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Beer Review: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier!

posted on August 11, 2007 at 10:25 pm · filed under Reviews

Or, if you prefer, Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer. I find the original German to be both more fun to say, and to not sound as stupid as “smokebeer” even if that’s just a direct translation of rauchbier. The website for the Schlenkerla Brewery has this to say about their fine rauchbier:

The connoisseur drinks it slowly with relish, but steadily and purposefully. He knows, that the second “Seidla” (half-liter) tastes better than the first, and the third even better than the second. He drinks during the morning pint and during the afternoon break. He drinks it in the evenings, drinks it alone and with company, especially with company, as “Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier” makes one talkative and exuberant. It brings together the local with the stranger, as it is common in Franconia to share your table with others.

Apparently, every true connoisseur of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier is a raging alcoholic – I approve wholeheartedly! Do I approve of the beer?

Accounting for my rarefied tastes (or lack thereof) I have to say yes. It’s a bit darker than I generally prefer, almost a stout. It’s certainly got that bitterness to it that good dark beers have, without the gag-reflex-inducing flavor that other dark beers contain. But it has a smooth finish, it isn’t too thick, it doesn’t linger too long on the palate (though you can definitely tell it dropped by) and it’s drinkable. I wouldn’t want to drink it all night, but as a casual beer, or the first beer in a marathon drinking session (the purpose to which I expect it will be put tonight) it’s quite nice.

What makes the beer interesting is that it’s a rauchbier – smokebeer, if you prefer, though I don’t. In technical terms, this means that the malt is exposed to the smoke created in the roasting process – for the past couple of centuries, this hasn’t been true for most beers, and today there are less than a dozen breweries that rock it like that. In flavor terms, it means the beer tastes eerily reminiscent of sausage or jerky. Seriously.

It’s an off-putting but intriguing concept, so I was excited to discover it on the shelf at Carytown Wine and Beer (shop locally-owned!). I’d seen the category on the menu at Capital Ale House but hadn’t had the capital to invest in the experience. Like I said, it’s 90% a typical dark German beer. The malt-smoking process just adds a very noticeable but not overpowering smoked flavor to the experience.

Everyone should try this at least once. It’s bizarre. And it’s making me crave smoked Gouda. I leave you with another quotation, this time from the coasters in the Alte Lokal:

Even if the brew tastes somewhat strange at the first swallow, do not stop, because soon you will realize that your thirst will not decrease and your pleasure will visibly increase.

— devlocke

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