At Torrside, as you surely already know, we are rauchbier enthusiasts - smoke evangelists! - so that answers the easy questions of why we brew smoked beer, and why we'd want a celebration of it. With no sign of anyone else announcing a ‘Smoke City’ or an IndyManSmokeCon, and in the spirit of “be the change you want to see in the world”, well: here we are!
But the casual beer drinker probably wants to know a bit more - things like “What beer is going to be on?”, and “Are you saying there’s more than one sort of smoked beer?” (Yes, yes we are.)
Smokefest is aiming to be a showcase for the range of ways smoked beer can work – different sorts of smoke, in different beer styles, side by side. We want it to work as both a satisfying line-up for the confirmed rauch-fiend, and as an induction for the smoke-curious. We’ve started from our own range, added in some of the classics that first drew us into smoke, and we’ve even been offered one or two brand new releases from enlightened fellow brewers.
Even a few years ago, the only rauch in many beer shops might be the German classic, Schlenkerla Marzen. The flavours in this dark amber beer come from beech-smoked barley, and the most frequent tasting note is just "bacon". It’s a fantastic style, around 5% ABV, and it’s the only thing most people would know as ‘smoked beer’.
Our version of this style is Franconia, which we’ve got on keg; and we have Ashover Brewery’s Smoked, the same style in cask. (That beer – and Ashover generally - were an inspiration to us when we started up Torrside, so it's great to have it on.)
We also have a thoroughly modern craft example: the brand-new Cloudwater & Notch collaboration.
And then we have Rauchwine, a barleywine variant on the style – a rich mellow 10%er.
There are dark beers; our smoked stout, Fire Damage (our oldest recipe!), and from our friends at Chapter Brewing we have Dead Man’s Fist, a smoke & pepper porter. Our smoked bitter Hopfenrauch fits here, too (dark-ish, for a bitter).
But beech is not the only smoke! Oak wood gives a lighter crisper character - it’s used more to smoke wheat than barley.
For this, we have Sto Lat, a grodziskie – a style also called Polish champagne, it's low strength, light, and lively.
We’ll also have cans of a very new 7% Marble Brewery Imperial Grodziskie, and even further up the ABVs we’ll have Perfect Circle, an oak-smoked wheat wine.
There’s another source of smoked malt, which you'd probably know from certain whiskies: peat! Peat is a bit of a divisive flavour, but if you like it, you love it.
We’ll have the Yeastie Boys’ Rex Attitude, a 100% peat-smoked pale. (Another beer that inspired us, early on - that we should just brew the smoky stuff we wanted to, and it would find its market.)
Also, with less peat malt but still a lot of punch, is Power Stance, a 12.5% peat & ginger beer concocted with Mashtun & Meow.
Mixing things up a bit, and throwing US hops into the mix, we have a Black Iris collaboration Bury Me In Smoke, an American Brown where we used both beech and oak smoke.
And there’s our Runaway Brewery (cask!) beer, Smoked Red, which used malt smoked over rum barrels (extra craft points there!)
... And then there’ll be something smoked and imperial from our Sauternes barrel…
Late addition to the keg line-up - Schlenkerla Helles, a superb light and clean lager. It has no actual smoked malt in it, but picks up a lovely smoke character just from being brewed in the Schlenkerla brewery. We're very pleased that we tracked a keg down!
Finally, we’ll have some other smoked beers in bottles, both ours and a few more guests.
Then on top of the beers, to keep with the theme, we’ll have some smoked snacks and refreshments. (That side’s still a work in progress, but you can safely assume cheese, ham, nuts, smoky sauces, that sort of thing. We’ve gone and got a smoke gun now, so who knows...)
So to sum up: lots of beer to try, all smoked and all quite different. We don't think you'll find this many smoked beers assembled anywhere else! Come and join us!
We’ve made this a ticketed event at the brewery – partly to avoid overcrowding, and partly to help us judge how much food to get in. Please do get a ticket in advance if you're coming!
There's some beer, food, and Smokefest glassware in the ticket price – it’s a way of managing numbers, not making extra profit.
The brewery is very convenient for the train line between Manchester and Buxton, so that's a good way to get here.
We’re hoping to move the start of Smokefest to 12 noon, to work better with the train timetables - there’s potentially a reduced service due to the Northern Rail strikes, but they'll still run every 2 hours. You won’t get stranded; we’ll be keeping a close eye on the services and making sure everyone knows what’s happening on the day.
If you’re coming some distance or by car and want to stay overnight, there are one or two places in New Mills, and of course Buxton has a lot of accommodation options this time of year - and one or two good places for beer, come to that!
I nearly included "fans of the fumacious" in that opening sentence, but common decency prevailed.