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
Photo of TerryW
2.62/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Cola brown and red. Pours with a moderate head that immediately disappates to . . . nothing. I mean utterly zero. Quite disappointing.

Aroma is gently smoky, but doesn't give up much of anything else. Similarly the taste is subtle, but doesn't offer much else in the way of anything interesting past a little smoke. Carbonation is quite sharp and doesn't add to the experience.

I also had this on tap at the 2003 Toronto Beer Festival and quite enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to picking up a six of this. I'm afraid the bottle didn't quite live up to what I remembered from the tap.

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 Cramshawbar
2.75/5  rDev -22.5%

Way to not know how to make a quality smoked beer. If you want lessons, perhaps it's time to contact Ovisholt Brugghus, whose Lava is so much more superior that it is close to embarrassing.

Photo of pootz
3/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Experienced on tap at the Church-Key brewery.

Tapped a dark clear mahogany color with a frothy dirty cap.

Smells very "medicinal"....with some fruit and spice.

Started thin with an overpowering smoke taste the body was thin for such a good looking ale,,,then finished rather tart with the hops kicking in. A let down for such a good looking ale.

Photo of BuckyBeerBeaver
3.08/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Founded in 2000, Church-Key Brewing is located in an 1878 Methodist Church on the outskirts of Campbellford, Ontario. The only microbrewery in Northumberland County, Church-Key features a variety of award-winning hand-crafted ales including its flagship Northumberland Ale and today's beer, Holy Smoke Scotch Ale ("HSSA"). All of Church-Key's ales are made in small batches from four ingredients: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast. Open daily from 10am until dark, the brewery's web site says that visitors are always welcome to take a guided tour of the facility, with samples available in their tasting room afterward.

Despite the first scotch he tried many years ago, which tasted like falling face down into a peat bog with his mouth open, Bucky resolved to try a bottle of HSSA from his favourite LBCO store. HSSA came in a brown 650 ml bottle with a "best before"date of Jan. 3, 2013, and was 6.2% alcohol by volume. HSSA sells for $5.95 per bottle.

The beer poured a dark brown colour with a ruby core when backlit, with 1/4" of tan coloured head that faded to a thin ring of foam and patchy film within two minutes, leaving some minor spotting and lacing down the glass. Its aroma was dominated by smoked peat, which was not overpowering at first, but as the beer warmed this aroma become stronger and began to remind me of burning rubber. Fortunately, HSSA never developed a burnt rubber taste; smoked peat, dark malts, and a certain sweetness were evident though. A smoky peat aftertaste lingered for a few seconds after swallowing the beer. The carbonation was fairly active and well suited to the brew, and I would describe the beer as medium bodied.I believe that a 650 ml bottle of HSSA is best shared, and paired with something like a beef or pork dish, and may even go well with some cheeses. I found two glasses to be a bit of a struggle though, due entirely to the burning rubber smell that developed as I made my way down the bottle.

Photo of cyrenaica
3.15/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

341ml
6.25% ABV

I tried this beer on January 17, 2008 at "Smokeless Joe's" in Toronto. The beer is a dark brown colour with a creamy tan coloured head. The aroma is malty, with some caramel and smoke. The mouthfeel was medium-bodied, with a high amount of carbonation. The flavour was smokey malt, and some sourness.

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 MeisterBurger
3.36/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

One thing you should know before I review this beer is that I tend not to like smoky flavors because they taste like bonfires and bonfires aren't something I like to put in my mouth.

That said, it pours a very dark color, more like a porter than anything, with a nice, velvety white head.

Smells like smoked salmon without the salmon. There's definitely some roasted malt along for the ride. It smells a bit like a porter. Very woodsy and peaty with an underlying sweet maltiness.

Taste is a smoky, peaty, oaky malt. This isn't too bad. Not as sweet as I'd expect from something that calls itself a Scotch ale but enough roasted, chocolate and caramel malt to keep it interesting. Really, the smokiness is prevalent and yet nicely restrained. I'm impressed.

The mouthfeel is a little thin for what I think they are going for here and is probably the weakest link in this beer.

It's an odd beer and a fun experience but not one I need to repeat too often.

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 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 Jeffo
3.47/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this one at the LCBO in Waterloo.

From a bomber into a snifter

APPEARANCE: Pours a one finger, off-white or light tan head with decent retention. Quickly fades to a splotchy wisp and ring. Clear dark brown body and modest levels of carbonation. Splotchy wisp remains but leaves no real lacing down the glass.

SMELL: Some peat notes, leather and light chocolate on the nose. Toasted grains, brown and chocolate malts and lightly smoky as well. Not nearly as smoke dominate as I'd feared, but actually well balanced and nuanced.

TASTE: Brown and caramel malt sweetness up front, with light notes of peated malts and leather at the swallow. Mild but lingering of smoked malts, some caramel sweetness, bitter chocolate and peat flavors. Pretty well integrated and well balanced.

PALATE: Medium body and medium carbonation. A touch light on the palate, creamy, goes down smooth and finishes a touch dry. Good feel.

OVERALL: This was actually quite good. A solid smoke beer for sure. Well balanced and quite interesting and complex as well. Glad to have tried it. Not something I'll have to rush out for again, but easy to drink and definitely something for fans of the style. Recommended.

Photo of Kremlock
3.48/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

A: Pours a deep brown with hues or red in it. Pours a 1/4 inch head that then settles to a thin film around the glass.

S: Peaty, smokey with hints of dates.

T: Peaty with a slight meaty taste to it. Some dates present, light maltyness present through the peat smoke.

M: Thin, watery. A bit of puckering on the tongue.

O. Lack of maltiness and thin watery body does not make it appealing.

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 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 Beccy
3.57/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Look - Bottle is a nice monotone print which stands out on the LCBO shelf against all the cheap paper labels which are common for smaller breweries. Cap is unadorned, would be nice to have some decoration there too.

Beer itself is a dark reddish brown with little head or lacing

Smell: Smoke & beer basically, quite savoury.

Taste: First sip is almost unpleasantly smokey but definitely gets nicer. Dark chocolate, smoke, leather, wood. I would call it a manly beer but I like it so I'll just say the flavours are masculine.

Feel: Medium low level of carbonation, perhaps even less would be ideal for the flavours.

Overall: A good change and worth a try, but I doubt I'll buy it again.

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

650ml bottle poured into a pint glass. ABV 6.2%.

A - Pours a dark cola brown but if exposed to light the colour is dark red. 1cm cream head reduced to a bubbly ring. Minimal lacing.

S - Smoke, roasted grains, earth. Not as smoky as a typical Rauchbier though.

T - Roasted grains, some caramel, some smoke, hint of bacon, mild tea notes in the finish. The smokiness isn't as present as in the aroma.

M - Medium-heavy carbonation, medium-heavy body, some creaminess, thinning finish.

O - A bit one dimensional but it is certainly drinkable.

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 bobsy
3.66/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Draught at Volo. Wonderful mahogany pour, but what head there is is pretty sparse. Nice savoury aroma of smoked cheddar comes off this one.Taste is also of smoked cheddar or meat, with some chocolate malt. Palate needs to be a bit thicker to make this a well-balanced beer, but good nonetheless.

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 peensteen
3.7/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brownish ruby colour with amber hues, light off white head, some lace. Smell is malty, roasted, caramel and toffee, light alcohol notes, smokey malt. Taste is smokey and roasted, caramel, sugars, toffee, some alcohol, smokey and bitter hop. Medium carbonation, medium body, good full feel. Not bad and at times a tad on the sweeter end of things but fairly well balanced and quite good.

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 kwjd
3.72/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Volo. Pours a dark amber-orange colour with thin white head. Little lacing and the head dissipated fairly quickly. Smells of chimney smoke and sweet caramel. Flavour is dominated with smoke, which is to be expected with a smoked beer, though the flavour is lacking the depth that I expected. Nice carbonation level. I typically get tired of drinking this by the end of each pint, though I have had it about 4 or 5 times so I do come back.

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 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.

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