Charkoota Rye Smoked Doppelbock Lager

During the  mid 17th century, Paulenar monks outside of Munich Gemany where looking for something to get them through the many times of the year they were required to fast. For the monks, this was no easy feat. When they fasted, the monks were allowed almost no solid foods. This could become particularly hard during the longest period of  fasting, which was of course the Lenten season -about 46 days. The monks believed liquid was more pure and would cleanse not only the body, but the soul.

They don’t call beer, liquid bread for nothing, but to subsist only on beer requires something a little more substantial than your everyday light drinking beer. The monks took a style of beer from their neighbors to the north in the town of Einbeck and increased the strength as to be sustaining.  Eventually they converted the beer to the more modern lager process in Germany and increased the strength until we got the beer that you can still find at your local liquor store called Salvator in the late 18th century. This became the style know as doppelbock or double bock.

Was drinking this very strong and tasty beer cheating for lent? That’s the exact question the monks asked themselves, so they sought to get permission from the pope himself and sent a barrel of the beer so the pope could try it and decide once and for all. Luckily for the monks, during the journey south, the beer was exposed to a lot of heat and sloshing, which basically soured the beer and made it undrinkable (not that all sour beer is bad of course). The Pope’s reasoning was that since the brew was so vile, it was probably beneficial for the souls of the Munich monks, and they should drink as much as they could.

Once the secret of these great beer got out, other breweries started making their own versions of doppelbock, and most of them paid homage to the original by appending –ator on the end of the beers name. This is true in the case of Ayinger Celebrator, Spaten Optimator, and Tucher Bajuvator, The beer we are looking at today is not one of these. It is an entirely American version of the doppel bock style, and it includes both Rye and a smokey profile.

This is the first smoked beer I have talked about. Before more modern methods of malting barley, most barley was malted using wood or peat kilns. Only desert dwelling people had enough sun to dry the malt without requiring a smoky fire. This necessitated certain smokiness in each beer. From earlier writings,  it is pretty clear that brewers considered the smokiness a bad quality and did everything they could to limit it, and when newer kilning methods were developed maltsters were quick to change over. There were a few holdouts in German Marzen (Oktoberfest) style and the Polish Grodzisk, but virtually all smoked versions or styles died out by modern times.

This  is of course until the Americans started to brew good beer again in the last few decades. With no real beer tradition anymore, we were free from all social and cultural pressures to stick to certain styles like the Germans and to a lesser extent even the English.  With nobody being alive from the last time smoked beers were common place, there was no longer any stigma to having a smoky flavor profile in a beer, and a small by wide niche of smoked beers have emerged. One of them in New Hollands Charkoota Rye Smoked Doppelbock Lager. A celebration of all things Pig (as you can see from the label), especially Charcuterie. Charcuterie is branch of cooking devoted to prepared meats like bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pates, and confit.  Which of course is a very German idea, and fits into the idea of Doppelbock pretty well. Of course, instead of replacing solid food with the beer, the beer is intended to complement all things pork.

According to my bottle (but not the website), this beer is 8.4% ABV, and has a gravity of 21 plato, which is an astounding original gravity of 1.087.

When you smell this you are basically smelling smoked malt and nothing else. Kind of surprising if you’ve never smelled something like this before.

Very dark brown, almost black. It has a large brownish white head.

A large amount of smoke taste up front, with a smooth malt behind. It is almost a struggle between the smokiness and the maltiness.  One second I’m tasting smoke and then the next I’m tasting malt, but never really at the same time.

Heavy body, but surprisingly smooth.

Overall Impression
This kind of surprised me at the amount of smoke that hits you when you smell and then taste it. Not really having had other smoked beers, I can’t compare the smokiness level. It is a good smooth beer, and would go great with cured sausages and pulled pork, or anything made by real BBQ. The alcohol will definitely sneak up on you with this beer.