Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale - Church-Key Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch AleChurch-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale

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BA SCORE
81
good

89 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 89
Reviews: 49
rAvg: 3.55
pDev: 16.06%
Wants: 3
Gots: 7 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Church-Key Brewing Company visit their website
Ontario, Canada

Style | ABV
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy |  6.25% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-05-2002

This unique beer was made as a connection with John and his Celtic family heritage. Ne Oublie, is the Graham Clan ancient family motto, indeed all that have tasted Holy Smoke can say that this Beer will never be forgotten. The Graham clan tartan is also used on the packaging. Holy Smoke Scotch Ale is a dark, strong ale that uniquely utilizes Scottish imported peat-smoked whisky malt, it is smooth, rich and malty, dominated by these peat roasted smokey notes.

17-35 IBU
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Ratings: 89 | Reviews: 49
Reviews by WeissBoy:
More User Reviews:
Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.45/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Volo.

Poured into a nonic. Dark brown-ruby, left a fairly sturdy head with a thin ring surviving the first few minutes.

Nose is dark malt, bread, smoke, a bit of meat and dark fruit.

Nice little smoked beer, good character to it. Smokey, but not oppressively so, as the brew has some decent malt character, caramel, chocolate and fruit to it as well. Very tasty.

Thinner bodied, slightly harsh carbonation.

Decent smoked brew, nice find on tap. Would be fun to BBQ with.

Photo of Tilly
3.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Nothing pretentious about this beer. Nice tab head, toasted malts, earthy aroma. The flavor doesn't fall to far from the aroma bit has done nuttiness. Definetly smoke with a single malt finish. Gets me right in the back of the tongue!

Photo of Sammy
3.93/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Black and licorice taste exceeded smoke taste, and no smoke aroma. More roast than smoke, like a stout, Thats good. Much carbonation, however. New formulation? Some fruitiness and malt made it balanced.. Surprisingly enjoyable directly form them at the 2004 St. Lawrence fest.

Photo of Reinheitsgebot71
3.72/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The body is black with hints of brown. A thin tan head of low retention and no lace caps this.

In the aroma are hints of smoke and toasted sesame seeds almost of a burn nature. Overripe fruity molasses, whisky malt and bourbon barrel scents round out the nose.

The beer is smooth, rich and malty dominated by roasted notes. Some smoked flavours mix with hints of coffee bean. A drying finish with some astringency from the roasted malts cuts off suddenly with a hint of iron like tang. The body is smooth but remains light with a medium low carbonation level.

There was far less smoke character in this beer then I was anticipating which was a bit of a letdown.

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a black color ale with medium head with very little retention. Aroma is lightly smoked with some strong malt. Taste is quite enjoyable, almost like a mix between a light scotch ale with some notes of malt a little bit of smoke. As previously mentioned in past rating, body is a bit thin and I’m not sure this should be considered a smoke ale since there is very little smoke in this.

Photo of EgadBananas
3.87/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to cattersley! He was wounded, but not dead!

Pours a dark brown with ruby edges. Given the circumstances, the slight ring of head and bubbles are beautiful! The aroma is meaty, smoky, and rich with caramel. Taste is sweet, somewhat nutty, smoky and with a mild bacon not. Not as robust as the aroma. Good feel overall.

Enjoyed this...love me a meaty, bacon smoked beer!

Photo of tatterdash
4.37/5  rDev +23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at the Renaissance Cafe on the Danforth in Toronto. This dark smoked beer is a dark brown with a hint of red in the light. The head is a golden brown and retains and laces very well. The smell is almost like a campfire, friendly and inviting. The taste is great, with hints of bacon and roasted malts. The mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy. I love this beer, I have never had anything quite like it. I could drink this all day, and I probably will.

Photo of StephenRich
3.49/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The Church Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale is one of the first Smoked Scotch Ales that I had ever had. It was probably in 2004 when I was first getting into real beer, and the idea of a scotch ale brewed with peat smoked barley malt really enticed me; and it still does.

This is exactly the case with the Holy Smoke - peat smoked whiskey malt is imported from Scotland and used to brew this 6.25% abv scotch ale. Church Key Brewing has been brewing since 2000 in a 1878 Methodist Church, hence the name. They are your typical small batch craft brewer, and make award winning and delicious beers using only malt, hops, water and yeast.

To my dismay, they Holy Smoke is not available at the LCBO, however a well stocked beer bar carrying Ontario Craft Beers will usually have it. I walked over to Smokeless Joe in Toronto on John St. just south or Richmond to enjoy a bottle of one of my long time favorites.

The Holy Smoke was served to me in a Church Key Snifter, which put a nice big smile on my face. It poured out smooth and easily building a deep dark brown beer as close to black as you can get without really being black. Into the sun it shone with glimmers of ruby red and amber. A short, almost half inch velvety white head built on the beer and quickly faded to a slight film within a few minutes.

The nose is full of smoke and roast with soft malty notes of sweet caramel and burnt brown sugar. It shows a creamy bread like quality in the back, but is pretty much dominated by peat smoke and a hint of whiskey. Its not massive though, the smoke is relatively gentle and leads into hints of sweet wood, grass and herbs.

Getting right into the Holy Smoke is easy. Often these smoked beers, especially smoked scotch ales, can be a bit overpowering or heavy on the palate. Church Key though does a great job a creating flavor, but keeping a good balance and a fine mouthfeel. The snifter was pretty cool when served to me, and it did widen in flavor as it warmed. But even right away it brought along smooth silky smoke flavors of light char, sweet wood, toasted almonds and bitter roast chocolate.

Malt comes in smoothly with soft caramel, roasted barley, cereal, bread and earth. The smoke here shows a sweet lightness reminiscent to classically peat smoked whiskeys. Again though, it is not a big smoke, it is somewhat gentle and floats over your palate with light and airy simpleness. This beer is not hugely complex, or deep in flavor - it is rather very easy to drink and turned out to be very refreshing. Flavors more play easily on your palate rather than sink into it.

Soft floral hops show hints of bitter to balance the beer's light brown sugar malt sweetness. The mouthfeel is very light and thin, more so than I am used to in a smoked beer. It really did work for the Holy Smoke though. It gives it a very approachable feeling making it a great beer to introduce people to smoke beers. If you have had any smoked beers before, you know some of them can be relatively aggressive or overpowering. As much as I love the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, it's massive smoked sausage flavors may be too much for the lighter palates.

Look for the Holy Smoke when out at pubs or well stocked restaurants and try it with roast beef, hamburgers, anything with cheese or big pastas. I will do the trick!

Photo of the42ndtourist
4.03/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A very well-shaped smoked beer. On tap at the Pub Italia, Ottawa.

Dark brown, large-bubbled tan head. Smells of smoke... Taste is initially smokey, yielding to a sweeter body, with a sweet tang finish. A friend said "tastes like smoked salmon". I'm actually inclined to agree - no fish taste, of course, but a nicely restrained smokiness with a solid beer to back it up. So many brewers miss the mark with specialty beers, inclining to overwhelm the drinker with trademark flavour - this is not that beer. Nice!

Photo of baiser
3.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours an almost opaque black, with almost no head or lacing. Smokey aroma, roasty, toffee and some grain. Taste was somewhat smokey, with roasted notes, coffee, burnt bitterness. Not quite a session ale, but still very drinkable. I'm not a big fan of church key, but this is one of their better offerings.

Photo of FondueVoodoo
3.58/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

thanks to Cattersley for this trade.

A: First to note - sharp white graphic on the bottle is striking and sophisticated. the ale poured a deep black brown and glows a deep garnet when held to the light. Capped off with a finger of velvety head - it settles to a solid ring around the glass.

S: Solid smoky peat, wet wood and wet hay, deeply earthy and reminiscent of a old animal barn.

T: Reflects the smell to a T - Peaty smoke with plenty of wet wood and that barnyard funkiness. Very powerful smokiness that somewhat overshadows some of the other scotch ale notes, but as the palette adjusts to the smokiness notes caramel and dark toffee notes shine through.

M: Very subtle buzz of carbonation that supports the peaky smoke. A medium mouth feel that holds in the mouth.

O: A powerful smoky offering that pulls no punches - it's unabashedly forward in the smoky smell and taste and offers a deeply earthy and barnyard profile. It may be somewhat one sided, but does so boldly without attempting to be something it isn't.
Would be terrific with jerk chicken or bar-b-que steak, as a side dish.

Photo of liamt07
3.82/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draught at WVRST, into a pint glass. Scotch ale made with smoked peat. Alcohol on this was higher than listed here, around 6.3% I believe.

Dark red/burgundy, with clarity around the edges. Bubbles serve as a very transient head, but ultimately, nothing retains and only shreds of lacing. Nose has chocolate, light peatiness and strong dark caramel notes. Taste has smoked wood, peat and a bit of burnt plastic, but this subsides as the glass warms. More chocolate and rich caramel notes. Malty scotch ale character comes through in the finish. Medium body, low carbonation and a nice pairing with my Boerewors. Easily consumed and I would hit this up again.

Photo of Dithyramb
3.77/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Retired? Had it just a week or so ago at Volo's on tap. Poured a deep, dark brown. Rather clear and not opaque with a short lived, large bubbled tan head. Rings of lacing. Roasted smokey malt aromas.

Taste of a caramel that had been sitting next to a campfire. Reminded me of a watered down scotch. Body lacked much of what was expected, which detracted from its drinkability. Great, real type of smoke flavor, not like they dumped some fake smoke into the batch..

Photo of SebD
3.74/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: It has a nice deep mahogany/amber color to it. It has a nice creamy beige head that dies down moderately fast and leaves little lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of toasted malts, chocolate, a bunch of smokiness and some woody notes as well.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has some smoky notes, toasted malts, light chocolate, some sweet caramel and faint wood.

Mouthfeel: It has a medium carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied by good flavors and aromas.

Photo of thehyperduck
4.09/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle from the LCBO listed at 6.2%; best before Mar. 6 2013. I've generally heard good things about Church Key, but since I live outside of their distribution range, finding any of their offerings has been a tad troublesome. Grabbing this one while shopping in London was thus a bit of a no-brainer, but the fact that I haven't tried a new smoked beer in the better part of a year also factored into the decision. Poured into a mug.

Pours a brownish cola colour - seemingly opaque at first, but holding it up under the light reveals the liquid's inherent clarity (and some ruby red tinges). Topped with one finger of light beige-coloured head that recedes relatively rapidly, leaving behind a dense collar around the edge, and a thin, wispy film at the surface. The aroma is rich and enticing, with plenty of roasted malts and molasses underlying notes of bacon, glazed ham, peat and hickory smoke, with a faint hint of coffee grinds that is difficult to separate from the rest of the bouquet.

This is tasty stuff, with a wide range of different flavours mingling and (more importantly) complementing each other nicely. Roasted malts, caramel and molasses come through first, followed by some ambiguous hints of dark fruit. A few peaty notes. The smoke is only an ephemeral presence at first, but surges forth in the finish, imparting hints of smoked wood and bacon/pork that linger into the aftertaste. The flavour definitely improves a little as it warms. On the lighter side of medium-bodied, with mild carbonation that gives this brew a smooth, slick mouthfeel. Very drinkable, but more suited to washing down your dinner than sessioning.

Final Grade: 4.09, a solid A-. Church Key's Holy Smoke Scotch Ale is one of the more interesting brews I've had in the last month or so. The smokiness is not as intense or meaty as in genuine rauchbiers, but it's still a constant, distracting presence throughout the flavour profile, which I feel makes this particular brew a perfect introduction to smoked beers for any interested newbies. I enjoyed this bottle on its own, but this is the sort of beer that is really begging to be paired up with (or used in!) some sort of hearty pork/beef dish. All in all, this was a fabulous OCB offering that I wish was available locally! I'll definitely keep an eye out for more stuff from this brewer, and would eagerly encourage others to sample this.

Photo of mikemands
3.3/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

heavy, thick pure smoke syrup.

Photo of Organdrew
3.69/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I bought a 650ml bottle from the local liquor store. I was a little skeptical about buying this as it is more expensive than other beers and smaller in serving but I figured if it was .ore expensive, it should be good. I was right.

Look: bottle seemed like some sort of weird gothic or cult type symbols. Not really my style but mysterious nonethless. The contents came out just as dark as the bottle.

Smell: was not wowed by the smell. Reminded me of other dark craft beers. Slightly reminded of guiness.

Taste: this is where I really liked it. With very low carbonation and creamy. I prefer medium-high carbonation in my beer but this was okay. Smoke, peat, malt, reminiscent of sausages over a bonfire or barbeque. Almost has a red-wine flair to it, but not a bad thing.

Overall:

Many review say this pairs well with food and I did pair mine with oven grilled sausages, good pair. Some say it's not sessionable but I could drink one maybe two In one session. This is simply not like watered-down lagers you can pound back. A real "man's taste" and bold. This is closely similar to noire de Chambly by Unibroue. It does seem to get overwhelming after a while, but if you like strong drinks and black coffee, this ones for you. It seemed a little flat and I longed for some carbonation, but it was a treat. I would reccommend. Like many say: different but not bad. Simply a specific taste that not many like.

Photo of Seumas
4.3/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Ever since Church Key changed the yeast used for Holy Smoke, the ale has gone from decidedly underwhelming (good aroma, but thin body, light flavour, light mouthfeel, watery finish and no aftertaste) to a great introductory smoked ale.

It now has a good, moderately smoked flavour and pleasantly full mouthfeel, a fine finish and pleasant aftertaste. It's not as strongly smoked as Aecht Schlenkerla, but that beer might be a bit much for the uninitiated. The Smoke should be just about right.

Photo of soju6
2.73/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: Dark brown with a good head that fades to light lacing.

S: Some malt and caramel aroma, but mostly of smoke.

T: Initially a bit sweet but smoke flavor seems to overwhelm the senses.

F: Moderate body, but somewhat rough texture.

D: Not really a style I enjoyed. The smoke flavor and aroma seem to hide the real beer.

Photo of funkengruven
3.87/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

This is an interesting beer. It poured a dark brown with a bit of tan head that subsided quickly. Smell is sweet and smoky, rather nice. Flavor is very rich and full, sweet, malty and smoky, reminiscent of a peat smoked scotch whisky. Mouthfeel is smooth but a bit boozy.

This is unique but definitely pretty good. Worth a try.

Photo of Derek
3.6/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I had this at the Volo Cask day, Oct. 22, 2005.

A: Deep brown-black.

S: Subtle, pleasantly light smokiness.

T: Sweet (a little syrupy), but well balanced. Smokey caramel, reminiscent of a Scotch whiskey (smokey, but not peaty or medicinal). Finishes with a slight alcohol warmth.

M: Moderate to full body/mouthfeel.

D: Hard to quantify. It's a heck of a lot more drinkable than a Rauch beer, but not as easy as a Raftman from Unibroue.

Photo of DenisKolkin
3.77/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

650 ml bottle purchased on sale for $4.25 CDN. Served fridge temperature into a pint glass.

Appearance - a dark ominous garnet coloured beer is poured with a small finger of head that doesn't last. Clear but too dark to see much of anything through the beer. Minimal lacing and barely a cap of froth on top.

Smell - a whole crap ton of smoke on this, not quiet rauchbier class but not that far off. Wood and smoke without the meatiness of that unique German style. Don't get much of anything from the whiskey notes.

Taste - holy smoke is right, plenty of smoke, burnt wood and a trace of meatiness. Trace of caramel lying underneath. No whiskey except maybe the heat at the very end.

Mouthfeel - the taste is all rauchbier, but the body is what gives this away as a scotch ale as the carbonation is nearly non- existent. Body is surprisingly light.

Overall - not something I'd drink everyday, but given the price, pretty good value for a smokey as hell scotch ale. Quite good and worth a try. A name for a beer has really been more suitable.

Photo of crwills
3.43/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Retired, eh? I've been looking forward to trying this for a while, and was even planning a trip out to the brewery to pick some up before I found out (just now) that it had been discontinued. I'm glad I tried it (at Beerbistro in Toronto), but I'm also glad I didn't go out of my way to get it, as it wasn't as good as I expected. I've definitely had better smoke beers.

Poured a pitch black with a small head that doesn't last. The restaurant was busy and the pour was somewhat lousy. Also, it was served too cold (cause I think they were in a hurry). Oh well. I waited a bit before drinking it.

Hard to discern the smell with everything else going on in the restaurant, but what was there was (of course) smoky and meaty. A little bit of bitter hops in there as well.

Sip was a bit disappointing. Less body than I expected, and a little watery. Smokey flavours were definitely present but far more restrained than some other smoke beers I've had (such as La Chaudron's Calumet or the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbiers). Definitely not BAD -- just not standout wow. Low drinkability since it just isn't good enough to put up with the baconiness for that long, but overall decent for being the only Canadian offering of this style.

OK, I'll admit, I would have picked some up at the brewery this summer anyway if it weren't discontinued. Oh well -- look forward to whatever replaces it from Church-Key.

Photo of Viggo
3.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Volo.

Pours a clear very dark ruby red, approaching a dark brown, thin tan head forms, quickly settles to a very thin ring around the glass, a few lace spots stick. Smell is neat, quite smokey, iron, caramel and biscuity malt, more smoke, light peat, brown sugar, hemp, pretty interesting. Taste is similar, nice smokey sweetness up front, brown sugar and caramel, light chocolate, roast, peat, earthy, hempy bitterness. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with medium carbonation. A little messy but a nice beer, smokey without tasting like beef jerky.

Photo of chunkylover53
3.95/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Very dark brown with reddish highlights and a small head.

Smell: Caramel, dark fruits, smoke.

Taste: Dark fruits, anise, smoke. A slight sour taste. The smokiness is nice like bacon, rather than like cigarettes.

Mouthfeel: A little thin, but not bad.

Drinkability: Not bad. A good beer overall, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get another.

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Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
81 out of 100 based on 89 ratings.