August 20, 2014
Nov 15, 2012
12:36 PM

First Draught: a smoked beer from a German brewery

Smokin' (Image: David Ort)

Opening a bottle of this rauchbier is like tending a grill stacked with ribs or leaning in towards a bonfire to blow out a flaming marshmallow: there is no avoiding the powerful aroma of wood smoke.

Schlenkerla, a historic Bavarian brewery that has been operating for at least six centuries, uses malted grain that has been smoked over a beech wood fire. The dominant flavours of smoke and dark bread in this beer are each strong enough to keep the other from becoming monotonous. The smooth, slightly fatty texture only serves to reinforce the impression that the Bavarians have somehow managed to bottle smoked pork hocks. Naturally, the dark brown/red colour looks like the rind of triple-smoked bacon or a good Black Forest ham.

We should spend a bit more time than usual discussing what to eat while drinking this beer. All those great smoked pork parts — ham, ribs, barbecue from the Carolinas — seem like natural partners, but I’d worry that the different smoke flavours would clash or cancel each other out. Instead, drink this rauchbier with those foods that would be smoked in a perfect world: roasted potatoes, buttery grilled cheese sandwiches or even guacamole and corn tortilla chips. 

The Schlenkerla website claims that the third pint will taste better than the two that came before, but I could never make a session out of such a strongly flavoured beer. It’s a great representation of an important style, but really, one is enough.

Don’t let the complicated German name deter you from seeking out this beer. It’s the only rauchbier at the LCBO. 

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, $3.15 for a 500 ml bottle, LCBO #409110

In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including Spotlight Toronto and his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter.

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