>Don’t Fear The Smoke


The Fear. We all have it; we all get it – something, often nondescript, that just sets our arm-hairs on edge. Spiders. Fox News. Grant Holt. Yes, they all rank up there, but for me, Smoked Beer was the daddy.

When 2011 came to be, I decided that this was all utter nonsense – some beers I’m capable of just not getting, of course, but there’s all the signs were that I should love Smoked Beer. I love smoke; mostly on meat, or cheese – and especially fish – I’ll take it, please. There’s something about the depth of flavour that smoke adds that has always appealed. So I bit the bullet: bought one of the big daddies -Schlenkerla Rauchbier – and got stuck in.

Ok, I cheated. I bought it to use in a recipe, some Smoked Pulled Pork, but I couldn’t let it pass me by. My palate has changed since that ill-fated day circa 2005 when I tried a swig of a friend’s pint and declared it ‘tasted like bacon.’ So I used the beer in the recipe, and drank the other half of it whilst cooking. Guess what? I liked it. Really, I did.

Schlenkerla Rauchbier (5.1%abv) has got a whole lot more going on that that lovely, familiar Gothic label. It pours a lush, deep amber with a majestic Tan-hued head. Obviously the nose is powerful – layers upon layers of woodsmoke; underpinned by a sweet-oak sort of note that gives you a clue as to what the body of the beer will taste like. The beer itself is as sweet a Marzen as you’re likely to taste, but flipped round so that heavy smokiness sits under the grain, rather than on top of it. For a 5.1% abv beer it drinks nowhere near, and I have to say I enjoyed it a great deal. I’ve drunk a couple more since, and I can’t beleive I’ve let it go so long ruled by past prejudices.

Of course, this led me to trying to get my hands on more Smoked Beers. Bierbrouwerij Grand-Café Emelisse Rauchbier is a whole different beast to Schlenkerla. Where Schlenkerla is muscled and powerful, Emelisse Rauch is sinewy and lean. At 6.5%abv it’s stronger, yet again hides that abv below loads of flavour. That familiar, sweet smoke is there on the nose, but this time there’s a hint of wildness, of almost sour malt. The taste is again unexpectedly light, and with an unusual int of pine on the finish. There’s a slight echo of Goudenband in the Flemish, rangy sourness that runs through the beer, but the smokiness really works and you end with an interesting beer.

I really wish I’d not been so slavishly following my previous prejudices all these years. Palates evolve, and if I have one moral to this story it’s this; try everything. Again and again and again and again and…

You can see my recipe for Bamberg Pulled Pork over at Beer Reviews, curated as always by Andy Mogg. He may support a godawful football team, but he’s one of the good guys and does some great things with food and beer. My recipe didn’t win, but the one that did made mine look like Neanderthal fumblings; so it’s all good. Please do hop on over there, forthwith.

About leighgoodstuff

Blog: https://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/ I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 03/04/2011, in Bamberg Pulled Pork, Beer and Food, beer in leeds, Beer Review, Emelisse Rauchbier, Schlenkerla Rauchbier. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. >Schlenkerla are one of my top breweries – the doppelbock is fantastic. On a smokey tip, Kelpie has always reminded me of a smoked beer – I think the seaweed adds a smokey character.

  2. >I find smoked beers get to be too much after half a pint. Interesting at first though…

  3. >Good stuff, Leigh. Oh, wasn't a pun! Schlenerla is a bit of a benchmark, though, and every other rauchbier I try gets measured against it. But there's certainly a good variety out there (I did a blind tasting in work a couple of years ago, and it wasn't to everyones taste).If you can find it, try the Schlenkerla Eiche Doppelbock. Made with oak-smoked malt instead of the usual beech-smoked stuff, it's subtly different, a little saltier almost, and extremely deceptive at 8%. Damn, I've one bottle left, and now I'm tempted 🙂

  4. >Try everything indeed. I used to hate blue cheese, whisky and even chocolate on first try. Now I can't get enough of them.

  5. >Anon; thanks for the tip. Ed; yep, would agree with you. Can't drink a lot of it, would ruin the palate I'd imagine! Barry; will do-am going to try the whole range now. Tge wheat beer interests me greatly. Rob-ditto. Didn't get black pudding either until about 20-now I think it accounts for about 10% of my body mass!!

  6. >I hated goats cheese until I had smoked venison with goats’ cheese, fig and apple juice terrine andDuchesse de Bourgogne.Wow is the only word that comes close to doing it justice.(Thing is, I still don't like most goat's cheese!)

  7. >The wheat beer is about my least favourite: I don't think the smoke really gets along with the fruit esters. Having been back and forth along the range a few times, the märzen is the best of the bunch, on balance.

  8. >Mark; wow! What a feast! TBN-good to hear from you. Hope all Is well. Ilk let you know what I think; Ivan see where you are coming from, and I too intend to try the whole range.

  9. >I've always thought of smoked beer as the ultimate food beer. On its own its good, but when you pair it with cold meat, barbecue, hard cheese etc it just comes into its own. Delicious.There's a Michael Jackson episode where he visits Bamberg and drinks it by the litre. He says something about the Germans saying you need to chug through 7 litres before you can really appreciate smoked beer as something beyond bacon.BeerBirraBier.

  10. >Mark; I think you've got a good point there, it was the food aspect that turned my head again. Will hunt down that Jackson episode. Thanks for the tip!

%d bloggers like this: