Located in Mendocino, San Diego County Stone Brewing Co is the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States (as per annual volume). Stone is well known in the craft beer community for being one of the best and most original brewery and has received critical acclaim for many of their flagship and seasonal brews. In late 2014 Stone beer finally hits shelves in Alberta after being the most requested product during my tutelage at craft beer based off license stores. Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans (5.9% ABV) is a seasonal brew updated with vanilla beans from the flagship Smoked Porter. I have previously have the chance to try the Smoked Porter which was outstanding in my opinion. Lets hope this edition with Vanilla Beans lives up to my memory.
Pours out a dark burgundy hued brown with an opaque body and a full finger of creamy tan head. The aroma is strong and robust with a easily noted aroma of vanilla bean. Notes of roasted malt, licorice, coffee and soft, sultry smoke notes that work well cohesively. A bit of a sweet flavour profile in the middle with notes of coffee beans, vanilla and licorice hitting the palate before the smoke. Near the finish a light, soft smoky malt flavour lingers with a dense, earthen flavour. A nice finish with a lingering smoke flavour and a bit of bitterness that cuts through the finish. Overall, a nice winter brew with a stunning flavour profile and unique tastes. After a bit of deliberation I can conclude that the addition of vanilla is positive but I still enjoy the flagship Smoked Porter more. The best thing about this brew is the rich malty backbone that makes it perfect for a cold winter night. The vanilla is just an interesting additive that makes it a bit more dessert-esque.
Smoked beers originated in Bamburg, Germany where they are known as Rauchbiers. Rauchbiers are brewed with barley malts dried over open flames. Traditional Bamberg Rauchbiers use malts smoked with Beechwood logs which imparts a very unique smoked flavour profile. In recent years, the smoked style has been attempted around the world with smoked Porters being most common and traditional Bamberg style Rauchbiers being rather uncommon. Due to the rarity and limited distribution of smoked beers, I tend to try any smoked beers that I can get my hands on. Haandbrygerriet or the Hand Brewery located in Drammen, Norway has produced several smoked beers and distributed a few to Alberta. The Norwegian Wood from Haandbryggeriet is a traditional Norweigian beer made with smoked Juniper wood and Juniper berries. Unlike the oddity of Norwegian Wood, Røyk Uten Ild (Smoke Without Fire) is made in the traditional Bamburg style with one exception, the use of Amarillo hops. Amarillo hops were cultivated in Washington State and have a rather high Alpha Acid content. At 8% ABV, Røyk Uten Ild (Smoke Without Fire) is also higher than the traditional Rauchbier.
Røyk Uten Ild pours a murky opaque dark brown with a fluffy and slightly creamy beige head that fizzes up and dies to a thin spotty head. A few light splotchy beige lacing marks can be found on the glass with a few swirls. The nose has a mild floral and citrus based hop that is soon overblown by a prominent but not overpowering smoked malt note. Hints of chocolate and a mild lightly roasted coffee also become apparent. In general the smoked malts are rather mild and not entirely overblown in the aroma. The first sip I took has a bit of sweetness and a mild chocolately roasted malt. The hops are entirely missed in the flavour with an encroaching smokey ashtray that covers the entire mid palate. The flavour profile is not overblown with smoke and ash but not much is detectable amidst the smoke. The finish has a rather heavy bitterness and a lingering smoke and drying astringency. The finish is heavy with lingering smoke and a warmth attributable to the 8% ABV. Overall, a rather good modern twist on traditional Rauchbier. In general, Haandbryggeriet has yet to disappoint me with they unique brewing style.
Grade: 89/100 Price: $8.99