Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter

Image courtesy of Pipeworks Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Pipeworks Brewing Company

Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter…the name alone got me on board.  Pipeworks Brewing Company, Chicago, IL get a big YES for this monstrous brew.  At 11% ABV Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter is not for the timid, and I’m far from timid when it comes to beer, or self-aggrandizement.  This deep brown porter doesn’t have much head retention, but a ring of foam will accompany you to the end of the ride.  Whiffs of dark chocolate, coffee, tart cherry and mild smoke prevail.  Bigger Smokey Imperial Smoked Porter is not as smokey as a Schlenkerla rauchbier, but wood smoke is a big part of the flavor profile.  Still, I’d say it’s really about sweet coffee and tart cherry here.  Bigger Smokey is not really bitter despite the roasted aspects of the malts, at least not very and not for long.  There’s a good shot of alcohol in the sinuses when you take a whiff of this one, and the complexity of flavors almost makes you think it might have been booze barrel aged.  I’ll attribute some of that to the beechwood and cherrywood smoked malts in the recipe.  This is a well done, well-crafted American Porter and worthy of a high score.

90/100 porter


Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Here’s a nice offing from the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company:  Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout.  I don’t know who this Big Eddy chap is but he must be huge, based on the massiveness of this beer.  Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout is black with a rich putty colored head that would float a fifty cent piece, if you had a fifty cent piece.  Is that a term from the 1880s?  Fifty cent piece.  Hmm.  Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout will leave lashings of Brussels lace on your glass once that head starts to dissipate. The bouquet is smokey and has a Graham cracker sweetness to it.  Thick, oily, sharp, bitter and earthy with a huge roasted black patent malt foundation.  There a lot going on with this 9.5% ABV beauty, and as the warm days get shorter and the cool nights get longer this one will be nice to enjoy next to a fire.

85/100 Russian Imperial Stout

Cinder Bock

Image courtesy of Boston Brewing Co.

Something always keeps me from trying Sam Adams’ craft offerings.  Familiarity with the brand?  Too many more obscure choices to distract me?  I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell glad I picked up a bottle of Cinder Bock!  Brown, well-carbonated and floating a 1/4″ thick, long-lasting head, Cinder Bock is a real treat.  At 9.4% ABV, this beer is formidable from start to finish, but don’t be intimidated.  The bouquet has a smokey sweetness to it, full and fresh, and not at all like some of the beef jerky-like rauch biers out there.  It is fairly sweet, but not cloyingly so, tart, bitter (a bit/just enough) and the smokiness is perfect.  Cinder Bock is delicious, and as it warms, all of the individual flavors are amplified.  This beer literally makes me very happy.  Next time I’ll have it with German food.  That will be perfect.

93/100 rauch/doppel

Stone Smoked Porter

I like the idea of rye beers and of smoke beers.  Something just seems right about adding one or both of those elements to God’s perfect drink.  I

I Highly Recommend.

also think there is a lot of experimentation for the sake of experimentation in the world of brewing (Dogfish Head!) and it gets to be a little ridiculous.  Beer snobbery.  Look at how cool I am, I am drinking a Mesopotamian recipe that includes craftsman-hammered 20 karat gold leaf and Canadian thistle down.  That’s just bullsh*t.  Stone Smoked Porter is not bullsh*t.  It’s dang good is what it is, and if I am drinking something to make me look cool, this is my choice.  In my case, it’ll take a case at least to make me look cool, but there you have it.  The best thing about Stone Smoked Porter is that it introduces smoke without becoming one of those bacony rauchbiers or rawhidey, campfire-smelling smoke beers.  Stone Smoked Porter pours deep brown, ebony, with a hint of ruby when held up to the light.  It’s big, frothy head produces ample lacing that looks almost like an ice cream float head.  Very appealing.  Not a lot of smoke smell comes off the head, but some does, and it seems natural and appropriate.  Lots of roasted coffee and a little bittersweet chocolate, some caramel and hop bitterness, then finally some alcohol.  Smoked Porter is smooth on the tongue, and that subtle smoke note can be enjoyed along with a good dose of coffee as it excites the taste buds.  The bitterness in the finish is just right.  This is a very good smoked porter!   95/100 Porter

Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier

How could I resist going to the Bavarian Lodge for the tapping of the gravity-fed wooden keg of Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier?  I’m only human.  Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier is only human as well, and I was a tad disappointed.  A tad, only a tad.  Fastenbier (or Lent Beer) is a lovely garnet, with a head that collapses to a thin collar surrounding a thin layer of fine bubbles.There is a deep sweetness in the bouquet, maybe more interesting than the more obvious smoke.  The taste is lightly smoky at first, but then pleasant with a laid-back sweetness.  Dryness lingers in the back of the throat.  The hop flavor comes through in the belch.  Sorry, it’s true.  I’m surprised to say that it is a fairly subdued smoke beer.  I’ll give it a 75/100.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier


Well, this has been a good week for beer, but the most surprisingly satisfying beer was Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock from Brauerei Heller Bamberg. Starting with a label that brings you back a few hundred years, the whole Rauchbier experience is good.  It pours Pepsi brown and sports a good, rich head that laces the way that lets one enjoy the patterns left behind for the duration.   Not much carbonation is visible,  but it’s there.  There’s a pronounced smokiness in the bouquet, like smoked meat, and it’s not that odd plastic bandaid/shoe leather scent that comes from some smoked products.  This smell reminds me of a wool uniform after a night by a campfire in the deep woods.  No, I mean that in a good way!  There’s smoke in the flavor as well, but it is more subdued.  Not mild, but subdued taken in tandem with the sweet, malty flavor and texture that this bock beer possesses.  Surprisingly, it is not a heavy brew, and some bitterness in the finish balances the maltiness.  My good friend and local beer drinking legend Montague Montego recommended the Oak Smoked version from Heller, but I was not able to find it at this time.  I am not disappointed.  I love Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock.  It’s not for everyone, but its contradictory nature pitting complexity against subtlety makes it a winner.

Grand Beer in Grand Rapids

Try this!

Try this!

I have sung the praises of Bell’s Amber Ale before, and had a chance to enjoy it on draft recently.  I was in Grand Rapids learning about aluminum extrusions, kerf cutting and other fascinating industry fallderall, and had time to pour a few pints down my neck in the evening.  The 22 oz. Bell’s drafts were phenomenal.  Malty, effervescent, sweet and smooth.  Another winner was New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Ale.  It was a dark, dark ale, with a chocolate-coconut-vanilla vibe going on, with a smokey, bourbony aroma that mainlines to the nostrils.  I’d like to revisit that one soon, and this time enjoy it outside a cigarette-infested roach motel like the one in GR where I sipped it with coworkers and a local character known as Slim Dart.  Go Tigers, Slim!