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

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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
81
good

76 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 76
Reviews: 46
rAvg: 3.54
pDev: 16.95%
Wants: 3
Gots: 2 | FT: 0
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:
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

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-05-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 76 | Reviews: 46 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Mama-Kail
1/5  rDev -71.8%

Mama-Kail, Dec 24, 2012
Photo of ThinkAgain
1.75/5  rDev -50.6%

ThinkAgain, Feb 07, 2013
Photo of cfalovo97
2/5  rDev -43.5%

cfalovo97, Nov 06, 2012
Photo of Mr_Hoptimistic
2.5/5  rDev -29.4%

Mr_Hoptimistic, Aug 16, 2014
Photo of TerryW
2.6/5  rDev -26.6%
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.

TerryW, Jan 30, 2004
Photo of soju6
2.7/5  rDev -23.7%
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.

soju6, Aug 17, 2010
Photo of Cramshawbar
2.75/5  rDev -22.3%

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.

Cramshawbar, Nov 18, 2013
Photo of pootz
2.95/5  rDev -16.7%
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.

pootz, Feb 29, 2004
Photo of DreamDeath
3/5  rDev -15.3%

DreamDeath, May 18, 2014
Photo of FirstBrewsoon
3/5  rDev -15.3%

FirstBrewsoon, Jan 05, 2013
Photo of byronic
3/5  rDev -15.3%

byronic, Jan 21, 2014
Photo of WeissBoy
3/5  rDev -15.3%

WeissBoy, Dec 11, 2012
Photo of Wordslinger
3/5  rDev -15.3%

Wordslinger, May 05, 2012
Photo of kelvarnsen
3/5  rDev -15.3%

kelvarnsen, Jan 03, 2012
Photo of BuckyBeerBeaver
3.1/5  rDev -12.4%
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.

BuckyBeerBeaver, Apr 14, 2014
Photo of cyrenaica
3.13/5  rDev -11.6%
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.

cyrenaica, May 12, 2008
Photo of beerhunter13
3.25/5  rDev -8.2%

beerhunter13, Nov 24, 2012
Photo of CurtisD
3.25/5  rDev -8.2%

CurtisD, Apr 25, 2014
Photo of Ivanhoes_Backpack
3.25/5  rDev -8.2%

Ivanhoes_Backpack, Oct 18, 2013
Photo of timiskin
3.25/5  rDev -8.2%

timiskin, Apr 11, 2013
Photo of DaPan
3.25/5  rDev -8.2%

DaPan, Feb 13, 2013
Photo of MeisterBurger
3.4/5  rDev -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.

MeisterBurger, Jul 07, 2009
Photo of crwills
3.43/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

crwills, Mar 09, 2006
Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.45/5  rDev -2.5%
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.

JohnnyBarman, Mar 27, 2012
Photo of StephenRich
3.45/5  rDev -2.5%
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!

StephenRich, Aug 20, 2010
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Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
81 out of 100 based on 76 ratings.