05 September 2008

The Session #19 Deutsches Bier

This months session revolves around all things beer from Germany. It is hosted this month by Lootcorp, and is inspired since this month also starts the worlds largest gathering of beer drinkers at Oktoberfest in Munich.

I had a hard time trying to decide what exactly I wanted to write about. There are so many things things that Germany has given to the world of beer. Just off the top of my head I am thinking about the Reinheitsgebot, or the German purity law, which at one point was the oldest consumer protection law in existence. I am also thinking about how many varieties of beer the Germans make. Everything from Marzen, Eisbock, Pilsner, Roggenbier, Berliner weiss, Altbeir, Kolsch, weiss, and many more I can't think of right now. There are just so many to choose from, and without the Germans I honestly think that American craft beer or American beer culture wouldn't have really taken off. Many of our oldest beer institutions were started by German immigrants, and who knows what America's beer culture would look like without them. With so much to choose from I finally settled on writing about Rauchbier or smoke beer. It is also an inside joke with the HBG's because all of the new beer geeks really enjoy Rauchbiers, but the other members of the HBG's are not fans of the style. I am also a sucker for traditional brewing methods, and this style also fits right in line with that.

I have to imagine that before the age of massive kiln drying for malt a vast majority of beer probably had a slight smokey flavor (I am certainly no expert on this, and if anyone has any ideas of more reading material for this I would love to read it). The way I understand it is malt was either dried in the sun or over open fires that would impart a certain smokiness to the malt. It wasn't until the kiln was the major device for drying malt that this method all but died out. Rauchbier almost died out entirely. The German town of Bamberg though had several breweries that kept the tradition alive. The one that I am drinking as I finish writing this is Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock from Brauerei Heller-Trum. I am pretty sure that Schlenkerla is the most visible Rauchbier in the United States. They have been brewing this style of beer in Bamburg since the 1500's.

Rauchbier isn't for everyone, and I think is certainly an acquired taste. I wasn't a big fan of the style when I had my first offering, but I tried it again and the smokiness becomes more inviting just begging for you to take another drink. I think this beer really hit its stride for me when I paired it with BBQ ribs, and since then I enjoy Rauchbiers so much more when I pair them with food. The nose smells of smoked meat, and the flavor profile adds several kinds of smoke. I can distinctly taste several different kinds of smoke. I am reminded of campfire smoke when I was a kid, smoked sausage from my neighboors smoker, and the liquid smoke flavor from my homemade jerky. The beer underneath provides a malty chewy sweetness that compliments everything so nicely. It really does remind me of the taste and smell of smoked meat. That may not sound inviting, but with each drink I keep wanting more.

While certianly smoke beer isn't the crowning achievement of Germany's contribution to the beer world, but I am certainly very happy that the town of Bamberg is still producing beer that keeps this beer geek pretty happy.


The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

1 comment:

  1. I recently watched an episode of The Thirsty Traveler (Fine Living, DirecTV channel 232) where the host visited Germany, and more specifically, Oktoberfest and the "Historical Brewery Tavern Schlenkerla" where he got to throw a log in the old brick fireplace and onto the fire used to dry the malt. I probably found that a little bit neater than I should have.

    I'm with you on the pairing thing - I had mine with a baked potato - but I just find the beers to be a little bit "too much" by themselves. I certainly can't imagine that a Rauchbier could be anyone's "regular". Maybe if you're really really into bacon..