I'm always trying to expand my beer horizons and would like to try(and maybe eventually brew) one of every style, or at least one from each of the categories outlined by the Beer Judge Certification Program. Speaking of the Beer Judge Certification Program(BJCP), I've been reading alot lately on Classic Beer Styles and would like to become a certified beer judge someday. Just being able to say "I'm a Beer Judge" would be cool, but seriously, I would like to have all that knowledge and be part of competitions judging beer. For now though I'm just doing alot of reading and trying to sample as many beer styles as I can and am beginning to enter some of my beers in competitions.
I was happy to find an authentic Rauchbier available at Vintage Sellers, our local specialty beer and wine store, and picked it up for some tasting. Aecht Schenkerla Rauchbier from Bamberg Germany means the Original Schenkerla Smoked beer and is considered the best example of the style. Here's link to the interesting history of this beer, especially the name: http://www.schlenkerla.de/rauchbier/beschreibunge.html. I wasn't really sure what to expect of a smokey tasting beer and I've read it described as a love it or hate it style of beer. The beer is made like any other type of beer and this one happened to be a Märzen style(basically an Oktoberfest Beer). What makes it smokey is that the barley malt is kilned or dried over a fire made of beechwood or in some cases alder wood. Before the higher tech methods of heating such as coal or coke in the 1800's and gas fired methods of the last 100 or so years, all barley was heated by wood fires to dry, kiln or roast and all beers would have had a smokey flavor because of this, which is another reason that makes this beer interesting. I guess it's kind of like stepping back in time and tasting a beer.
Below is a picture of the bottle and a glass of the Rauchbier. The aroma of smoke hits you right off the bat after opening the bottle and pouring a glass. The smell reminds me of a campfire or smoked meat but it is not too strong and you can also smell the sweetness of the malt. The color, as you can see below, is dark amber to brown, but very clear. The flavor, like the aroma, was a good balance of malt and smokiness, with no detectable hop bitterness or flavor, which is a good thing as any hopiness would probably be too much with the other flavors involved. Overall, I really enjoyed drinking this beer and was surprised at how easy it was to drink. The smokey flavor was well balanced with the malt sweetness and while I didn't eat anything along with it I think it would go great with smoked meats or any other meat for that matter. So while it might be hard to find, I think I am a fan of the style and am looking forward to sampling and maybe even brewing some of the other examples.
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