Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale - Church-Key Brewing Company
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Ratings: 75 | Reviews: 45 | Display Reviews Only:
British Columbia (Canada)
4.05/5 rDev +14.4%
On tap at the Black Tomato in Ottawa
The amazing this about this beer is the contrast between the smell (can't put my "finger" on it) and the taste (smokey goodness). The mouthfeel is a bit thin but this beer is a very unique experience. I don't think you'd want more than one or two though . .very intense and definitely worth a try
05-24-2011 00:25:58 | More by 604growler
3.7/5 rDev +4.5%
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.
09-18-2010 03:27:03 | More by kwjd
3.45/5 rDev -2.5%
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!
08-20-2010 15:25:04 | More by StephenRich
2.7/5 rDev -23.7%
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.
08-17-2010 14:26:35 | More by soju6
4.08/5 rDev +15.3%
My dad picked up a growler of this when he stopped by the brewery on his way through Campbellford - thanks, dad!
Pours a nice dark brown with red-tinged clarity, topped with a decent-sized tan head with plenty of lacing. I wasn't getting a very strong aroma, just coldness and metal at first sniff, but if I forced myself I pick up the smell of smoke, earthiness and caramel.
The taste was pleasant and well-balanced for a smoked beer. Smooth, pleasant maltiness, with the smoke nicely balancing - not a harsh campfire smoke, more like a smoked cheese I suppose. Roasty, caramel taste subsides into earthy bitterness, almost refreshing your sense of taste. Not too thick, and only moderate carbonation. A nice change of pace. Overall I enjoyed it.
11-28-2009 00:59:55 | More by atomicbolt
3.75/5 rDev +5.9%
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.
09-10-2009 13:30:53 | More by Viggo
4.6/5 rDev +29.9%
Holy smoke brings a unique flavor. I describe it to my friends as "sucking on a burning log". But it's not as bad as it sounds....
I do find the taste to be very good. That being said, I am a fan of smokey flavored foods/beverages. However, I do believe this beer is great for a social gathering, dinner etc... have 1 or 2. But don't go out and get a 2-4. That's too much! It sits heavy, and you'll eventually not want it. So stick to just a couple and you'll love it! :o)
07-11-2009 03:26:35 | More by manutd5
3.4/5 rDev -4%
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.
07-07-2009 02:41:53 | More by MeisterBurger
3.8/5 rDev +7.3%
Tasted on 8/28 at Volo bar in Toronto. from bottle served in a tulip glass.
this is a great looking beer. a nice light dark brown, i actually expected it to be much darker for a smoke beer. poured a great head which stuck around for quite a bit. smell was a very unique earthy smell. almost a kitty litter (in a good way) smell - tough to pinpoint the exact match. peat moss even.
the taste was great. it spread throughout the mouth quite nicely. the balance of smoke was in my opinion just right. some are over powered with the smoke flavor, this was just right. even for those who don't like smoke beer, this might impress you.
great mouthfeel. better drinkability than most smoke beers, which i would normally only have one or two.
09-05-2008 15:38:24 | More by Hophead101
3.13/5 rDev -11.6%
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.
05-12-2008 03:30:59 | More by cyrenaica
3.63/5 rDev +2.5%
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.
01-11-2008 17:51:40 | More by bobsy
3.88/5 rDev +9.6%
Medium brown in colour with hints of red. Aromas of vanilla chocolates, English pale malts, and a hint of smoke. More malt in the mouth with a much more pronounced whisky-ish sour-smoke twang, which created a nice balance with the sweet malts (in lieu of hop bitterness, I guess). There's a hint of burnt malt flavor as well. Somewhat oily texture, but in a very nice way. Even though I was expecting to enjoy this one, it still managet to exceeded my expectations. Great stuff.
03-30-2007 14:55:06 | More by fisherman34
3.75/5 rDev +5.9%
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..
05-03-2006 16:24:54 | More by Dithyramb
3.43/5 rDev -3.1%
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.
03-09-2006 02:12:50 | More by crwills
British Columbia (Canada)
3.58/5 rDev +1.1%
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.
10-25-2005 00:58:12 | More by Derek
3.78/5 rDev +6.8%
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.
03-01-2005 06:34:26 | More by baiser
3.5/5 rDev -1.1%
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 Im not sure this should be considered a smoke ale since there is very little smoke in this.
02-11-2005 16:44:31 | More by Phyl21ca
4.2/5 rDev +18.6%
This is a great smoked beer that I tried at Cest What tonight.
It pours a very dark ruby - near black. The head quickly becomes a thin patch and lace is barely existent. The aroma is of a peaty. lightly smokey malts. The hops are very minimal in the nose.
The taste is a surprise. Its much smokier than I was expecting. Theres a lot of campfire and smoked meat flavors. The malts are also very prominent. They are roasty and fruity. The mouthfeel is mildly carbonated and very full bodied.
Overall this is an excellent smoked beer. While it isnt as smokey as Schlenkarla, its still very tastey. I highly recommend this.
01-26-2005 02:31:26 | More by CAMRAhardliner
3.93/5 rDev +11%
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.
01-10-2005 01:40:28 | More by chunkylover53
4.38/5 rDev +23.7%
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.
09-22-2004 23:52:21 | More by tatterdash
4.03/5 rDev +13.8%
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!
09-11-2004 18:58:13 | More by the42ndtourist
3.93/5 rDev +11%
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.
06-14-2004 02:06:27 | More by Sammy
2.95/5 rDev -16.7%
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.
02-29-2004 04:38:04 | More by pootz
2.6/5 rDev -26.6%
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.
01-30-2004 04:31:24 | More by TerryW
4.33/5 rDev +22.3%
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.
09-11-2003 14:52:11 | More by Seumas
Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
81 out of 100 based on 75 ratings.