Smoked beers have a special place in our hearts, and there's no better brewery to turn to for a tasting than the pros at Schlenkerla of Bamberg, Germany. Since 1678 the brewery has been drying and toasting their malts in beechwood fired kilns, which create the smoky flavors that characterize their Rauchbiers - in English, smoke beers. A long time ago, most breweries would have operated this way - now, almost none do, but we are glad at least one brewery has kept up the tradition, because these uncommon and distinctive beers are fun to try and even better to keep coming back to.
Unfiltered and naturally hazy, the Weizen's color is a dark amber. The head is pretty substantial, and carbonation level is high. Smoky smells abound and we detect hints of bacon, freshly charred wood, and a light caramel sweetness. There is a complex smoky taste profile on this beer, with flavors of smoked bacon and sausage mixed with sweeter banana, clove, and vanilla-like tones. Beer and bacon in the same sentence? Sounds like a winner to us!
The classic Schlenkerla beer, the Marzen is a bit clearer than the Weizen, showing a reddish-brown hue with some orange highlights and a nice, but short lived head. Unsurprisingly this beer smells smoky, but instead of bacon we get notes which make us think of a campfire in a cave - it's an old smoke. Also noticeable are hints of sweet fruit and toffee, and the smoky flavor of this beer is balanced beautifully with malty sweetness. The finish brings elements of dry, spiced cheese to the palate - a unique and complex beer that is one of our all-time favorites.
This full-bodied beer is a clear, deep mahogany with a great head. The aroma is less smoky than the other two with more pronounced malty notes and hints of stone fruit and bourbon to be detected. On the palate the smokiness is noticeable but not overpowering, and is balanced with a rich brown sugar maltiness. The finish is smooth, with kick of alcohol that differentiates this beer from its relatives as a stronger, maltier version of the classic Marzen. Delicious.