Beer: Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche – Dopperlbock
Brewery: Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla (Bamberg, Germany)
8% ABV / 40 IBU
As a lifelong smoked beer skeptic, this is the one that converted me from Scully to Mulder: Now I believe. Mind you, I’ve sampled a couple American smoked beer varietals that I was reasonably enthusiastic about, including Cigar City’s Municipal Waste collabo Divine Blasphemer and Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones tie-in Mother of Dragons. Both of these are worth seeking out, but the smoked beer (“rauchbier”) style is such an acquired taste that it’s probably better to trace the style back to the source.
Rauchbier is a quintessentially Germany style, and Schlenkerla is the undisputed master of the style. The tradition spans hundreds and hundreds of years—the Bamberg brewery/tavern has been using the same malt formulation and bottom-fermentation process since the 14th century (!) Pretty much every modern riff on the rauchbier style is an overt nod to Schlenkerla. Speaking of Municipal Waste, drummer/ beer guru/ spirit animal Dave Witte claims that this brewery’s märzen is the definitive smoked beer.
Jahwol, the Schlenkerla märzen ist krieg. Herr Witte is always on the mark. But the doppelbock gets my vote as the superior brew for two key reasons. One is purely subjective – it’s a stronger brew (8.0% vs. 5.1% ABV) and I like getting a little buzz on while contemplating the secrets of the universe. But more importantly, the malt in the doppelbock is fire-dried with oak wood – as opposed to the birch used in the malt in the märzen. This seems like a very fine bone to pick, but the flavor profile is completely different—you get a fine balance between sweetness and bacon smokiness. Plus, the smokiness never envelops the brew; it’s a standout rauchbier with a really delightful doppelbock underneath.
More more info, check out Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla here.