Style: Rauchbier / Black Lager
OG: 14.5 Plato
Bronze Medal Winner for Best Smoked Beer at 2012 GABF
“Cloaked in mystery, this dark black beer skirts the line between a schwarzbier and smoked porter. The use of a small percentage of traditional Beechwood smoked malt adds complexity and balances the liberal use of chocolate malt. Notes of roasted grains, beechwood smoke, and coffee accompany a full bodied-and sweet chocolaty malt character. Smoke & Dagger uses locally grown unmalted barley from MA.”
The bottle carries a very similar feel to that of Hoponius Union, or any other Jack’s Abby bottle. The forest green background color is neat and gives the bottle a foresty, Robin Hood feel to it, especially when paired with the steel gray border and wood-brown border to the border (double border!). For this specific label, I like how Jack’s Abby is playing off their monastic name and showing a medieval decorated dagger hilt with a gold band in the background showing a vine of hops. The hop graphics all over the label are neat, and I really do like the medieval-feel of the bottle, though I would have liked a little more smoke in the label to represent the name better. In this label, the gray smoke acts as a background color to the dagger hilt and the gold band, and is not very noticeable to the eye. My major complaint with the Jack’s Abby bottles, however, is that their graphics and colors all seem to be slightly washed-out, and what I would really like to see is a vividly colored bottle with a sharp graphic on it. I would also love to see a unique cap for Jack’s Abby, specifically their conveniently circular shaped logo which would look great on caps. I’m a sucker for cool caps and that would just make me happy. Is this bottle worthy of the shelf? Hell yes for any medieval fans, and perhaps to others. It is definitely worth scrapbooking at the very least.
This beer is named after Jack’s Abby’s two brewery cats, Smoke and Dagger. It pours a very dark brown color, bordering on black, but sits in the glass as just plain clean black with a light white fluffy head that has the barest hints of tan in it. Lacing is negligible in this beer. On the nose, the beer smells nicely smoked with rich beechwood notes and slight chocolate and black coffee. The beer smells very much of woodsy smoke, but the smell still carries the clean lager aromatics that are expect from the style. I was hoping for a little more pungency, but now that the beer is before me I think too much smell would off-put its lager qualities and ruin the beer. On the taste, the beer is richly layered with woodsy smoke. In the initial gulp there is big Beachwood notes that are slowly enveloped with rich smoke and then roasted chocolate malts, and then rich dark coffee, all the while shinning with the rich complexities of the beechwood. In the middle of the taste the chocolate malts do provide a slight burp of sweet that borders on strange, but is quickly enveloped by the other complexities of the beer, and dutifully managed. Citrus is also present in the taste as a faint ghost that haunts the latter half of the swallow. The aftertaste of this beer is light with Beechwood smoke and hints of coffee, but nothing more. This beer is meaty with flavor, and deliciously easy to sip. On the mouth, the beer feels thin, crisp, and refreshing, as all lagers should. Carbonation is effervescent but not prickly, working to nicely cleanse the palate and ready it for another sip. After each sip the mouth is left only slightly dry with woodsy smoke and with the faintest hints of sticky saliva griming the tongue and roof of the mouth with the sweet smoke taste. Overall this beer is another success from Jack’s Abby, I think I like it more than the version brewed with coffee, as this beer stands perfectly on its own, and I feel that the coffee cuts through some of the complex flavors of this beer. This beer is very drinkable and completely worthy of a try, with great locally sourced ingredients and an even better taste not to mention how cheap it is in Massachusetts to buy! Try this beer!
I had a little bit of gorgonzola cheese still kicking around in my fridge so I figured I would attempt to pair the two, and I am glad I did. The different flavors meld together wonderfully, simmering down the stinging funk of the cheese and lots of the Beechwood flavors until the aftertaste where they shine. The cheese also brings forth more of the simple smoke flavor in the beer, while the beer brings more of the buttery richness of the cheese forward and adds light nuances that I never before recognized in the cheese. Definitely try pairing this beer with gorgonzola or other blue cheese.