Beer: Smokebeer

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Story:

I was introduced to smokebeer by my brother-in-law, who learned about it from his kids' babysitter, a native of Germany who was importing the stuff herself after visits to her quaint little hometown of Bamberg.

(By the way, I bought this pint bottle at Whole Foods for $4, so we no longer have to rely on our Bavarian beer mule for the hookup.)

It turns out, Bamberg is the world capital of rauchbier (that's "smokebeer" to you and me). The historic hamlet boasts eight traditional breweries, the most famous of which is Schlenkerla, a tavern that dates to the 15th century.

The smoke comes from a brewing method that's just as old: The malted barley is dried over an open fire (not unlike with Scotch distilling). Modern beers use indirect kiln drying to keep the flavor flame-free.

The Smoke:

And in that other great German tradition, they're not kidding around. This stuff is smoky.

The aroma hits you like a smoldering campfire, and the taste is no less intense. It's extremely smooth and creamy upfront - almost sweet - with a wonderfully bitter bite at the end. But the smoke just keeps coming.

At first it tastes a little like bacon - not in an obvious, porky way, but in a subtle, savory way. At some point it's more like chewing on a piece of charred wood. By the end of the pint I had the numb taste buds that come from spending too much time in a smoky barroom.

It's pretty powerful stuff. I'd drink it again, but only in moderation. My guess is the occasional pint would go well with barbecue. Or maybe with bacon for breakfast.


Brewery: Schlenkerla

Beer: Rauchbier

Type: Marzen

ABV: 5.1 percent

2 stars