and, by the mid-19th century, had become the near-universal method for drying malted grain. Since the hot air kiln method prevents any smoke from coming into contact with wet malt, a smoky flavour is not imparted to the grain, nor to the subsequent beer. As a result, smoke flavour in beer became less and less common, and eventually disappeared almost entirely from the brewing world.

Bamberg Rauchbier

Bamberg smoked beers

Certain breweries maintained the smoked beer tradition by continuing to use malt which had been dried over open flames. The malt is dried over fires made from beechwood logs. The malt and fermenting beer are stored under the pub and brewery in a part of the catacombs of Bamberg, a maze of tunnels under the city built from the 11th century onward, which have a very stable moisture and temperature. In former times, ice was used to cool the fermenting beer tank room, the Lagerkeller. This ice was locally harvested above ground in the winter, although when the winter was too mild, ice was imported from as far away as Finland or Sweden. The beer is then filtered to clarify it and remove yeast remnants, and put into oaken vats. Two brewpubs in Bamberg, Germany, Schlenkerla and Spezial, have continued this type of smoked beer production for more than a century.[3][4] Several varieties of Rauchbier ("smoked beer" in German) are produced by these companies. Both are still in operation today, alongside seven other breweries in the same town. Since the rauchbier tradition was continuously preserved in Bamberg, the beer style is now marketed as Bamberg Rauchbier.

Due to the popularity of craft beer in recent years, smoke-flavoured industrially-produced malts became available, and so the style has been attempted worldwide, including in its heartland of Franconia and Bamberg. Schlenkerla and Spezial, however, use a traditional, elaborate way of smoke malting. In 2017 Slow Food included these two Rauchbiere in their Ark of Taste.[5]

The Brewers Association distinguishes three variations of Bamberg-style Rauchbier: Helles , Märzen, and Bock.[6] Each is brewed according to the underlying style, but with smoked malts replacing some or all of the mash bill.


Grodziskie beer

Grodziskie or Grätzer are similar, traditional smoked beers from Poland, but made from wheat and highly carbonated, and with a perhaps older history, although they saw a period of no production in the late 1990s.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

Grodziskie traditionally contain 2.7–3.7% alcohol by volume with little to no hop flavor or aroma, and medium-low to medium bitterness.[6] Typical coloration is straw to gold.[6]

Smoked beers outside Germany and Poland

See also


  1. ^ Beer, by Michael Jackson, published 1998, pp.150-151
  2. ^ Beer in ancient times Archived September 4, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Der Brauprozeß von Schlenkerla Rauchbier". Schlenkerla - die historische Rauchbierbrauerei (in German). Schlenkerla. 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Bamberg und seine Katakomben". Weltkulturerbe Bamberg und Bamberger Land (in German). Bamberg Tourismus & Kongress Service. 2011. Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  5. ^ "Bamberger Rauchbier – traditionally brewed Bamberg smoked beer - Arca del Gusto". Slow Food Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "2022 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines". Brewers Association. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  7. ^ "Brewers Association 2013 Beer Style Guidelines" (PDF). Brewers Association. 28 February 2013. p. 14. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  8. ^ Knoke, Jürgen (Spring 2015). "Grätzer – ein verschwundener Bierstil kehrt zurück" [Grätzer – a vanished beer style returns] (in German). brau!magazin. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  9. ^ Szmelich, Wiktor (1994). "O historii i sposobie wytwarzania unikalnego piwa grodziskiego [The history and unique manufacturing method of Grodzisk beer]" (PDF). Przemysł Fermentacyjny I Owocowo-Warzywny (in Polish): 7–10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  10. ^ Warschauer, A. (1893). "Geschichte des Grätzer Bieres" [History of Grätzer beer] (PDF). In Historische Gesellschaft für Posen (ed.). Zeitschrift der Historischen Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen: Band 8 [Journal of the Historical Society of the Province of Posen: Volume 8] (in German). Posen: J. Jolowicz. pp. 333–352. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  11. ^ "The Legend of Bernard of Wąbrzeźno". Instytucja Kultury Samorządu Wojewodztwa Wielkopolskiego. 17 February 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  12. ^ Scott, William Shawn (2012). "Project Grodziskie: A Polish Renaissance" (PDF). Zymurgy (Nov/Dec 2012): 34–39. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  13. ^ "SmokeStack Rauchbier". Gulf Brewery. 11 April 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Beers". Birrificio Lambrate. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  15. ^ "norwegian smoked beer". Archived from the original on 19 August 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  16. ^ Groves, Sarah (17 October 2014). "Adnams 1659 Smoked Ruby Ale and The Great Fire of Southwold". Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Smog Rocket". Beavertown Brewery. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Great Basin Brewing". Nevada Brewers Guild. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2013.