#224: Rauchbier – Baron Brewing, Seattle, Washington
I’m finally trying a rauchbier that hasn’t been made by a German brewer (if you exclude my friend Jon’s home-brewed rauchbier, which was pretty tasty). So let’s fix that statement: I’m finally trying a rauchbier that hasn’t been made by a German brewer and can be purchased by people visiting this web site. Today’s example comes from Baron Brewing, which was opened by Mike Baker and Jeff Smiley in 2003 after the two discovered their love of German beer during a trip there. It checks in at 5.0% ABV, and 80% of the malt is smoked with beechwood. Bring on the bacon.
Well, first things first. What a dreadfully unclean glass I poured this beer into. Apologies. I don’t recall the sequence of events, but it’s safe to say this is all my fault. I’m sorry, Baron Brewing, for not doing your beer the aesthetic justice it deserves. It’s a bit impressive though, that even with the assortment of bubbles clinging to the side of an oily, unclean glass, the head performed quite well. Also, the color gets me excited, in all of its slightly burnt orangey glory. Not nearly excited, though, as the aroma. Beer is a very subjective experience. Flavor compounds, some barely noticeable by the nose, can trigger any number of memories, thoughts and occurrences that we can somehow associate with beer, making the experience better or worse. For me, rauchbier (particularly this one), takes me right back to my family’s trips to Vermont when I was a young fellow. We would all be sitting in our cabin, the smell of burning, scorched wood from the fireplace permeating the house, while watching a movie we rented and eating bagged popcorn. Then you would go outside and smell the cold, crisp air, filled with that same smoky scent, coming from other houses. That’s what this beer smells like.
Tastes like that, too, but the beer’s smokiness turns up a few notches, which was rather unexpected. I’m happy about it, though. First impressions: lovely body. Filled with ample carbonation, but not too much, keeping the mouthfeel crisp and the beer flowing with ease. I wouldn’t call the beer deeply bready, but there’s considerable breadiness there and it makes for a nice, full body of flavor. It’s the smokiness, though, that is the star of the production. I was really hoping for bacon/smoked meat flavor, and that’s certainly evident on the palate. Again, I’m pulled right back to Vermont. However smoky, crisp air tastes, it must taste like this beer does. I’m sorry if I’m a little all over the place with this review, I’m just excited. It’s pleasant to be drawn back in time, while having the ability to say that the flavor of flaming meat is tucked into the beer your drinking.
Yeah, I dig it. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in my first American-made rauchbier. It has everything I love about the style, but tempered down just a tad, which isn’t really a bad thing.