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

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Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch AleChurch-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale
112 Ratings
Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch AleChurch-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale

Brewed by:
Church-Key Brewing Company
Ontario, Canada

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.25%

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

Added by BeerAdvocate on 12-05-2002

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 112 |  Reviews: 50
Photo of Vyronian
4.75/5  rDev +33.1%

Photo of StormAles
4.66/5  rDev +30.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of manutd5
4.62/5  rDev +29.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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)

 474 characters

Photo of tatterdash
4.37/5  rDev +22.4%
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.

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Photo of Seumas
4.3/5  rDev +20.4%
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.

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Photo of UniversitateaDeBere
4.26/5  rDev +19.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of chickenm
4.25/5  rDev +19%

Photo of Molson2000
4.25/5  rDev +19%

Photo of CAMRAhardliner
4.17/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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Photo of thehyperduck
4.09/5  rDev +14.6%
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.

 2,399 characters

Photo of 604growler
4.07/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 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

 334 characters

Photo of the42ndtourist
4.03/5  rDev +12.9%
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!

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Photo of atomicbolt
4.01/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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.

 749 characters

Photo of FadetoBock
4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of patre_tim
4/5  rDev +12%

Photo of MattPS
4/5  rDev +12%

Photo of biegaman
4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer looks smoked alright, but not charred. Despite the blackish colour a surprising amount of clarity is afforded; I'd liken it more to a shadow than a piece of onyx. It is underlined by sleek, polished brown highlighting. Its head is tinted the shade of dirty snow and, accordingly, melts all away.

The aroma smells less of actual smoke than it does smoldering pellets of hickory and mesquite wood; it's less the smell of a smoke-house than that of a kitchen with a wood-burning stove. Despite the first impressions of hickory and mesquite, the beer is far from 'Southwest' in style - it uses peat smoked malt after all and if the bouquet is to be placed anywhere in the world it's undoubtedly Scotland.

Besides that, roasted chocolate malt and hints of kettle caramelization lie just beneath the surface. The flavour, similar to the bouquet, is grounded in a tarry, roasted and rather heavy maltiness that is somewhat coffee-ish in character and has bold notes of carob. There is also a prominent amount of cured meat flavour (probably owing to the impression of hickory); it might deceive you into thinking it was brewed in a deli.

The smoky character is best described as 'smoldering' (a slow burning smoke with no flame - ironic, since peat burns quite fast). It doesn't seem like the result of a forest fire nor does it reek extensively of bacon. If anything, it's closest to a single malt scotch like Talisker or Laphroaig. It compromises not a single ounce of smoke and yet comes across a bit more approachable (and a bit less intimidating) than a bona fide rauchbier.

It's about damn time Church Key bottled Holy Smoke! I've enjoyed the beer for years on-tap but it'll be far more convenient now to keep my own stash at home (especially as this pairs so well, as one might imagine, with barbecued meats). The beer's peat-y scotch qualities make it an excellent candidate for slow sipping, although it is quenching enough to gulp right down. Either way, it's always greatly enjoyed.

 2,003 characters

Photo of RyanPollock
4/5  rDev +12%

Photo of bigox420
4/5  rDev +12%

Photo of chunkylover53
3.95/5  rDev +10.6%
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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Photo of mick303
3.95/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle, 6.2% couldn't find a freshness date. Poured into a wine glass, colour is pretty much black dark brown, head recedes really quickly, leaving a slight film and a trace of lacing.

Smell is strongly suggestive of smoky and ash notes. Charred barley malt. Bonfires, maybe a trace of smoky dark fruit underneath. Burnt chestnuts. So earthy hoppiness but it is pretty buried. Together its pretty unique, a bit dominated.

Taste as expected has a bit smoky impact but it is far from being one-dimensional. A bit coastal and briny, with seashore fires, fishnets and a bit of lightness to it. Some of the char aspect but some really unique other flavours going on, with a slight sweetness also. Bitterness is pretty mild, lots of (heavy) roast malt profile. Finish is pleasantly smoky

Mouthfeel is moderate, heavily toasty, slick and smoky, a bit thin with a light carbonation. It does drink pretty well and could be considered refreshing despite its somewhat intense flavour. Really nice. Alcohol doesn't really come through.

I had heard this was a love-or-hate-it beer. I was pleasantly surprised. Smoked a nice amount to give it definite character, and would make a nice food paring, but not so much as to ruin the beer for my palate. Quite a cool flavour interplay, could use a bit more body, and maybe a bit dominated by the peat and char, but otherwise worth checking out.

 1,386 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.93/5  rDev +10.1%
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.

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Photo of yancot
3.92/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of slitherySOB
3.89/5  rDev +9%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Got this at the LCBO, and since it mentioned my Scottish family heritage, the Graham clan, I had to pick it up. This beer pours a dark brown colour with a two finger head that dissipates into nothing. Was not that impressed. Smells a bit like a decent scotch. Nice peat moss, toasted malts, bit of chocolate, slight hint of coffee, and a light hint of smoke. Taste is lovely. Sweet toasty malts up front, with a bit of caramel and chocolate. Ends with bitter chocolate, coffee and that hint of smokiness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, medium carbonation, smooth and refreshing. I like it, and will be picking it up again, as well as any other offerings I see from this brewery.

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Photo of IdeaSpeeder
3.88/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Serving Type - 650ml bottle poured into a snifter

Appearance - Pours a dark brown colour, almost black...slightly darker than a cola. On top sits roughly two fingers of light brown/caramel coloured head which fades almost immediately.

Smell - Smoke, smoke and more smoke. Some peat and wood in there as well. Sort of reminds me of peat-heavy scotch.

Taste - Lot's of smoke and peat here as well. Actually thats almost all I'm getting here. Underneath all that smoke there's a surprisingly toffee and caramel. It's everything you would want in a smoked beer (namely a whooole lot-a smoke). That said, if you're looking for a more balanced, session-able pint, this probably isn't for you

Mouthfeel - Extremely low carbonation. The body is quite light. The bubbles combined with the texture of the beer is reminiscent of a good way.

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Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.57 out of 5 with 112 ratings