Charleston micro COAST Brewing Co.'s seasonal ales tend to feature unusual ingredients, from oats and oysters to local honey to hard-to-find hops. This fall, they released a surprisingly light and zesty smoked beer that win a more than few non-smoke folks over.
Inspired by the rich smokiness of Alaskan Smoked Porter, COAST's co-brewers/co-owners David Merritt and Jaime Tenny started brewing a variety of smoked beers several years ago. The Blackbeerd, the Imperial Stout, Red Legs Scotch Ale, and Porter Smoked boasted varying degrees of smoke intensity by way of malted barley smoked with beechwood and cheery wood.
The recently released, enticingly smoky Smoked Rye Pale Ale (4.8 percent a.b.v.) — available locally this season on tap and in growlers — doesn't go over the top with smoked malts. Compared to its stronger, maltier cousins, it's a milder, more delicately balanced beer. Brewed with 30 percent rye malt and only five percent smoked malt, it's a crisp, thirst-quenching ale with a medium body. Pale-amber in color with a slight haze, it looks like a standard American-style pale ale, but the addition of rye malt and oats adds an unusually bready/grainy character to the flavor.
The smoke is subtle and deceptive, with more smoky flavor in the finish than in the aroma or initial flavor. The smokes malt character complements the hit of woody flavors imparted by an addition of Rye Knot ale that had been fermented in second-use bourbon barrels and blended with the original brew (it's an 80/20 percent blend). Smoked Rye Pale Ale hits the spot with just the right balance of malts, hops, grains, and fiery touches. It would pair well with steamed oysters, sausage, spicy barbecue, or hot wings.