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What is the difference between using a nice smoked malt vs. maybe using some liquid smoke for making Rauchbier? Can you detect the difference in complexity?

Is smoked fruit woods (apple, cherry) better than smoke from say hickory or mesquite?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I can't speak to smoked malt vs. liquid smoke.

But to answer your other question, there are big flavor differences between the types of wood you use, at least in cooking, so I would think it depends on the characteristics you want to impart in your beer. Here's a list I reference for the flavor profiles of different smokes (with a few I've added myself):

  • Oak : A heavy smoke flavor.
  • Hickory: Strong, smoky taste.
  • Mesquite: Sweet, light taste.
  • Pecan: Nice taste. Lighter than hickory.
  • Apple: Sweet, fruity smoke taste.
  • Beech: Milder and sweeter than Hickory with a slightly fruity flavor.
  • Acadia: Similar to mesquite, but not as strong.
  • Almond: A nutty, sweet flavor.
  • Alder: Very delicate. Slightly sweet.
  • Apricot: Milder and sweeter than Hickory.
  • Ash: Burns fast. Light, but distinct flavor.
  • Birch: Slightly sweet.
  • Cherry: Slightly sweet fruit flavor.
  • Grape Vines: Similar to fruit woods.
  • Grapefruit: Medium smoke flavor. Slight hint of fruit.
  • Lemon: Medium smoke flavor. Slight hint of fruit.
  • Lilac: Very light smoke flavor.

According to BeerAdvocate, Rauchbier uses Beechwood to smoke the malt.

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I've never used liquid smoke before. Having said that, I think this calls for an experiment! For your first question (detecting difference in complexity between liquid smoke vs. smoked malt), try it! Make both, try them, and let me know :)

As an aside, when does one normally add liquid smoke?

As for your second question, about "better", that's a question of preference.

</vague answer>

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Agreed on preference. I would assume the best time to add liquid smoke is at bottling time/kegging time. Add it a bit at a time until it tastes right. I recommend doing it like that for fruit extracts or nut extracts etc etc. Smoke should be no different. – brewchez Jun 22 '10 at 19:17

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