25 Beers of Christmas: #9

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Rauchbier / Smoked Beer

5.4% ABV

Brauerei Heller-Trum – Bamberg, Germany


Let’s open this entry with a short discussion of Rauchbier, an historic style native to Bamberg, Germany, and the related smoked beers made by other brewers around the globe.  The “smoke” in these beers comes from the malt used in the beer, which is smoked prior to its use in the brewing process.  Rauchbiers exclusively uses beechwood to smoke the malts; smoked beers generally may use any type of wood, ranging from lighter oak or Applewood to intense mesquite.  Executed well, this is a perfect Christmas beer, pairing well with a warm fire and a pipe or cigar, if you’re the type to enjoy one.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen is a product of the Heller-Trum brewery in Bamberg, and is THE traditional Rauchbier to try, especially if you have never had a smoked beer before.  As indicated by the title, the base beer is a traditional Marzen, well known as the beer of Oktoberfest, which provides a hefty, malty, but neutral palate for the smoked Beechwood to do its work.   This dark amber-brown, very clear beer starts with some mild caramel sweetness, and smoke aromas of pecan and light mesquite are prominent, with a slight impression of bacon.  The smokiness is evident in the flavor profile as well, though the caramel sweetness is also there to provide balance, and some floral Hallertau-like hops make a minor appearance.  I tend to have a difficult time with smoked beers, as the smoke is usually too prominent and in-your-face; this beer, however, is quite balanced, a perfect showcase for the smoked malts.

This is still a traditional German beer, and can be poured at around 45-50 degrees into a pint glass, dimpled pint, or a smaller weizen glass, and be enjoyed tremendously.  Pair this with smoked meats, like BBQ brisket or pork ribs, or Mexican food with smoky chilies or beans.

Heller-Trum produces several other variations on the smoked beer, including Eiche, is doppelbock.  These beers should be found just about anywhere other major German beers can be found (think Weihenstephaner, Ayinger, etc.)

JAB – 12/17/15