Where There’s Smoke There’s…a Great Beer


Tonight’s selection is a bit out of left field: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen by Brauerei Heller in Bamberg, Germany. This one is absolutely unique among beers I’ve tried. ‘Smoke beer’ is not just a marketing term. The barley malt grains are actually smoked over a fire of beech wood logs then brewed in copper kettles and matured in the cellars of the brewery in Bavaria.

The nose on this beer shows they’re serious about the name. I can most closely compare it to the smell of a campfire that’s been doused with water and the smell has permeated your clothes. The charred smokey wood is unmistakable. As you might expect, smoke also dominates the flavors you get from this Märzen (a dark lager), but there’s also some caramel, and a bit of a bitter aftertaste towards the middle and end but it’s not off-putting. There’s an overall cleanness to this lager which is actually pretty refreshing.

The beer stands nicely on its own, but this would absolutely be a great choice to pair with food. I’m thinking a nice smokey sausage and maybe even some strong cheese. A little Google work also yields recommendations for pairing it with pulled pork. The descriptions of the tastes and smells associated with this Bavarian Märzen might scare you off at first. Don’t let them.

As a beer to mix it up, this is a great choice, and to pair with the right food, I bet it’d be even better. Highly recommend you give this one a try.

Taste: B+

Drinkability: B- (you probably wouldn’t want more than one or two of these, good though they are).

Vitals:  5.40% ABV, 1 Pint, 0.9 oz bottle served at about 45 degrees F.

4 comments on “Where There’s Smoke There’s…a Great Beer

  1. Psyched to see you putting up a review of this one. Smoked beers are not for the timid, but, as you mention, they’re great paired with the right food. I had a great smoked baltic porter from Hill Farmstead late last year and it just made me wish I had some smoked cheese and fish to enjoy with it. As it was we had some stinky cheese, which served the purpose, but wasn’t spot on. What would you say about the body of this one? Does it drink like a porter or stout or is it more like a deep amber? I also wonder what it would be like if you let it warm up a little more before drinking?

  2. No, it’s not at all like a porter or stout. Märzens are lagers, so it’s carbonated and easy to drink and not as heavy as those styles. I actually think I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if it were warmed up; there’s a bracing refreshing quality to it which might be lost if you warmed it up past 50 degrees or so. The finish is really great on this one which helps to balance the smokiness you get at the beginning and middle of the beer.I am absolutely putting this beer on my list to try again in the future with some BBQ or the right smoked cheese. A trip to Karl’s Sausage Kitchen might also be in order to find the right sausage to pair with it.

  3. Pingback: Belhaven Wee Heavy Scotch Ale | Craft Beer Social

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