22 September 2008

Smoke 'em 'cos you got 'em

On reflection I probably didn't get nearly enough smoked beers into me over the three days of the European Beer Festival, despite running for every one I saw. Of course, Schlenkerla featured, at the stall of one of the importers -- the lager, which I tried here, and the Weizen, which was new to me. Unsurprisingly the big hammy Schlenkerla flavours dominate, quite yummily I might add, but it's also possible to detect the wheat beer softness under them -- just. My preference is for the bigger body of the märzen and this isn't different enough to provide a real alternative so I doubt I'll be going for it again.

Another new style getting the smoke treatment for me was an IPA called Sgt Pepper being served by Lund Teknik, a microbrewery equipment supplier who had quite a few examples of finished products available at their stand. I had to double-check with the festival guide that it wasn't simply barrel-aged, because my notes go on extensively about the peaty scotch notes present in this one. It's on the paler side of the IPA colour scale and much sweeter than anything else labelled with the style. Still tasty, though, but since the flavour leans more to whisky than bacon, I can't say it's my kind of smoked ale.

I'm going further afield for the last two rauchbiers. The stall which specialised in Czech microbrews had Kocour Rauch Lager on sale. It has the big full rich maltiness expected of Czech lager, but -- perhaps out of national pride -- it doesn't let the smoke flavour dominate this. You end up with something well-balanced and drinkable. My baconish needs were much better served by another smoked lager, this time from Finland. Sauhusanttu is a lot lighter of body but has a much bigger bacon flavour which builds gradually on drinking, instead of hitting the palate with a Schlenkerla-style hamslap. This is one I could quaff cheerfully forever without feeling full or overpowered by smoke.

Odd, isn't it? Ultimately there's not a whole lot of difference in the taste of rauchbiers: smoked ham is smoked ham, yet I get such a kick out of sampling new ones. "Ooo, that tastes like bacon too." Yum. More please.

8 comments:

  1. The Kocour Rauch is excellent, I am assuming here that you had the V3, which is the product of a collaboration between Kocour, Kaltenecker in Slovakia and a Hungarian microbrew whose name escapes me. On Saturday I had afew Kocour ales at a fest in Plzen - their stout was marvellous.

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  2. I thought you'd enjoy the non-hammy smokiness of a peat-smoked-malt beer. You do like your Islays too eh?

    There are enough differences in the ham levels (and some remind me more of somoked cod!) and subtle undertones (where you can detect them) in Rauchbiers to keep it interesting to at least try all you can get. A style of beer that I wasn't sure I liked much until my own recent tastings. Mmmm

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  3. Oh, I did enjoy it. Definitely. But I think the peatiness works much better it black beers than pale ones.

    D'y'know, 13 years in Dublin and I've never had smoked cod. I should address this, shouldn't I?

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  4. Smoked cod and chips are one of life's little pleasures

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  5. I just don't GET smoked beers. One of the few styles I just don't like!

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  6. Mr Beer Nut, as a righteous proponent of smoked beers you have encouraged me to purchase a (rather large) bottle of Left Hand's Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock Lager. Having just attended the Beer Exposed event in london and in anticipation of winning this evenings 100m Euro millions prize i thought I would blow a bit of cash to see if I too can convert to the big smoke. I will advise at a later date if the money was well spent....

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  7. Laurent Mousson12:57 pm

    There's one you seem to have missed, a smoky survivor from before the micro revolution in Denmark, and which has been around for quite some time : Refsvindinge's Skibsøl, a dark, malty 2.4% lager with a massive (for its modest strength) smoke kick. A rather original take on smoked beer...

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  8. Cheers Laurent, and I'm sure I missed much more than that. It sounds nice though: I love to throw back a good throwback.

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