Our Smoke on the Lauter is a medium-bodied oat pale ale with restrained American hops and smokey aromas and flavour over a pleasant base beer with a soft, pleasant mouthfeel. The smoke in this beer dominates but is not harsh or acrid, and features a toasty, woody character reminiscent of campfire, which interplays wonderfully with the malts and nutty oat flavours. The beer is pale in colour, slightly hazy to clear with a fine off-white head and medium carbonation.
This beer started in early 2018 as a collaboration between Prairie Dog Brewing and Last Best Brewing & Distilling. Together, we aimed to design a beer that combined aspects of Last Best’s brewing approach with our own. Both breweries love to use oats in our recipes, and we thought it would be fun to brew a pale ale with a large load of oats, since we’d done some experimentation using oats in pale ales in the past, finding that they soften up the mouthfeel of the beer and add an interesting nutty flavour. To tie in the barbecue aspect of Prairie Dog’s operation, we smoked a portion of the oats in our barbecue pit, over applewood, and used a generous dose of the smoked oats in our mash (in fact, these oats were the very first product commercially smoked in Clifford, our big red barbecue pit!). While pale ales are typically hoppy, we dialed back our west-coast hop additions to let the smoke shine through as a dominant flavour in the beer. On brew day, after the mash had finished and we began our lauter (transferring the sweet grainy tea from the mash tun to the boil kettle), the entire brewery at Last Best smelled like applewood-smoked ham, making our mouths water and leading to the name.
With time and careful stewardship from the brewers at Last Best, fermentation finished and the beer had developed a wonderful blend of smoke, malt, oat, and a little piney/citrusy hop with a soft mouthfeel, exactly as we’d hoped. Each brewery took about half of the beer, and we sold it at our location for the first four weeks after we opened before, alas, it had all run out, and customers have been asking us for the beer to come back ever since.
In early 2019, we attempted the first batch of this beer on our Prairie Dog brewhouse, but quickly realized on brew day that our brewery did not smell like ham during the lauter, so something was not right. We found out that the smoking method had been inconsistent between the two runs, and we changed direction with that batch of beer, leading to the Smoked Peppa Pale Ale, which shared a similar base recipe to the Smoke on the Lauter, but where we’d used a smoked-chili-pepper infusion to bring smoke into the beer instead of the oats. Based on our learnings from the Smoked Peppa, we’ve improved the recipe and overhauled our oat-smoking process, successfully.
This year, we used birch to smoke the oats, leading to less of a ham/bacon smoke character than last year’s version, with more of a toasty smoke that reminds us of cooking over a wood fire here in Alberta. The smoke nicely compliments and even enhances aspects of the base malts.
This is definitely a beer to try if you like a little smoke!