Thirsty Planet collaborates on smoked beer with Stiles Switch

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 6, 2014

Since barbecue and beer are among Austinites’ favorite things — as well as an extremely compatible pairing — Thirsty Planet continues to combine the two.

Last year, the brewery collaborated with Franklin Barbecue to create a smoked porter; this year, it teamed up with Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew to release the latest version of what brewmaster Brian Smittle is calling the Wandering Wood Smoked Porter series.

The new beer tastes a little different than the smoked porter Thirsty Planet produced with Franklin, which is expected, Smittle said. That’s because even though each smoked porter Thirsty Planet brews as part of the yearly series will have the same grain bill, the grains will spend some time in a local barbecue joint’s smoker before being turned into mash for brewing. The smoker can change up the taste quite a bit, an effect Smittle aims to highlight with the smoked porters.

“Each barbecue place has a unique way of smoking their meat,” he said. “You’ll get different flavors based on how much smoke their smoker produces and what type of wood they use.”

Both Franklin and Stiles Switch use post oak for smoking, but the Stiles Switch beer is “almost more meaty, more barbecue-y, and has less of a smoked characteristic,” Smittle said. On the other hand, the Franklin beer was “a little astringent, but it mellowed out” as time went on.

Smittle, with some help from Stiles Switch owner Shane Stiles, spent about 7 hours getting the smoker loaded up with 725 pounds of barley, placing the grain about an inch thick each go-round on stainless steel screens atop the racks where brisket and other meat normally go; he then misted the grain with water and fired up the smoker.

“As the smoke starts to roll over the barley, it dries it out and (the barley) absorbs the smoked characteristic,” he said.

The new beer comes out next Thursday, smack in the middle of SXSW (which, according to Smittle, was a complete coincidence, but all the extra beer lovers in town certainly won’t hurt). Stiles Switch is hosting a meet-the-brewers event starting at 4 p.m. to introduce it. If it’s too far north for you to stop by during SXSW venue-hopping, there will be other opportunities for you to try it, both at Stiles Switch and beer bars around town.

It’ll join a small list of smoked beers that Austin breweries have experimented with, including Live Oak’s Smoaktoberfest and Thirsty Planet’s own Jittery Monk, a Belgian Dubbel made with Franklin-smoked coffee beans from Kohana Coffee.

The brewery recently upped tank capacity, which means Thirsty Planet specialty beers, including an English-style brown ale, will roll out more often.

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