Beers brewed with smoked malts, often called rauchbiers, are nothing new in Colorado: They've been served everywhere from Colorado Springs and Glendale to Fort Collins and Glenwood. But this loosely grouped and often polarizing style — which some describe as having a flavor reminiscent of bacon and campfires, while others describe it as "ashtray" — has enjoyed a particularly strong showing recently.
Part of that has to do with the fact that brewers are always looking to lesser-known beer traditions and styles in order to have some fun and try new things. And part of it may have to do with "This Week in Rauchbier," a Facebook group that was created in July 2020 by longtime national beer writer John Holl; the group, started with a tongue-in-cheek mentality, has since built a large following.
Either way, the renewed attention has resulted in some great beers over the past year, including Dry Dock Brewing's Smoke in Helles, Bierstadt Lagerhaus's All the Hype Smoked Helles (a collab with Green Bench Brewing), and a related beer from Denver Beer Co. that was made with Bierstadt's leftover yeast. Three other breweries — Weldwerks, Launch Pad and Westfax — made smoked beers with peaches last year.
And there are three more available right now — all in cans. Here's a rundown:
Our Mutual Friend Brewing released Stjørdalsøl, a traditional smoked Norwegian-style dark ale that is special to head brewer Jan Chodkowski. The unusual beer is native to the town of Stjørdal, Norway, "where small malthouses and home brewers typically come together in the winter to brew recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation," OMF explains. It is especially popular around Christmas. Chodkowski and Josh Cody, of Colorado Malting Company, visited the region to learn about the tradition several years ago and then worked together to create a version of the Norwegian malted barley that was smoked over alderwood. OMF believes it is one of the first breweries in Colorado to release a Stjørdalsøl and "may very well be the first brewery in the world to can this beer." This is the second year in a row that OMF has made the smoky dark beer — and it is still available on tap and in cans to go.
On January 15, Ratio Beerworks unveiled Tomorrow's Ashes Smoked Helles. The brewery came up with the name months ago and, as it usually does, based it off of "a favorite song, band, album or artist" — in this case, an album by the punk band Propagandhi, the brewery says. But after the Marshall fire in Boulder County, the brewery no longer felt comfortable "releasing a beer under this name for profit." As a result, it will donate 100 percent of the proceeds from Tomorrow's Ashes to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund. The limited-release beer, which is a collaboration with Colorado Malting and Laws Whiskey House, is available online and in the taproom. No further production of cans will be take place, Ratio adds.
New Image Brewing has also been working on a smoked beer project called Cozy Vibes Smoked Porter, which it released for the second time last weekend. A traditional Baltic porter brewed with oak-smoked wheat malt, Cozy Vibes was decocted "to further enhance the depth of caramel and toasted notes" and then fermented with a German lager strain "to leave a clean finish so that the most subtle nuances from the grain can be enjoyed," the brewery says. New Image liked it so much that it is now aging some of the beer in Willet rye and Jim Beam Double Oak barrels. In the meantime, you can get Cozy at the taproom.