I will always remember my first Smoke Beer experience.
I stood in a bottle shop with a pint sized brown bottle & starred at a Gothic scripted label, devoid of any English.
“What’s this like?” I asked
The attendant, laughing to his mate replied
“Do you like Bacon & Eggs?”
Puzzled, I bought the beer & descended down a smokey rabbit hole.
That is where my Smoke Beer, or more correctly Rauchbier, fascination started.
For me these beers have aromas that drag out long forgotten memories & are also just plain tasty.
As the weather cools my thoughts always go to Rauchbier’s. Classics like Aecht Schlenkerla’s “Märzen” seem to bridge the beer gap before Winter moves towards darker beers.
More than 250 years ago all beer was smoked. Historically forest wood was used for fires to dry green Brewers Malt that would be used in beer production. This imparted a smokey character to the beer.
During the 18th Century improvements in kilning techniques meant Malt could be produced without a smoke character. These improvements saw Smoke beers disappear nearly everywhere except in the Northern Bavaria, Germany.
It’s from this region that we get the name Rauchbier.
The German Beer Institute provides this explanation of pronunciation:
“row-ch-beer” (pronounce “row” like “cow” and “ch” like “x” in “Mexico” when the country’s name is pronounced by a native speaker.)
I’m not sure if that clears that up entirely but you get the idea.
In Bramburg and its surrounds artisans have been making this style of beer for hundreds of years.
Traditionally, Smoked Malt can be used in a variety of beer styles. Usually a different style would be brewed for each season. For example, spring would see a “Fastenbier” Doppelbock.
Modern brewers are using Smoked Malts for an even wider range of styles. Although many use these Smoked Malts for Porters & Stouts there are examples of Smoked Pilsners that are excellent for food matching.
There are a number of Rauchbiers that are currently available. These are some tasting notes for some of them.
Keep in mind it’s the type of Malt that is used not the style that links all of these beers.
AECHT SCHLERNKERLA – Märzen
Unmistakable campfire and bacon aromas hit first with some background green notes.
Light to Medium mouth feel with some Cola flavours. A mild dryness finishes this delicious beer.
You expect this to be a bigger than it is. The dark, ruby tinged brown colour is telling you this should be larger than the 5.1% ABV but it’s really very sessionable.
If you should find yourself in Germany you could easily enjoy a few pints of this.
NAIL – Rauchbier
Inviting smoke aromas. Maybe some Cola-like notes in the background.
The first sip yields more smoke, initially sweet malt that moves quickly to a mild dark chocolate bitterness.
Medium mouthfeel with a light carbonation is welcomed with this beer.
Over carbonation wouldn’t allow this or any other “Session” Smoke beer room for subtleties.
This is a welcome addition to Perth / Australian Craft beers & an ideal entry point to Rauchbiers for newcomers.
BEAVERTOWN – Smog Rocket
I love the detailed nostalgic label on this new world English Smoked Porter.
What’s inside the bottle starts with a sweet smokiness & chocolate aromas.
A persistent carbonation buoy’s more dark chocolate & a dry finish.
A very accessible Smoked Porter.
YEASTIE BOYS – xeRRex
Imperial Peat Smoked Beer
BOOM! Blindfolded you would think this is a wee dram of Laphroaig Scotch!
This is a powerful aroma & the most challenging beer tasted here.
Tasting yields plenty of charred wood, an apple cider note & fruity honey.
Carbonation is low & there is little evidence of the 10% ABV.
The Malt base is sweeter than you first expect. It’s almost like a Smoked Strong Belgian Golden Ale at some points.
This is a one-off Imperial version of the 2011 one-off Rex Attitude.
Not something for everyday; this is an unusual, delicious beer that’s probably best shared so you can compare notes.
EVIL TWIN BREWING – Ashtray Heart
Subtle smoke on the nose.
Full mouthfeel with dry dark chocolate flavours.
This is a rich, warming beer that could benefit from more Smoke character.
EVIL TWIN – The Cowboy
The light smokiness in this beer makes it excellent for food matching.
In this case a Smoked Salmon Bagel.
Light, delicate smoke aromas preempt a dry, Pilsner.
A lovely, balanced hop bitterness shines making this almost like a dry-hopped Pale Ale.
The smokiness returns as a subtle flourish at the end of the palette.
FERAL – Smoked Porter
Sweet smoke scents with subtle caramel & chocolate notes.
Toffee & molasses with a mild bitterness. Coffee flavours come through as it warms.
Thin for a Porter but approachable.
BEATEN TRACK – Smokehouse
“Smokehouse” delivers a strong but not heavy Smoke aroma.
The mouthfeel is thin with a dry finish. I wish this had a larger body.
Smoke characters are dominant which masks some of the caramel background notes.
The 9% ABV is well hidden.
In summary, when I buy one of these again it will be the classic, AECHT SCHLERNKERLA – Märzen. It just ticks all the boxes.
That said I would love to try “xeRRex” again. Truly one of a kind, even in this usual Smoked beer space!
Drink Better. Be Good.