100s of years ago, many beers smacked of similar flavor profiles as smoked meats. The grain, usually something like barely, were smoked over fires to dry until the 1700s. The procedures were lost with the
Industrial age, but now, the German town of Bamberg fans the flame of tradition by producing a beer worthy of worship with their own special rauchmalz (beechwood smoked malt).
Located in Bavaria, Germany, Bamberg is one of the few cities in Germany that was not destroyed by World War II bombings because of a nearby Artillery Factory that prevented planes from getting near to Bamberg. It is simply gorgeous and pleasant.
Bamberg is home to eight breweries, Brauerei Fässla, Brauerei Greifenklau, Brauerei Heller-Trum (Schlenkerla), Brauerei Kaiserdom, Keesmann Bräu, Klosterbräu, Mahrs Bräu and Brauerei Spezial, and one brewpub, Ambräusianum—an unusually high number for a city of 70,000.
But the word out on the streets (or asking 3-4 local Germans and reading beer enthusiasts blogs) was that Aecht Schlenkerla has the best smoked beer in the world. This tried and true method of researching has yet to fail, and from the moment I sat down at Schelenkerla, I knew that I was inclined to like its offerings. Sitting down, I smiled over a man to my right. He smiled back broadly and said, “what do brings you here?” As I slyly smile at him, and say “I came for the smoked beer.” He then tilts his half pint up, and in Bavarian hospitality says, “you try some of mine first?”
He carried himself like a pal that would be an asset to have a poker party, full of amenable stories but capable of bluffing with the best of them. But share, I did. The first sip a dark chestnut of maple and the subtle woodiness of smoked meat. The molasses sweetness mingling with the heavyness made the old setting, a bit more inviting.
The tavern occupies a building first mentioned in 1405 and its low timbered ceilings and dark wood reflect the high sun of a summer’s day with welcoming ease. And then, the weiss smoked beer arrived, and punched itself into my mouth. Assertive, and tangy, the hops announce that they are “bringing home the bacon” but in a way that is more smooth than bitter. With a hint of tobacco, this was a beer that is easy to settle down with after a trying a day.
My new friend, Johannes, tells me tales of he and his wife. Speaks in German with my boyfriend and both, with multiple beers in their bellies, help me with my slaughtered German pronunciations. He explains that the word Schlenkerla itself, means to “shake like, when drinking” or literally, I learned later, “to dangle.” The beer lives up to its name. If most Franconians are considered reserved, then Schlenkerla shakes their demeanors up a bit.
And smokes the competition. TASTY!