You know that Change is afoot in the beer world when even staunchly traditional Bavarian breweries start turning out extensions to their seemingly immutable brand lines. In the wake of Schneider's welcome decision to make Edel-Weisse (now called "Tap 4: Mein Grünes") and Hopfenweisse (Tap 5) regular parts of their range, we have a new offering from smoked beer specialist Heller of Bamberg. Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche is an 8% ABV doppelbock based on malt they've smoked over smoldering oak instead of the usual beech.
The first thing that strikes me about the beer is the colour. Paler than the other Schlenkerlas, it's an eye-catching clear shade of mahogany. And then there's the texture. It's a while since I've had a doppelbock but I don't remember any of the more normal ones being this light. It's clean and crisp, with not a lot of residual sugars: easier drinking than their rather stickily delicious 6.5% ABV Urbock.
So easy drinking, in fact, that I'm not going to attempt a run-down of the flavours: Barry's already done that very well here and suffice it to say the beer is definitely as full-on an experience as he suggests. What I'm wondering is what difference the oak makes. I'd been expecting maybe some of the character of an oak-barrel-aged beer, since that's my sole reference point for oak. But it's not like that at all. It's very similar to the regular beech smoke, but there's something a little different about it: a slightly herbal, sappy fresh wood flavour that I wouldn't normally associate with oak at all. I reckon it'd be a sharp palate indeed that can identify the smoke variety in a rauchbier.
All in all, though, this is top-notch stuff, and well worth the nearly €4 I stumped up for it at DrinkStore. The lightness of touch compared to the Urbock makes for a very drinkable smoke-laden flavour powerhouse, if you catch my drift.