Yards is on Fire with Smoke Em If Yous Got Em
The first time I had ever heard about Yards’ “Smoke Em If Yous Got Em” event, I wasn’t sure I believed it was a real thing. An entire event dedicated to my favorite style of beer, with enough barbecue to satisfy even my unending hunger? It seemed too good to be true, and yet there it was—but there was still a hitch. The first year I could go, it just so happened the event was scheduled for the day before my wedding and no amount of pleading could convince my then-future-wife to let me drown myself in smoked beer and barbecue sauce 24 hours before we were to be married. Our honeymoon did take us to the Schlenkerla brewery, though, which made up for missing the event.
Fast-forward to this year, and there was no way I would miss the event I had been looking forward to for two years, and thanks to the leap year, it would once again come the day before our anniversary and would not interfere with any plans. I made sure to eat a light breakfast and get to the brewer at 11am sharp. Some of the barbecue stands out from were still organizing themselves and getting ready, so it was straight to the beer.
For the first time, Yards decided to include some non-smoked beer in the line-up, adding some offerings that went well with barbecue—which included some heavy stouts (Founders Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Black Ops, Duck Rabbit Russian Imperial Stout), IPAs (Firestone Walker Double Jack, Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, Mikkeller Green Gold) and some barrel-aged beers for a nice whiskey flavor to pair with the food (Barrel Aged New Holland Dragon’s Milk, Bourbon Aged Flying Dog Gonzo, Weyerbacher Heresy).
While these are all quality beer, though, the real focus was the rauchbier, and that is what I naturally found myself drawn to throughout the five hour event. Some, of course, were better than others—and some did not have much smoke to them at all. Some people appreciate the restrained, well-balanced smoke, but I like my rauchbier to taste like a burned down house and so I found myself returning to the Schlenkerla offering whenever I needed a nice kick of smokiness, even though the Weizen that was on offer is not nearly their smokiest.
The best local offering was easily Yards’ own Smoke Oktoberfest, which had enough smoke to make it enjoyable for someone like me, but still retained enough of its excellent Oktoberfest/Marzen tastiness. In addition to Yards, locals like Fegley’s (Up In Smoke), Old Forge (Rauchbier), and two Iron Hills (Rauch Weiss & Smokin’ Blonde) all contributed their smoked beers. Breweries from farther away also contributed, including Colorado’s Fort Collins (Bombastic Rauch) and Left Hand (Smoke Jumper), California’s Ballast Point (Abandon Ship Smoked Lager) and Stone (Smoked Porter).
The event was a fine coming-together of smoked beer from around the country and amateur barbecue from around the area. As I went around, taking in the smokiness both in the beer and the pigs and chickens being prepared outside, the only complaint I had was that Sly Fox, who has an amazing rauchbier, only sent a pale ale for the event. Otherwise, on a beautifully temperate Sunday, the street outside of Yards truly did become my mecca for five hours, allowing me to overindulge my love for anything smoked. And I can’t wait to do it again next year. Happy anniversary to me!
All photos are courtesy of Stephen Lyford.
Check out our buddy Rich on Beer’s take on Smoke ‘Em.