10 Great California Smoke Beers

Top 10 California

Food GPS beer editor Sean Inman chooses 10 great California beers by style.


The German name is Rauch. In English it can mean to reek or fume, but for craft beer purposes, the word we are looking for is Smoke.  Sometimes that smoke is a background note and other times it is like breathing in a campfire, then tasting it.  Many of the beers on this list are seasonal and will be harder to find so let me know if you have your own suggestions. For each beer, I note what ingredient supplies the smoke that you will smell and taste (if I have the information). Without further ado, here are 10 great Brewed in California smoke beers to introduce you to an uncommon style.

6. Bear Republic Brewing – Smokey Bear – Cherrywood smoked malts combined with the killer hops that this Healdsburg brewery is known for to create a memorable beer.

7. Magnolia Pub & Brewery – Smokestack Lightning – Named after the BBQ joint from the people behind Magnolia gastropub, this imperial stout utilizes a variety of smoked malts to catch the smoke.

8. Craftsman Brewing – Smoked Black Lager – Of course Mark Jilg would use a lager as a base for his version of a rauchbier.  A hard trick to do since lagers are so light.

9. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales – Fumare – You wouldn’t believe that a Saison would be a good match for a big smokey beer, but this small brewery in Capitola has pulled it off.

10. Bootlegger’s Brewery – Wildfire Wheat – A summer seasonal from Fullerton.  They take a medium-bodied wheat beer and add a touch of smoke to it.

One more California smoke beer to savor:

11. Smog City Brewing – Smaug Lager – No dragon breath here, just a well made lager with a hint of campfire to it.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.


Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

Blog Comments

Rauchbiers are traditionally lagers, with beechwood-smoked malt. So Craftsman is actually respecting tradition with its Smoked Black Lager.

That said, in the primitive days of brewing, long before lagers existed, all beers were ales and all were dark, unfiltered, sour and smoky — because the only way to kiln malt then was over an open fire.

Good point. My American-centric knowledge betrayed me.

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