What’s Peat In Beer?

Beer nerds, I just got my hands on a bottle of Fremont Brew 2000 with peat. It’s basically the tastiest barleywine ever created with peat. It’s like a combination of barleywine, Scotch and all happy thoughts.

So, obligatory post coming: what’s peat?

Most of the time when someone says, “wow, this Scotch is peaty!” I would say something like, “yes.” I knew the flavor and I get it, but that’s about as far as it went. For those unaware, peat is that smoky flavor that you find in some Scotches and whiskeys.

But now, dear readers, now that I have a BEER with peat, I’m inclined to learn more. Why not share this adventure with you?

From the Bogs of Scotland

Peat is basically dirt and dead plants. In Scotland, there are bogs that are made up of decaying vegetation. These bogs are specific to areas like Scotland and Ireland, and they’re affectionately called peatlands.

I don’t know why or how, but someone out realized that these peaty bogs were an excellent source of fuel.

At some point, the Scottish began chopping peat into bricks. These bricks could then be burned, sort of like one might burn coal. However, there were a few differences with peat.

First, peat burns fast and hot. Second, peat has an incredibly unique smell.

So, some Scotch distilleries (Scotcheries?) will use peat in the Scotch process. Scotch is always aged in barrels, as is tradition – but these barrels take on the flavor of what’s inside them.

The malts in whiskey (one of the key ingredients) need to be smoked, and for some Scotches they’re smoked with peat. Then the peaty blend goes into the barrel, as is tradition.

And now we go to beer.

Bog Beer (aka Peat Beer)

From now on I think peated beers should be called Bog Beers.

One popular trend among brewers is to age beer in old, used barrels. For example, I recently had an excellent saison that was aged in old gin barrels for six months. During those six months, the saison absorbed the flavors of the wood and gin, and the result was a tasty treat for Thomas.

This is how barrel aging works – the beer not only takes in the flavor of the alcohol, but it also takes in the flavor barrels.

So, what happens when you put a barleywine in a peated keg? Peated barleywine.

Ok, I get that peated beers aren’t common, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn more about them! Especially since peat is being harvested at industrial rates. The flavor is in high demand year-round, and as more people start drinking Scotch, the demand for peat is only going to grow.

This poses a threat to peat. Like any resource, peat is scarce – and it’s not something that we can just go out and make more of. Peat is sort of like oil, taking years and years to break apart and become what it is today.

It’s sad knowing that, someday, real peat will be gone. Sure, the flavor could be artificially recreated in some way, but it’s not the same.

If you’re curious to know what a peated beer tastes like, I recommend spending the money to find out…because they won’t be around forever.

The more you know.

Thomas Short
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