Smoke. Is there anything it can’t do? From making things taste delicious to making things taste really delicious, I think we can all agree its applications are boundless. In fact, smoke is probably nature’s fourth best gift to man after beer, chocolate and jerky.
Nobody knows this better than the brewers in Bamberg, Germany, who’ve been making smoky beer for nearly two centuries. They call it rauchbier (which is a fun word to say with gusto, try it!) and it’s made with malt that’s been dried over an open flame. The first smoky beer I ever had was from one of these original Bamberg breweries - Schlenkerla – and it was so tasty I almost cried. Cried because I wanted that bacon-in-a-glass flavour in my life forever, but it was really expensive and hard to find in New Zealand.
These days, smoky beers are brewed all the time here (full credit to Invercargill Brewery for making the first one, the amazing Smokin’ Bishop), but the latest I tried is one of the very best.
Tane is a manuka-smoked IPA by Herne Brewing, which is a newish brewery based not in Herne Bay, as I originally assumed, but in a pretty little town called Tapanui in West Otago. It was a gold medal winner at this year's Brewer's Guild Awards, and I can totally see why. It smells of clothes after a night spent camping on the beach, bacon, caramel, and a hint of citrus hops. In the mouth it’s luscious and mouth-filling, with bitter, piney hops balancing the sweet, smoky malt. On every level, it is delicious.
I didn’t cry after I tried this one, just got a little smoke in my eyes.
Herne Brewing Tane is available at selected craft beer outlets. For more information, see www.facebook.com/HerneBrewingCompany