Saturday, 4 December 2010

Open It! - Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Unlike some of the more illustrious bloggers who I'm sure will be tasting some rather rare and exotic beers over the course of "Open It!" weekend, I don't profess to have a particularly well-stocked beer cellar. In actual fact, I don't even have a cellar; just a cupboard in the coolest part of our extension. When I lived in Maidstone, some 26 years ago, my Victorian terraced cottage had a large, dry cellar that would have been ideal for the storage of beer (draught, as well as bottles), but 1930's semi's were never built with such luxuries in mind, so the cool cupboard has to suffice.

I've been building up a stock of beers over the past few months, primarily to enjoy over the Yule-tide period, but there's been a few that have been hanging around for some time now, so I've dug a couple of them out to open, drink and enjoy, and then hopefully write something that makes a bit of sense.

First up is Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, the last of a stash of bottles I brought back from my trip to Bamberg, last July. I was going to save it for the Festive Season , but as I've booked a return visit to this unspoilt Franconian city between Christmas and New Year, it seems a little pointless; especially as I'll be drinking plenty of this beer on draught, so here goes.

Most beer lovers will be familiar with this beer, which is a renowned world classic. The neck label on the bottle proudly proclaims "Bambergs Speczialitaet", and has a logo depicting Bamberg's famous town-all, or Rathaus, with the words, "Altstadt Bamberg - Weltkulturerbe", which I believe translates as "World Heritage Site".

Now for the beer itself. Dark brown in colour, rather than the almost black beer I remember drinking in the renowned Schlenkerla Tavern, with a dense white, rocky head, the beer has the un-mistakable aroma of smoky-bacon. The intense smokiness is evident from the first mouthful and lingers after swallowing in a very pleasant way. For me, it's a very moreish sort of beer, with tremendous depth of character from the beechwood-smoked malt used in the brewing process. Being bottled, there is a pleasant prickliness from the relatively high CO2 content, that serves to add to the character of the beer, rather than detract from it.

It's been said that Rauchbier is a style you either love or hate, and I'm certain that's true. Fortunately I love it, and I've met very few people that disagree with this view. Although we drank quite a few half litres of this beer during our stay last summer, it is definitely a beer more suited to the chills of winter, rather than the mid thirties temperatures we experienced back in July! Personally I can't wait to get back to Bamberg, later this month, and drink a lot more of it, together with the stronger Urbock which, hopefully, might still be on sale when I get there!


Mark said...

I'm definitely in the 'don't like' camp on this one. I've tried a few times and it's just too much for me and liquid bacon isn't something I want to drink! I do however want to go to Bamburg to try it in its natural home and that may change my feelings towards it.

Paul Bailey said...

There are plenty of other beery delights in Bamberg, Mark, and it should be remembered that whilst the city is thought of as the home of "smoke beer", only two of its breweries actually produce the stuff.
If you do go, you might be better off trying Spezial, who's Lagerbier has a far less intense smokiness than that of Schlenkerla. Mahrs, seems to be most people's favourite, and that is definitely not smked!

Mark said...

Cheers for the tips, Paul. It's on my list of places to go to drink beer. When I finally get around to it I'll be calling upon your tips over a pint in the Humphrey Bean!

Tandleman said...

I'm with Mark. It intensely annoys that this is the only beer available in the Schlenkerla Tap. Such a great pub and nothing to drink. Not even their excellent Helles Lagerbier!

Only in Germany.

Paul Bailey said...

I look forward to helping you plan your Bamberg trip Mark, over a few pints. I am hoping to check out a few different pubs on my forthcoming trip, that I didn't get round to visiting last time. In particular I want to visit Kaiserdom, whose beers we missed out on completely; despite then being Bamberg's largest brewery. I am also hoping to manage a visit to nearby Forcheim, where there are four breweries to choose from.

Tandleman - I've yet to try the un-smoked, Schlenkerla Lagerbier. Do they not even sell it in bottled form in the brewery tap?

Tandleman said...

Paul. I think you can buy bottles to take away, but no, bit for consumption there.

Forcheim is lovely though you may well find the beer a little ordinary. It's an experience though as the pubs are very much locals places.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks, Tandleman. I will let you know how I get on.