We have just started to bottle and keg this year’s release of Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter! It’ll be bottle conditioned for a few weeks, and ready to roll out on Friday, December 5th. We’ll be doing a single rollout party this year, and it’ll be at the brewery that Friday night starting around 5PM. If you could get the word out, that would be great. We’d love to have a few of you here to say a few words about the Smokejumpers, and hope that the tip jars fill up that evening. I’ve attached a bit of the history on the beer – see below.
Chris Lennert | VP of Operations
1265 Boston Avenue | Longmont, CO 80501 | 303.772.0258 ext. 103 | 303.994.0458 cell
Top Colorado Brewed Beer - Rocky Mountain News
Sawtooth: Our #1 Bitter – New York Times, May 2008
Milk Stout: Malty, Roasty Goodness – Time Magazine, April 2008
Best Beer Ever Brewed: Oak-Aged Imperial Stout – Modern Brewery Age, April 2007
Best Stout in America: Milk Stout – Draft Magazine, Sept/Oct 2006
Best and Most Drinkable Lager brewed in the US today: Polestar Pilsner - Beer Advocate, July 2007
Best smoked beer we've tasted outside of Bamberg, Germany: Goosinator Doppelbock – Celebrator Beer News, Feb/Mar 2008
Every month, we’ll be discussing one of our beers – either a perennial, seasonal or Big-Mo beer – from its history to tasting notes to accolades – all with the thought of helping you better understand what we do over here at Left Hand. This month’s feature is Smokejumper, our Smoked Imperial Porter.
Roasty black in color, the long-lingering smokiness wraps around flavors of sweet molasses, toasted malt and an earthy hoppiness. An 21 degree plato Imperial Porter, the espresso and bittersweet chocolate flavors are present and blend well with, rather than overshadowed by, the hand smoked malt flavors. 9.51% ABV with 50 IBU’s.
A Bit of Smoke & Malt?
We love smoke in our beers. The smokier the better, or, as our Head Brewer, Ro Guenzel puts it, “If it says ‘smoke’ on the bottle, it better have smoke.” There was even a time before the Industrial Revolution that most of the beers crafted had a noticeable smoke characteristic to them. Why is that, you ask? Well, in those early days they didn’t have the ability to pick up the phone and call a maltster and ask for non-smoked malt. Those early brewers had their malt dried over open fires, which proved to be significantly quicker than drying it by the warmth of the sun and air. However, it imparted a smoky flavor, which (aghast!), many of those early brewers tried to filter out. However, some did not.
There is an amazing little town in Bavaria, Germany where a few fabled breweries continue to brew their beers with that distinctive smokiness. Bamberg, Germany, was one of the few cities in Germany that was not destroyed by WWII bombings, is now home to 70,000 people, and is known to many as the home of Rauchbier. One of the most famous from the Fatherland is the smoky classic Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, brewed by the Heller Brewery (Aecht means ‘genuine’ and Schlenkerla means ‘to not walk straight’). These guys do it right – down in their malting rooms, they smoke their malt over beech-wood logs (no ‘beechwood aging’ here), mix it with hops in the brewing process, and then lager it in 700 year old cellars, deep down in the hills of Bamberg. When you’re in Bamberg sitting down enjoying a Schlenkerla, check out the saying on their coasters:
“Even if the brew tastes somewhat strange at the first swallow, do not stop, because soon you will realize that your thirst will not decrease and your pleasure will visibly increase.”
And therein lies a question so many people ask: Are all smoked beer rauchbiers? Well, for starters, smoked beer is not an individual style of beer, but more of a flavor component for a wide variety of beers. Besides our Smokejumper, we’ve also smoked our Goosinator Doppelbock, and have even been known to smoke Sawtooth on occasion here in our Tasting Room. However, Rauchbiers are lagers, as mentioned previously. The Heller brewery sends a few different styles of rauchbiers here to the US: their maerzen, which is their classic rauchbier, and an ur-bock, just to name a few. So, you could consider our Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock an American version of a Rauchbier, but since Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter is an Ale, it is not.
Our smoking process for this year’s Smokejumper differed from when we smoked it back in 2006. Back then, a good friend of ours, Mike Elgin (otherwise known as Uncle Mike in these parts), helped Ro smoke about 450 lbs. of malt on his pit style smoker from his restaurant/catering business, Uncle Mike’s BBQ (check them out at 1114 Francis Street here in Longmont – it’s worth the trip!). It was an exercise in sunburn, burnt finger tips, singed hair and a massive amount of smoke in the eyes. But it led to an amazing learning experience, and, ultimately, an amazing smoked beer. Unfortunately, our good friend and malt smoking mentor passed away last year, and we hope this year’s version will do him justice.
Knowing we were on our own for this year, and knowing that we had to smoke close to two and half times as much malt (roughly 1,000 lbs.), we knew we had to devise a better way this time around. So, being the crafty folk that we are, we decided to build our own smoker – developed by our Head Brewer Ro. Basically, we took a free-standing commercial warm & serve oven and outfitted it with 14 custom-built screen lined trays, vents and a very slick smokestack. That allowed us to smoke those 14 trays for 4 solid hours a time without those pesky workers comp related issues! Not to mention allowing us to ultimately control the levels of smokiness that we wanted to achieve with this year’s version – which was critical to us achieving that correct flavor profile without having it overwhelm the other flavors of our Imperial Porter.
And, finally, the other question that we typically get: What type of wood(s) do you use to smoke your malt? Well, the use of different woods to smoke malt imparts different flavors in the beer. And that’s right where we’ll have to stop you – that old adage “we could tell you but we would have to kill you” applies. That’s the secret sauce, my friends.
When we first decided to produce this beer, we were sitting up in the mountains outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, contemplating what we would name it. Kind of like when you’re deciding to name a child – it’s not something you take lightly (like naming a child “Apple”). After several beers were enjoyed by all, and several less-than-exciting names were thrown around, it dawned on us as we viewed our majestic surroundings and thought about all the fires we’ve seen even from the brewery parking lot. And the name Smokejumper was decided upon as a way to say ‘thanks’ to those that have helped right in our own backyard. After a quick Google session informed us that there was an actual National Smokejumper Association, we gave them a quick call telling them that we wanted to name a beer after them. A few days later they called us back – thinking it was a weird enough message to warrant a return call – and the rest is history. They’ve psyched that we’re getting the word out about them, and we’re psyched to do it. So, based on our relationship, Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter is the Official Beer of the National Smokejumper Association (www.smokejumpers.com). If you ever head to the Smokejumper Visitor Center in Missoula Montana, you’ll even see a bottle from 2006 officially on display. Oh, and if you didn’t know what a Smokejumper is, they are those fearless wildland firefighters who specialize in parachuting into the wilderness so that we can continue to enjoy it.
A Few Accolades for our Smoked Beers
Smokejumper – “chock-full of lingering smokiness, along with other roasty flavors” – Atlanta Journal Constitution
Smoked Goosinator – “one of the best smoked beers we’ve had outside of Bamberg, Germany.” – Celebrator Beer News
Who's getting it this year?
Available in Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, Florida (Fort Lauderdale/Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Myers, Panhandle), Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York (Long Island & Upstate), North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Sweden, Tennessee (Nashville), Texas, Virginia, Washington (Western only) and Wisconsin.
All Smokejumpers are invited to attend this release party!