Behind the Beer

Behind the beer – Ham on Rye

Tim Thomas from HopDog BeerWorks in Nowra talks about Ham on Rye, one of his seasonal beers that made a short comeback this year.
How did you come up with the idea for the beer?ham20
Well, it’s a long story. Teasie and I went on a Sydney brewery and pub crawl long before marriage and children were thought of, and ended up at the Lowenbrau Keller in the Rocks. We tried a beer called Rauchenfels Steinbier – a German smoked beer brewed with hot rocks – that is sadly no longer brewed. It was fantastic paired with pork knuckles and pretzels. Smoky, caramelly, and all types of bacon and smoked meats from the malt. We stole some glasses, went home and the beer stayed with me for weeks. I couldn’t get the flavour and aroma out of my mind, so I ordered a bag of Weyermann Rauch malt and started playing around with it. The first batch was pretty much a winner brewed at home, it then took eight years for it to be brewed commercially. The smoky bacon and ham flavours come from the malt being cured over burning beechwood.

Is it a regular or a release that has come and gone?
Not a regular release, no. We brewed it last a few years back, and when re-modelling the tasting room recently we found some old labels (about 100), so we thought it needed a reboot.

You’ve described it as ‘‘a bacon sandwich in a glass’’. Did you know it would taste like that before you brewed it?
Pretty much, yes. The addition of rye malt to the mash also added a spiciness that offset the smoke and sweetness from the other malts. It’s bacon as the day is long.

Have you tried drinking the beer while eating a bacon sandwich?
Not a bacon sandwich, no, but definitely with a pork roast.

Do vegetarians avoid it because of the bacon flavour?
Yes, some do. A vego friend of ours was interested in having some when we first brewed it, so I gave him some bottles. After a month I asked what he’d thought of it. He said he couldn’t bring himself to drink it because of the bacon and ham characteristics of the beer making him want to swap sides again…

Anything else you can think of that’s interesting about the beer?
I think it’s a beer that appeals to a lot of people, especially for the smoke factor. It’s brewed with 50% Rauch malt, but isn’t cloying, and definitely isn’t a peat smoked beer.

If you’re a brewer and are interested in appearing in Behind the Beer, just drop me a line here at Beer is Your Friend.

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