Smoke Porter: A Comprehensive Guide to This Unique Craft Beer

Smoke porter, a beloved variation of the traditional robust porter, has evolved into a distinct beer style rich in flavor and history. This deliciously dark brew boasts a smoky depth, thanks to the unique process of using wood-smoked malt. With roots tracing back to the classic English porter, smoke porter distinguishes itself through its distinctive flavors, lending an unmistakable character that sets it apart.

Smoke Porter

The enchanting world of smoke porter invites exploration, revealing a fascinating realm of production techniques, ingredients, and flavor profiles. From selecting the specific wood for smoking the malt to expertly pairing the beer with complementing dishes, the allure of smoke porter continues to captivate both novice and seasoned beer enthusiasts alike.

Key Takeaways

  • Smoke porter is a unique variation of the traditional robust porter, characterized by complex, smoky flavors derived from wood-smoked malt.
  • The brewing process and choice of wood yield a diverse range of flavors, aroma profiles, and a distinct quality that sets it apart from other beer styles.
  • Within the realm of smoke porter, one can discover various production techniques, delightful food pairings, and a rich history linking it to the classic English porter.

History of Smoke Porter

Smoke porter, a variant of the traditional porter beer, has its roots in the 18th century, when English brewers developed a unique blend of old stale or sour ales, newer brown and pale ales, and mild ales. This blend of styles resulted in a rich and flavorful beer, known for its deep ruby brown to black appearance, hints of chocolate, coffee, and caramelized notes, and a medium mouthfeel.

The popularity of porter beer, particularly among street and river porters, led to its distinct name and helped establish the style as a foundational element of English brewing. With the rise of smoke porter, brewers sought to introduce additional layers of complexity to the flavor profile of the traditional porter. By incorporating smoked malted barley into the brewing process, a delicate balance of the primal pleasure of smoke and comforting depth was achieved. This process brought forth a new dimension to the sensory experience, evoking images of cozy firesides and warm companionship.

In 1988, Alaskan Brewing Co. played a significant role in inspiring the American revival of smoked beers with the release of their Alaskan Smoked Porter. This award-winning beer earned recognition at prestigious events, including the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. As the popularity of smoked beers grew, more breweries in the United States and around the world began experimenting with the style, crafting their own unique interpretations of smoke porter.

Today, smoke porters stand as a testament to the ingenuity of brewers, who continuously work to evolve and expand the possibilities of beer brewing. This rich and smoky variation of the classic porter beer not only pays homage to its roots, but also serves as a reminder of the centuries-old art and passion for creating delectable and memorable flavors.

Smoke Porter Beer Style

Smoke Porter is a unique beer style that combines the rich, robust flavors of a traditional porter with the smokiness imparted by wood-smoked malt. This results in a complex, multi-layered taste experience, perfect for those seeking both depth and novelty in their beer.

The base for this beer style is a Robust Porter, which itself is known for its dark color, full body, and malt-driven flavors. What sets Smoke Porter apart is the use of wood-smoked malt, which adds a smoky dimension to the brew. Traditionally, brewers will specify the type of wood used for smoking the malt as different woods can lend distinct flavors to the finished product. Some common wood varieties used include cherry, hickory, and oak.

In terms of category, Smoke Porter falls under the broader umbrella of Porters. This family of beers is characterized by their dark appearance, medium to full body, and a focus on malt flavors and aromas. Within the Smoke Porter style, the presence of smoke can range from mild to assertive, and it should strike a balance with the other aroma attributes.

To achieve this delicate balance, brewers carefully select malt, hop, and yeast varieties that complement the smoky character. The malt profile in Smoke Porters typically exhibits notes of chocolate, caramel, and roasted grains, while the hop presence is usually restrained to avoid overshadowing the malt and smoke flavors. The yeast used in Smoke Porters should contribute clean fermentation characteristics, allowing the malt and smoke to remain at the forefront.

It is worth noting that over time, the smoke flavors in Smoke Porters can dissipate. This means that beer enthusiasts may experience different taste profiles depending on the age of the brew. Nonetheless, a well-crafted Smoke Porter should showcase the harmony between its smoky depth and the robustness of its porter foundation, all while maintaining a confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear presentation.

To summarize, Smoke Porter is an intriguing beer style that marries the full-bodied, malt-driven character of a Robust Porter with the distinct smokiness of wood-smoked malt. With various wood types and a careful selection of malt, hop, and yeast varieties, this style offers a unique and enjoyable experience for those seeking complexity and depth in their beers.

Smoke Porter Ingredients

Smoke Porter is a beer style that combines a robust porter base with a smoky depth from wood-smoked malt. This beer is characterized by its unique flavor profile and can be brewed with a variety of different ingredients to suit the desired taste. In this section, we will discuss the key ingredients needed to brew a Smoke Porter, including smoked malts, hops, water, and yeast.

Smoked Malts

The defining feature of a Smoke Porter is the use of smoked malts. These malts are smoked using different types of wood, such as oak, beechwood, or cherrywood, which impart distinct flavors to the malt and, ultimately, the finished beer. Some popular smoked malts used in Smoke Porter recipes include:

  • Pale Ale malt: This is the base malt, providing the main fermentable sugars and a subtle malt character.
  • Smoked Malt: The heart of the smoked profile, contributing a range of smoky flavors depending on the wood used.
  • CaraMunich I: This malt adds color, body, and a hint of sweetness to your Smoke Porter.
  • Caramel/Crystal 40: Provides an additional layer of sweetness and imparts a darker color to the beer.
  • Carafa III: A dark malt that adds depth of color, roasted flavors, and helps to balance out the smokiness.


Given that the focus of a Smoke Porter is on the smoked malt profile, hop selection is generally geared towards providing balance and supporting the malt character. Some popular hops used in Smoke Porter recipes include:

  • Target Hops: Known for their high alpha acid content, these hops provide bitterness to balance the sweetness from the malts.
  • Fuggles Hops: A classic English hop variety that imparts a mild, earthy flavor and aroma to the beer, complementing the smoked profile.
  • Willamette Hops: A versatile American hop with a moderate bitterness and a pleasant, earthy aroma suitable for Smoke Porters.


Water plays a significant role in the brewing process and can impact the final beer’s flavor and mouthfeel. For Smoke Porters, a mineral-rich water profile with higher levels of calcium and sulfate can help accentuate the malt flavors and improve the overall beer clarity.


The choice of yeast for a Smoke Porter will depend on the desired outcome. Commonly used yeast strains for this beer style are:

  • English Ale Yeast: Provides a clean fermentation profile with subtle fruity esters, allowing the smoked malt flavors to shine through.
  • American Ale Yeast: Offers a neutral fermentation character, emphasizing the malt and hop flavors without adding distinctive yeast-derived flavors.

With a solid understanding of these main ingredients, you can confidently experiment with brewing your own Smoke Porter, creating unique flavor combinations that best suit your palate.

Flavor Profile and Aroma

Smoke porters are characterized by their distinctive smoke malt aroma and flavor. This unique profile is achieved through the use of wood-smoked malt in the brewing process, which imparts a rich, smoky essence to the beer.

The malt flavors found in smoked porters can range from mild to assertive, showcasing a harmonious balance with other aroma attributes. While black malt character can be perceived in some porters, others may be absent of strong roasted character. In addition to smoked malt, porters may exhibit medium to high malt sweetness, with caramel and chocolate undertones.

Smoke is a central element in the flavor profile of a smoked porter. The intensity of smoke can vary depending on the type of wood used, such as alder or oak. This wood selection offers a variety of smoke nuances, enhancing the beer’s complexity and complementing the malt backbone.

Esters and phenols contribute to the overall aroma and flavor of smoked porters, lending subtlety and depth to the brew. Esters provide fruity notes, while phenols, derived from the yeast and smoked malt, may lend spiciness or even medicinal undertones.

When it comes to food, smoked porter can be a versatile companion. Because of its robust flavor, it pairs well with hearty ingredients and dishes. For instance, smoked meats, barbecue, and even chocolate desserts can benefit from the rich, smoky accentuation that a smoked porter provides.

In summary, the flavor profile and aroma of a smoked porter are marked by the harmonious integration of distinct smoke malt aroma, wood-smoked malt, esters, and phenols, creating a rich and complex experience for the palate.

Popular Smoke Porter Beers

O’fallon Brewery Smoke Porter

O’fallon Brewery creates a unique and flavorful Smoke Porter in their lineup of craft beers. This distinct beer presents a deep black color with rich flavors of chocolate and coffee, perfectly complementing the smoky character derived from the brewing process.

Alaskan Smoked Porter

Another popular choice among smoke porter enthusiasts is the Alaskan Smoked Porter by Alaskan Brewing Co.. Widely recognized for its excellence, this dark beer has won multiple awards, including silver medals at the 2019 and 2020 US Open Beer Championship. The Alaskan Smoked Porter showcases a balanced smokiness, seamlessly melding with its underlying notes of chocolate and coffee.

Beer detailsInformation
Beer nameAlaskan Smoked Porter
BreweryAlaskan Brewing Co.
Awards2020 US Open Beer Championship—Silver, 2019 US Open Beer Championship—Silver
StyleSmoked Porter
Flavor profileSmoky, Chocolate, Coffee

Stone Brewing Smoked Porter

Stone Brewing offers their rendition of a Smoke Porter, with its own twist. With an ABV of 5.9% and 53 IBUs, the Stone Smoked Porter delivers a smooth drinking experience. This beer features hints of chocolate and coffee, offset by a subtle smokiness that adds depth and complexity to this well-crafted brew.

Beer detailsInformation
Beer nameStone Smoked Porter
BreweryStone Brewing
StyleSmoked Porter
Flavor profileChocolate, Coffee, Subtle Smokiness

Production Techniques

Mesquite and Alder

Mesquite and alder are popular wood types that brewers use to infuse smoked flavors into porter beers. The mesquite-smoked porter is known for its earthy and slightly sweet flavor, while an alder-smoked porter imparts a more subtle smoke character. Both wood types produce a dark brown to black color in the finished beer, creating a visually appealing, smoky brew.

Brewers applying these woods for smoking must strike a delicate balance between the intensity of the smoke flavor and other taste attributes. Often, less is more when using wood fire to create a pleasant and enjoyable drinking experience. The process usually involves using smoked malts or adding wood chips during the brewing process.

Apple and Cherry

Apple and cherry woods offer a more fruity and milder smoked flavor than mesquite and alder. Their gentle, sweet, and fruity notes can enhance porter’s caramel and toffee characteristics. Applewood-smoked porters tend to have a lighter color than their mesquite and alder counterparts, while cherrywood-smoked porters can vary from dark brown to black.

Like their heavier-smoked counterparts, brewers should be cautious with the intensity of apple and cherrywood smoke to keep the overall taste profile balanced. Careful temperature control, ranging from 390°F to 750°F, is essential to fine-tune the thermal decomposition of wood and extract the desired flavors.

Other wood types used in smoked porter production include beechwood, oak, pecan, and, occasionally, peat-smoked malt. Each wood type influences the color, body, and flavor profile of the porter in unique ways. By experimenting with different woods and honing their technique, brewers can create a wide range of smoked porters, from mild and fruity to robust and intense.

Pairing with Food and Cheese

When looking for the perfect food pairing with a smoked porter, consider the rich flavors and complexity of the beer. Hearty dishes, like American-style barbecue, particularly BBQ’d ribs or smoked brisket, are excellent choices, as they complement the bold characteristics of the smoked porter. These robust dishes enhance the experience of savoring the beer and satisfying the palate.

Cheese is another pairing option that can bring out the flavors of a smoked porter. Stilton and similar mellow blue cheeses work well with the beer, as their strong, dark profiles provide a powerful match. Additionally, the sweet undertones of many cheeses, such as parmesan and blue cheese, can be accentuated when paired with a smoked porter. Figs, which are often freshest during the June and July season, also make for a delightful choice to accompany these cheeses.

When exploring pairings with shellfish or chargrilled vegetables, keep in mind that a smoked porter can enhance the sweet taste and charred bitterness of these dishes. The result is a well-rounded exploration of both the dish and the beer, which can be a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Now that we’ve discussed some recommended food and cheese pairings, it is essential to remember that personal preferences and tastes can provide different experiences. By remaining confident and knowledgeable about your choices, you can enjoy a neutral and clear understanding of pairing smoked porter with various dishes and cheeses. Feel free to experiment and discover new combinations that satisfy your palate.

Brewing Terminology

In this section, we’ll go through some important brewing terms that are relevant to smoked porter and other beer styles. These terms include Original Gravity, Final Gravity, International Bitterness Units, Standard Reference Method, Alcohol By Volume, and Beer Styles.

Original and Final Gravity

Original Gravity (OG) is a measure of the concentration of fermentable sugars in the beer wort before fermentation begins. OG indicates the potential alcohol content of the beer and helps to determine the beer’s body, sweetness, and mouthfeel. The higher the OG, the more malty and complex the final beer will be.

Final Gravity (FG) is a measure of the remaining concentration of fermentable sugars after fermentation is complete. FG can help to indicate the degree of attenuation (conversion of sugars to alcohol and CO2) achieved by the yeast strain during fermentation. A lower FG usually results in a drier and less sweet beer.


International Bitterness Units (IBU) is a standardized measurement of the bitterness of beer. It provides a numerical value that correlates with the perception of bitterness from hops and other bittering agents, such as roasted or charred malts. Generally, a higher IBU value indicates a more bitter beer, but the actual perception of bitterness can be influenced by factors like the beer’s malt profile, sweetness, and alcohol content.

Standard Reference Method (SRM) is a system that measures the color of beer. The scale ranges from 1 to 40, with lower numbers representing lighter-colored beers and higher numbers representing darker beers. Smoked porters typically have an SRM in the dark brown to black range.

ABV and Beer Styles

Alcohol By Volume (ABV) is the percentage of alcohol present in beer and varies widely across different beer styles. Smoked porters typically have a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel and moderate ABV levels. These characteristics contribute to the beer’s complexity and overall balance.

Beer Styles are categories that group beers with similar characteristics, such as ingredients, appearance, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. The smoked porter is a specific style within the larger category of porters. It is differentiated by the use of wood-smoked malt, which gives the beer a smoky depth and a unique flavor profile. Traditionally, brewers will cite the specific wood used to smoke the malt, as different woods lend different flavors to the finished product.

Awards and Achievements

Alaskan Smoked Porter has become a standout within its category, garnering numerous accolades over the years. This exceptional beer has made its mark not only in the United States but also on an international level, being recognized at renowned competitions such as the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.

In its rich history, Alaskan Smoked Porter has risen to become one of the most award-winning beers at the Great American Beer Festival, where it has regularly claimed top honors. This prestigious event showcases some of the best brews from across the nation, making this achievement all the more impressive.

The World Beer Cup also stands as a testament to the exceptional quality of Alaskan Smoked Porter. An international event, the World Beer Cup awards breweries from around the globe, focusing on various styles and subcategories of beer. In this highly competitive environment, Alaskan Smoked Porter continues to be a perennial winner.

In addition to these notable events, Alaskan Smoked Porter has received several gold medals in other respectable beer festivals, further cementing its status as a distinguished and well-regarded brew.

Crafted with meticulously selected ingredients, including Alderwood-smoked malt, the Alaskan Smoked Porter delivers a balanced and refined drinking experience. This beer’s dedication to quality and unique characteristics has made it a favorite amongst beer enthusiasts and has undeniably contributed to its various awards and achievements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key ingredients in a smoked porter?

Smoked porter is a type of beer that mainly consists of water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. The distinctive smoky flavor comes from the use of wood-smoked malt in the brewing process. This wood-smoked malt gives the beer a unique depth of flavor, with specific types of wood lending different nuances to the finished product.

How is smoked porter different from regular porter?

While both smoked porter and regular porter fall within the porter category, their flavor profiles differ due to the presence of smoked malt in smoked porter. This smoked malt imparts a smoky aroma and taste, which can range from subtle to quite pronounced. In contrast, a regular porter does not have these smoky notes and typically presents a more classic combination of chocolate, coffee, and a hint of roastiness.

What food pairs well with smoked porter?

Smoked porter pairs well with a wide variety of dishes due to its bold, rich, and complex flavor profile. Preferred food pairings include robust or savory dishes like braised pork, smoked meats, and grilled vegetables. The beer can also complement rich desserts like chocolate cake and can even pair well with unique dishes like peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

What is the history of smoked porter?

The history of smoked porter can be traced back to traditional English-style porters. Over time, the original recipes evolved and brewers started to experiment with smoked malts. Stone Brewing’s Smoked Porter, which was first released in December 1996, gained recognition as a forerunner of this craft beer style and became a staple within the craft beer community.

Are there popular variations of smoked porter?

Yes, there are popular variations of smoked porter that often emphasize specific wood types used for smoking the malt. Some examples include oak-smoked, cherrywood-smoked, or maple-smoked porters. These variations can have different flavor profiles depending on the type of wood used.

How do you brew a smoked porter?

To brew a smoked porter, start with a robust porter recipe as the base. During the brewing process, replace a portion of the base malt with wood-smoked malt, depending on the desired level of smokiness. The smoked malt will need to be mashed along with the other grains in the recipe. After mashing, proceed with the regular brewing process, including boiling, adding hops, and fermenting with an appropriate yeast strain. The finished smoked porter should have a rich, dark color and a noticeable smoky aroma and flavor.

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