08 April 2008

KOTBR #42 - Smokin'.

Roundtable #42 found the Knights of the Beer Roundtable at Shallo's Antique Restaurant & Pub in Greenwood. This wasn't our first trip to the venerable Southside establishment, but it was our first time bellying up to the bar.


One of the benefits of being Knights of the Beer Roundtable is emails like this:
I'm back home for a family visit, and that doesn't happen without a visit to Shallos. Well, look-ee there Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier on tap. Yep. As crazy as it sounds, the great purveyor has it on tap right now. And, get this, according to the waitress, who thinks that "all beers are mostly wheat beers," only two other people liked the smoke beer, and this would be the last ever keg they would order. I had three pints today, and I'll probably do the same tomorrow. So, just a heads up from a fellow hophead that it's there...waiting to be savored.

That sounded like a good excuse to visit Shallos to us.

Jon did a good job of letting us what we were in for - "Fastenbier" "Smoke" "Three Pints" - we expected a beer unlike most, and that's what we got. Fastenbier, a type of Rauchbier brewed specifically for the lent season, is described as having "smoky flavors and aromatics, juicy, carmelized" by Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table. Dead on, Garrett Oliver. The bartender called this "the bacon beer."

I got a nose of smoked pork, ketchup, bbq sauce, and deer sausage, with a hint of that rubbery band-aide phenolic taste Gina will mention shortly. And all back-of-tongue taste that echoed the nose followed - a little bit chewy, and really tasty with the loaded baked potato I had specifically chosen to match the beer. Does it pass the "would I buy this again" test? Yes - but a six pack would be too many. If you're sharing with friends for the experience, be sure to look for foods to match. Grilled or smoked pork, bacon, and baked potato would seem to work well. 3.17 Mugs.

An aside: Every beer I bought at Shallos - pints of Oberon, the Fastenbier, and a 60 Minute/Guiness Black and Tan - came in at $5.70 each. Don't say we didn't warn you.


Lt. Colonel Kilgore leaps out of the chopper with a pint of Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier in his hand. The amber liquid sloshes across his wrist as he crouches over the gray Vietnamese sand, gazes at the sky, and proclaims, "I love the smell of fastenbier in the morning. Smells like . . . a campfire."

My mind works in bizarre ways. If you're a frequent reader, you know that bizarre thinking is a staple of the Knights of the Beer Roundtable.

So leave it to us to review a bizarre beer. A smoked beer. A beer that conjures up weird thoughts, like the scene above, plucked from Apocalypse Now and tweaked to feature that famous line, which used to be about napalm.

Close your eyes and think of the last time you stood near a bonfire for at least five minutes. Take a deep breath and recall how your clothes smelled afterwards. There it is. Burnt wood. Charcoal. Embers, the remains of seasoned firewood. This is the nose of a smoked beer, and it plays tricks on your brain. The mind struggles to grasp it, to throw that odor together with its source--a pint of cloudy, copper-hued beer from Bamberg, Germany.

Then comes the first sip. As your senses reel, thrashing about in an attempt to achieve equilibrium, stability continues to elude your senses as your tongue latches on to the malty, bock-like flavor. That flavor is a bit sugary up front. Then, the tiny teeth of the hops lightly graze the back of your tongue. The smokiness is still there, now in the taste, but the smoke is just a hint, floating above the bone-colored cloud of foam that crowns the beer.

A few more sips and your mind has finally arrived at its desired destination: tranquility. You know that the sensory trip you've just been on has taken you to a corner of the map to which you've never ventured, and you're wiser now that you've gone there. You can now show others the way, but you're just not sure you want to go there again any time soon. 2.90 mugs.


Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier which of course, in German means "a whale's vagina". No really, I don't know what it means. Scholars maintain the translation was lost hundreds of years ago.

I am surprised at the high ratings this receives on ratebeer, and I'll have to say I don't get it. I can tell you that it kinda tastes like a band-aid retrieved from a fire. I still drank the whole pint but I can't say that I would ever drink another...on purpose at least. Oh, also, as a side note - this should not be considered as a pairing with the extremely pleasant wings. You may think that the hot in the wings may complement the smoke in the beer, but it does not. It further pronounces the already prominent smoke flavor.

Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier - 60% of the time it works every time.
2.75 Mugs.


I like bacon. I like beer. This is a situation in which I had expected that the Reese's peanut butter cup philosopy was less than likely to apply. I'm pleased to say that I was wrong, at least partially.

When my fellow geeks and I parked ourselves at the bar, there was a bit of trepidation about what we were about to either ingest or waste upon tasting and smelling it. After our warm-up beer we ordered a round of the "bacon beer", and our bartender warned us that it's "too German for most Germans", so we knew we were in for an adventure. I had been pretty excited about this beer style since I found out that it existed, a historic style that is often forgotten.

When it arrived, I struggled to restrain myself from sampling a novelty that many would find repellant in favor of going over the visual characteristics, observing the dark brown not-quite-opacity and the not quite foamy not quite creamy head. As I leaned over the glass I immediately thought "Bacon! Bacon? Only one thing smellS like bacon, and that's bacon!" and my expectation of a subtly smoky character blown out of proportion due to it's uniqueness, was dashed.

The smell is quite strong in its smoky character that is linked in most minds to bacon and campfires. The taste is where my prediction was the farthest off. The flavor was dominated by malt with just a bit of wood smoke, I wrote down hickory, but I'm not sure if that's actually what I tasted. The bacony characteristic isn't really there in the taste, which surprised me given the strong presence it had in the nose. This was a pleasant surprise for me. 3.47 mugs.


  1. We've had the Marzen, Weizen and Urbock varieties of Schlenkerla's awesome smoke beers (reviews floating somewhere around our blog) and absolutely love their smoked flavor. The Urbock is probably the one that you would think of when imagining what a smoke beer should taste like. Parti Pak carries all the varieties and after a discussion with Chris at the Goose, he's carrying the Marzen there. We first heard about these beers from Bob O. over at indianabeer.com when we were telling him about our dream of making a bacon beer and he suggested trying the Marzen.

    We'll have to make some time to get down to Shallos and try out the Fastenbier on tap!

  2. Make sure you call first - we actually did this roundtable a while ago, so who knows if it's still on.

  3. I have had a few smoked beers in my day and am really not too fond of the style. I haven't had that one, but it just doesn't sound too appealing to me. But for the sake of review, I would at least sample it if given the chance.

  4. the marzen is awesome. seriously. sure, the first three gulps taste a little "baconesque", i guess, but that is a great, easy to drink beer. it was easy to acclimate to the smoke flavor and after a pint or tow, really started to love that taste. the schlenkerla helles is nice as well. although it does not contain any smoked malt, it's run through the smoke-soaked equipment of schlenkerla, giving it a little smokiness.