Aroma: The aroma should be a pleasant balance between the expected aroma of the base beer and the smokiness imparted by the use of smoked malts. The intensity and character of the smoke and base beer style can vary, with either being prominent in the balance. Smokiness may vary from low to assertive; however, balance in the overall presentation is the key to well-made examples. The quality and secondary characteristics of the smoke are reflective of the source of the smoke (e.g., alder, oak, beechwood). Sharp, phenolic, harsh, rubbery, or burnt smoke-derived aromatics are inappropriate.
Appearance: Variable. The appearance should reflect the base beer style, although the color of the beer is often a bit darker than the plain base style.
Flavor: As with aroma, there should be a balance between smokiness and the expected flavor characteristics of the base beer style. Smokiness may vary from low to assertive. Smoky flavors may range from woody to somewhat bacon-like depending on the type of malts used. The balance of underlying beer characteristics and smoke can vary, although the resulting blend should be somewhat balanced and enjoyable. Smoke can add some dryness to the finish. Harsh, bitter, burnt, charred, rubbery, sulfury, medicinal, or phenolic smoky characteristics are generally inappropriate (although some of these characteristics may be present in some base styles; however, the smoked malt shouldn’t contribute these flavors).
Mouthfeel: Varies with the base beer style. Significant astringent, phenolic smoke-derived harshness is inappropriate.
Impression: A smoke-enhanced beer showing good balance between the smoke and beer character, while remaining pleasant to drink. Balance in the use of smoke, hops and malt character is exhibited by the better examples
It would seem the obvious place to go with a Smoked beer would be smoked meats, but this might be too overwhelming for many. Smoke on smoke just makes a deeper stronger smoke profile without really adding anything to the experience.
A better bet is the grill. Grilled meats contain some smoky elements, but not to the degree that smoke is all you’ll be getting. Of course bratwursts are a worthy partner to this German style, but you can also go with a steak, fish, chicken, and pork ribs. How about a burger with Portobello mushrooms and bacon? The point here is: if it’s meat and it can go on the grill, chances are you’ve got a good pairing. Throw some asparagus or broccoli on the grill to round things out.
Other rich meat dishes, such as roasts, stews, jambalaya, and oysters; as well as foods high in umami, like mushrooms, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, soy sauce, and potatoes will light up your taste buds when paired with a good smoked beer.
Cheese: For cheeses, choose those with strong flavors and maybe hints of smoke. Blues, aged Cheddars, parmesan, Gouda (smoked or non-smoked), and Monterey Jack.
Dessert: For dessert, you’ll find nothing better than that campfire favorite; smores. Other good pairings include bread pudding, gingerbread cookies, grilled pineapple upside down cake, or flan.
Serving & Storage: For best presentation and greatest appreciation, a Smoked beer should be served at around 10-13°C in a Mass (Dimpled Mug), Willi Becher, or Vase. They are best stored at cellar temperatures away from light and can age well due to the smoke character.