Aroma: The smoke profile can range in strength from only a whisper to quite strong and can have a bacon-like, smoky, or woody character to it. The malt presents as low to medium with a rich, toasty, or malty-sweet profile. The scale between malt and smoke can tip in either direction, creating a wide range of possible balance profiles, but the two elements are often inversely proportional, meaning when one decreases the other increases and vice versa. Expect a clean lager profile. Hop aroma is low to nonexistent.
Appearance: Color can range from a light copper to a dark brown. Head should be tan to cream colored; rich, thick, and creamy. Clarity should be superb.
Flavor: Much like the aroma, the taste will bring a profile of malt and smoke in some sort of balance. This balance can vary considerably, but the strength of one should always complement the other. The slightly toasted malty richness of a Marzen should be present. The smoky character can take on a ham- or bacon-like note at higher levels. This is okay, as long as it doesn’t taste greasy. The malt can create a rich, even sweet, palate but the finish should be semi-dry to dry. Often the drying effect is enhanced by the smokiness. Hop flavor can range from medium to nonexistent and bring low spicy, herbal, or floral notes. Hop bitterness is usually medium and balanced. Clean lager fermentation character. Ideally, the aftertaste is a balance between the malt and smoke. Any charred, burnt, sulfury, harsh, bitter, or phenolic smoky character is decidedly unsuitable to the style.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with the smoothness of good lager character all carried by moderate to somewhat high carbonation. High astringency and harshness is inappropriate for this style.
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.