Bamberg in what must have been one of the coldest, and snowiest, winters of recent times. The beer in question is Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche, and I picked it up, along with a host of others, in what is undoubtedly Bamberg's most famous pub, the Schlenkerla tavern. It is a Doppelbock style beer, and with an abv of 8.0% is not a beer to be taken lightly. It is perhaps slipping down rather too easily for a beer of this strength so it's just as well I've only got the one to enjoy!
Many readers will be familiar with the Rauchbier (Smoke Beer) produced by Heller-Braeu Trum, with its highly distinctive taste derived from the malt used in its production being kilned over fires of beechwood logs. This gives the beer a pronounced smoky character that some people just cannot get on with but which I find most enjoyable and even quite addictive. What makes the Eiche Doppelbock different though is that the malt is dried over oak, rather than the usual beechwood. This imparts a totally different taste to the finished beer. I don't know if the much longer maturation period my beer has been through has mellowed the smokiness, or whether oak gives a smoother flavour anyway, but this really is a superb beer that is none the worst for being kept way beyond its best before date. Chewy toffee malt is to the fore, although the aroma still has a distinctive smokiness about it. The brewery's own tasting notes indicate that "Oak Smoke Malt has a smoother and more multi layered smoky note than the intensely aromatic Beech Smoke Malt.", and this bears out my comments above.
I did sample the beer on draught during my visit some 18 months ago, although I can't really remember what it tasted like. Despite being filtered, my bottle had thrown quite a sediment, so required careful pouring. It was definitely worth the long wait to finally enjoy this excellent beer.
ps. I still have a couple of bottles left over from my period of abstention that are also well passed their best before dates. Both are from Woodforde's, and both are bottle-conditioned. They were sent by the brewery's PR Company for me to review. Regular readers will know I am not a great lover of BCA's, especially as the process seems to be so hit and miss. Hopefully these bottles may have improved, rather than deteriorated, but I obviously won't know until I try them.
(The Brakspear's Triple, which I reviewed recently, was a similar age, so perhaps the Woodforde's offerings will also be ok.)