Fearful Symmetries

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19 August, 2016

I want all my rauchmonbozia (smoky goodness): Foraging Swine by Scorched Earth Brewing



We return to northern Illinois after having gotten a taste of summer there earlier this week courtesy of Scorched Earth, which harbors at least one Twin Peaks fan I have discovered. Today we move onto autumn(?!) with their fall seasonal, Foraging Swine smoked ale.

If you look at the list of beers at Scorched Earth's website, you'll see that they categorize them. Hoppy beers are in "Hop Head Central" while Belgian styles fall under "Belgian Goodness". Most of the German bier styles are put into the "Cavemen" category. So far, so good. But soon the taxonomic wizard who came up with the clever names goes off the rails. Foraging Swine is the lone denizen of "Crazy Town". There's nothing deranged about being cuckoo for barley malted by smoky puffs. Indeed, you'd have to have a screw loose not to enjoy it.

Scorched Earth's website neglects to specify ingredients and they have yet to answer my inquiry** as to the type of wood used to smoke the malt here. But with the swine on the label and all the talk about pork in the description, I'll hazard a guess that it was beech wood. While the image of the boar rooting around for morel mushrooms as a foraging list sits in a nearby bucket is all pastoral and amusing, it does reinforce the stereotype of smoke beer all tasting like bacon which they do not.

Foraging Swine pours a lovely autumnal deep amber. It was a bit hazy which was odd. Perhaps there's some wheat in there. A quarter inch tan head dissipated rather quickly although the beer was laced with a goodly number of bubbles. The beer sure looked pretty and was a picture of fall with that deep amber color. (He writes on a summer day projected to be in the high 80s.)

Ooh la la! Foraging Swine has a big, firm smoky aroma and, after smelling it, my conviction that the beer has beech wood smoked malt was strengthened. Not being a chemist nor particularly well-versed in the smells imparted by burning wood, the best way I can describe it is as being smoky and spicy whereas cherry wood produces a sweeter, fruitier smoke flavor. There was sweetness there, though, from the unsmoked malts with honey and stone fruit aplenty. Tucked into the background was a little tea as well, though it was herbal smelling and not astringent.

My tongue did a little dance upon tasting the beer. The brewmaster did not shortchange it in the smoke department as it had a sizable beech woody taste. We're talking Schlenkerla territory here. Ausgezeichnet! Overall Foraging Swine had a pretty clean taste. There was some malty stone fruit sweetness which really came forward as the beer warmed but I couldn't taste anything from the yeast. Some moderate grassy hops helped take a little of the malty edge off.

The smoke lingered in my mouth just as I hoped it would. Those hops, however, had their own designs on my tongue and so they built up a nice black pepper taste and a fair amount of bitterness on the finish which ended up being pretty dry. There was no lacing to be found.

Good stuff, Maynard! Considering the smoke beer's poor reputation, I was quite pleased that Scorched Earth not only brewed one but brewed one with a fairly intense smoke flavor. It's the main attraction here and not a side show. But don't be fooled by the label and the beer's description. This beer does not taste like bacon. While the malts dominate here and make for a medium body, I thoroughly enjoyed how the hops went from grass to pepper and made for a dry, spicy finish. A wonderful contrast to all of the grainy goodness.

A great beer but I'm going to let the rest of my four pack age a spell. Foraging Swine is Scorched Earth's fall seasonal but it comes in at 7.7% A.B.V. and we're still in a sweltering summer.

Junk food pairing: Pair Foraging Swine with Lay's Brazilian Picanha potato chips. They have a hearty grilled beef flavor to them that just goes well with the beer's smoke.

** - my inquiry was eventually given an answer: yes, it is beech wood smoked malt here.

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|| Palmer, 12:37 PM

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