Monday, October 20, 2008

Awesome Beer of the Week: Brauerei Heller-Trum's Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Alright, first, about that name...

Brauerei Heller-Trum is a German brewery in Bamberg, Bavaria attached to the Schlenkerla brewpub. Aecht just means "authentic" or "original," so they're claiming the history that goes along with the brewpub and its beers – and since Schlenkerla has been in operation since 1405 in some sense or another, that's a claim worth making. Marzen is one of three different variations on the Rauchbier style.

Now, about Rauchbiers. Clear the decks for this one: if beer is an acquired taste, Rauchbiers are a compelled one. Chances are, you either like them or you don't, and many people don't. To put the situation succinctly, Rauchbier means "Smoked Beer." As one of my friends described them, they taste like "liquid smoked bacon," and this kept him from even considering a whole pint of Victory's concoction. Still, as with any unusual food or beverage, it's easy to confuse dislike and surprise, and this beer has a lot more than mere uniqueness going for it.

As a vegetarian for more than ten years now, I'm not sure I'm qualified to judge the meaty qualities, but at the very least the description isn't out of touch: Schlenkerla Marzen is certainly smoky, though not overpoweringly so, with a wooded, not-quite-chocolatey quality. The surprising and wonderful thing is, it's also extremely refreshing: light, palate-cleansing and as smooth as water – everything that's great about Pilsners without the skunkiness that for some reason I can't stand. I'd go so far as to say that aside from the unusual taste, this is about as drinkable as beer gets. Something everyone should try at least once, and it could end up being one of your favorite styles.

As you might expect, given this description, the beer is a deep but clear reddish brown.

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