Sunday, August 21, 2011

Smoked Beer: Good or Gross?

A while back, I thought I'd try what's called a smoked beer (or in German, Rauchbier).  I didn't know what to expect, but after some preliminary research, it sounded like it would taste like some kind of meat.  Granted, I prefer my beer to taste like beer, but I was intrigued!  So in the name of learning, I took the plunge.


In addition to trying a new type of beer, I had read about food pairings in a DRAFT magazine article, so I decided to try cheese with the beer.  During a trip to a Giant Eagle Market District, I picked up a cave-aged Gruyere, which was listed as a pairing recommendation for smoked beers.  I also bought Aecht Schlenkerla's Rauchbier Märzen, which is an import from Bamberg, Germany.


Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen -- imported from Bamberg, Germany
Märzen is a type of lager that has its origins in Bavaria.  Originally, it was a beer that was brewed in March and laid down in caves or cellars before the summer weather rendered brewing impossible. Stocks would be drawn upon during the summer and finally exhausted in October. [1]


Post-Pouring, Pre-Partaking
Now for my tasting notes.  The almost-black beer had a frothy off-white crown.  The aroma that met my nose was a wonderful bacon or smoked sausage, which literally made my mouth water.  Surprisingly, the first sip that met my tongue was less meat and more lager.  As the crisp flavor began its descent, the aftertaste was reminiscent of that first smell of bacon, this time with a hint of wood.  I was impressed that while the brew had a definite meat flavor, it was still very much a lager.


After a few more sips, I tried pairing it with the Gruyere and found that they indeed mixed well together.  The blend of beer and cheese made for a sensational burst of flavor in my mouth with the Rauchbier fizzing around the cheese.  The cheese enhanced the flavor of the smoked meat but in a refreshing way.


Bottle Cap from the Rauchbier
All in all, I was glad for the chance to expand the horizon on my journey to learn more about beer.  If you've never tried a smoked beer before, it's definitely worthwhile to experience the flavor at least once.  However, I would recommend picking up a single bottle to try.  While I would partake of a smoked beer again, it's not on my "must drink again soon" list.  So many beers, so little time...


Prost!


References:
[1] http://www.beerhunter.com/styles/marzen.html