The Polish nation isn't exactly known for its quality beers. Poland has some big breweries, like Zwyiec, Okocim, and Tyskie that produce a range of styles, including a decent porter from Okocim. But Poland is mostly known for its middling pale lagers that recall Stella Artois or less skunky Heineken. In short, they're not worth going out of your way for, much less brewing a batch of at home. (I can hear my Polish friend screaming right now).
This is what makes the Polish smoked wheat beer known as Grodziskie, or Grätzer, even more of a pleasant surprise. It's a beer that is light in color, delicate in the mouth, but complex refreshing and … smokey.
The smoke presence is a throwback to a time when grain was kilned over an open wood fire. This process would inevitably have lent a smokey aspect to the grain and thence to the beer. (Yes, I just used the word “thence.”) As more modern kilning techniques took over, the smoke flavor disappeared from malt and was therefore erased from beers brewed with that malt.
In a few styles, however, smokiness was seen as not only desirable but as an important aspect of the beer's aroma and flavor. That desired smokiness lingered in a few beery enclaves such as Grodzisk, Poland and in Bamberg, Germany, where Grodziskie's German equivalent, rauchbier, is still proudly brewed. (The well-known beers of Bamberg are the most notable examples out of Germany – the Märzen and Urbock from Schlenkerla, for instance)....