You may have seen it happening already, but the goal of this blog as we transition deeper into fall and winter is to review some more substantial beers. That doesn't always mean seasonals, and that doesn't mean I'll shy away from IPAs (I have an IPA problem), but it's the time of year when heavier beers become easier to swallow.
Today I'm tackling a style of beer that I'm a relative novice at. Smoked beers aren't hugely popular in this country, and I haven't had a ton of them. Seems like a good time to start.
The three beers I reviewed were Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, Aecht Schlenkerla Dopplebock, and HaandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood. The first two are classic German Rauchbiers, while the third is a Norwegian take on a smoked beer.
The Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (5.4 percent ABV) is the classic example. You either like smoked beers or you don't, and this beer should pretty much tell you. The beer pours a dark caramel with very little head. It smells of smoked malt and faint beef jerkey. You could say bacon if you wanted to. Smoke is the predominant flavor upon sipping. There's nothing shy about this beer, and the overarching image that comes to mind is that of a camp fire immediately upon being extinguished. Sweet malts balance the beer somewhat, but make no mistake about the smoke flavor.
What I consider a step up is the Aecht Schlenkerla Dopplebock. Brewed with 100% Schlenkerla Oak Smoke Malt, it pours amber, with a big, creamy head. There's more balance to this beer. It's smoother than the first, though the smoke is definitely still there. At 8 percent ABV this should be more of a sipper, but it's actually easier drinking than the first.
The last smoked beer, the HaandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood, is a slight departure.This is a traditional ale, one that was required by law to be brewed on Norwegian farms. Like with the other two beers, the malts are roasted. Unlike the other two, it's brewed with juniper twigs and berries. Those two ingredients provide a sweetness in the aftertaste, adding another level of complexity. It's still not as good as the dopplebock, but it's worth trying. It weighs in at 6.5 percent ABV.