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Beer Review: Hilliard's Original Singe

Hilliard's Original Singe
My perfect beer involves wood in any capacity. For most of the craft beer world, great "wood" beers are barrel-aged beers. The variety of flavors that wood imparts on those beers is a marvel. But for something unique, in my mind, nothing beats the Rauchbier. The Rauchbier, which is German for "Smoke Beer" is a beer made with smoked malt. The malt is usually smoked with beechwood and in a good Rauchbier the smoke will prominently present itself in the nose and the overall flavor of the beer. It's a unique experience and a fantastic beer.

Luckily you can get to Hilliard's and try theirs, the Original Singe.

Rauchbiers hail from the Franconia region of Germany. There's an almost-undoubtedly-made-up legend that the Rauchbier was "discovered" after a cloister in the area was largely burned in a fire. One of the few parts of the cloister that was left intact was the storehouse which happened to be full of malt. While the structure was intact, it still sustained some damage, and the smoke from the fire left its mark on the malt. Not wanting to let good malt go to waste, they brewed it up anyway, and the Rauchbier was born.

Like most German beers, Rauchbiers are a lager beer, and would taste a lot like a Märzen if the malt wasn't smoked. It's also sort of a difficult beer to brew because if you use "new" yeast, the yeast will absorb a lot of the smoke flavor. The best Rauchbiers are brewed with yeast that's already been used in Rauchbier's previously.

Hilliard's original Singe is a great example of how tasty a Rauchbier can be (BJCP style 22a). I didn't get a lot of aroma off of mine, but I think my nose is a bit stuffy. The appearance is a very clear, bold amber color and the beer has a nice tan head.

Hilliard's Original Singe

The flavor is where this beer really sings. The smoke is up front, bold, but still well-balanced against the other malts. You instantly get hit with a campfire, slightly bacon flavor and it works its way down leaving a powerful smokey aftertaste that lingers for a while. It's like drinking a very pleasant campfire. I detected just a bit of hops, they use Goldings, and the earthy flavor works really well alongside the smoke flavors.

They're brewing another batch of Original Singe so you'll have some more time to try it. It's a chance to try a unique style done by a great craft brewery. And if you want the pinnacle of Rauchbier, you want the Schlenkerla Rauchbier and you want to drink it in Bamburg. It's on my life list. But until I can get there, thanks to Hilliard's for a smokey, delicious trip deep into the craft beer world.


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