Growler Taste Test: Benford’s Smoked O’Hickory Brown Ale

The last couple of years has seen the rise of two families of beer that had been shunted off to the side as historical contrivances:  smoked beer and sour beer.

I am more partial to smoked beers in all their forms.  My moment of conversion came with a taste of the Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter. Up to that point I had avoided smoked beers out of some strange smoked taste fear.  Now I am all in on the style.

IMG_20150615_160543Benford Brewing’s Smoked O’Hickory Brown Ale is a smoked beer that partially uses grains smoked there on the farm.  It pours with a pleasing chestnut/reddish brown color.  The aroma is, of course, smoky, but it has an undercurrent of a slightly sweet breadiness.

As a smoked beer and a brown ale it tastes of lots of malt.  The taste reflects the aroma well by being forward with the smoke, but tamping that down slightly with a modest bready quality.  There is not much of a hop taste that I could detect.   The hop bitterness comes through as a dryness that keeps the beer from sticking to your tongue too long which would make the smoky nature too much to take.

Warning, if you haven’t had a lot of smoked beer this could be a bit much for you.  I have seen customers order this beer at Craft and not be able to finish it.  Smoked beer, like sour beer, takes some getting used to.  However, if you do like smoked beer this is a well-made, lighter choice then the usual smoked porters, gratzers, or rauchbiers.

Benford is a small brewery located in Lancaster, SC on a farm about 40 miles south of uptown Charlotte.  I knew little about this brewery until we started tapping their beers at Craft.  It is an actual working farm with the water for the beer coming from a spring on the property and using the spent grain as food for the livestock.

As soon as I finished this beer and read about the brewery I knew what the first song was going to be in the playlist: “Hickory Wind.”  I choose the original version from The Byrd’s Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Enjoy it and the rest of the playlist.