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.
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