REVIEW: Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter from Left Hand Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: Smoked Imperial Porter
ABV: 8.8%
IBUs: 55
Hops: Mt. Hood, CTZ
Malts: Smoked Munich, Roasted Barley, Pale 2-Row, Chocolate, Wheat, Rauch, Special W,
Appearance: Dark as a moonless night with mocha-colored foam
Aroma: Mix of Sweet Molasses, Warming Alcohol & Not-so-Subtle Smoke
Flavor: Rich Smoke; Dark Malts, Molasses & Chocolate-Espresso
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Meat dishes, BBQ, Smoked Salmon, Sharp Cheddar Cheese

With a forest fire burning in the Gila, about 15 miles away from Silver City, this beer just sorta seemed right. A time to sit, drink in some smoke, and reminisce, for a moment, about those times when I ate smoke trying to catch wildfire. I’ve worked with the men and women this beer is a tribute too. They deserve the honor.

Left Hand brews this beer as a tribute to Smokejumpers, the courageous souls of the wildland firefighter community that parachute into rough country, risking their lives to save national resources and property from fire. It is widely considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the US.

It is a no brainer that the official beer of the National Smokejumper Association needs… well, smoke. But how to get the right smoke?

The brewers at Left Hand realized that to get a close rendering of the smoky sense of a wood fire they would have to smoke their own malt. After many trials, a wood combination was found that seemed to best signify the smoky character they were searching for.

This beer was first brewed in 2006 and won gold in the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the smoked beer category. It was brewed again to great acclaim in 2012 and now for a third time, this year.

The Pour and Aroma

“Hidden in darkness deep and strong, taste the Jumper’s smoky song”

The Smokejumper pours dark as a moonless night, men sit exhausted, after the last flames have been beat down. Wisps of smoke drift from smoldering stump holes. A mocha colored half-finger of head forms but doesn’t stick long, preferring to dissolve back to beer level and form a thin ring around the glass, highlighting the darker center.

Aroma is a mix of sweet molasses, warming alcohol, and not-so-subtle smoke. Dark and toasted malt finds its place nicely among these stronger scents. A very pleasant set of memories play in my head of fire-lines, wood fires in the dead of winter, and smoked sweet bacon.

Mouthfeel and Taste

Smokejumper Imperial Porter

The body is big and robust. Mouthfeel is medium, velvety, and carries on it a rush of dark malt and molasses.

Rich and ever-present, the smoke is forward, but dances, a combination of pungent peat and sweeter wood. Carried well by low carbonation, the depth of character here is refreshing. The molasses and dark roasted malt profile are balanced well by an earthy, almost espresso like bitterness. Swallowing leaves behind some astringency and an aftertaste that skips back-and-forth between a chocolate-espresso bitterness and smoke.

Finishing The Impression

Smokejumper is a great tribute. Not only is it a wonderful full-character beer, but it actually does bring up memories of fires, both wild and winter-warming. I can see the smoke maybe being a little overwhelming to someone who is just starting out on the adventure of smoked beers… but really, would you expect less in a beer that’s a tribute to firefighters?

For me the taste married well with the smell of smoke right outside my front door and I sat for a long while pondering memory, while the sun tinged slightly red behind the Signal fire’s tall plume and drifting smoke. And isn’t that one of the best things about any food? It’s ability to conjure memories. Those memories we maybe haven’t laid ahold of in a very long time and when they come, it’s sad and lovely at the same time. A fork-full of pumpkin pie and the memory of past family thanksgivings, or the taste of ice cream sending you spinning back to childhood excursions to the corner store and a weekly treat.

Many of us will have the memory of summer afternoons surrounded by family as meat sizzled and spit on a grill or sitting around camp fires watching the dance of flame-shadow as the sky opened up its wonders above us. This beer will bring them back into stark focus allowing the chance to peer through the shell of time at moments both wonderful and poignant.

Cheers! And thanks to those who bravely fight fire in our wildlands.

More Beer Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and is currently enrolled in the American Brewers Guild (CBA). When he’s not studying or working, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places.

Comments

  1. Nick says

    Just a quick fix to this review….
    Seems I got one of my dates wrong. Smokejumper was first brewed in 2006 not 2008 as stated in the article. Makes me all the more upset…. I could have been enjoying this fine beer even further back!

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