#174: Spezial Rauchbier Märzen – Brauerei Spezial, Bamberg, Germany
Germany is home to quite a few towns that specialize in a particular beer style. Düsseldorf? Altbier. Köln? Kölsch. Dortmund? Dortmunder. You get the idea. But one town in particular holds a large chunk of my heart because it’s home to one of my favorite beer styles. The town, of course, is Bamberg, and the style is the incomparable rauchbier. So far, I’ve taken a look at only one of the Bamberg rauchbier breweries, but there’s certainly more than one brewery there making great beer. So today we’ll take a look at Spezial Rauchbier, brewed by Brauerei Spezial, which dates back to 1536. If you need a refresher on the Rauchbier style, you can go allllll the way back to Whosisbrew’s very first post. But if you want the quick synopsis, I can provide that as well. “Rauchbier” translates to “Smoke Beer” in English. It refers to the process of using beechwood to smoke the malt, which gives the beer a distinct smoky, meaty aroma and flavor.
The beer poured with a large, frothy, creamy off-white head, which displayed superb retention and left patches of lacing behind. The color was a dark red/copper, with a bit of brown apparent in the thicker part of the body and plenty of small carbonation streams making their way to the top in an organized manner. The aroma makes me smile in a “I can’t believe beer can smell this way” kind of way. I mean, it smells quite literally of Slim Jims. Smoky, salty pork and bacon, with a molasses-like sweetness and woody undertones.
I usually don’t geek out in a blunt manner when I get into the taste, but the beer is just God damn glorious. For a beer with some potent, unusual aromas, it’s remarkably creamy and smooth on the palate, while still maintaining the intrigue found in the nose. The flavor still has its meat-like component, with hammy, fatty bacon flavors, but the smokiness really assumes control as far as the flavor is concerned. It tastes of wood, smoke and earthiness, with a big, fat medium-rare steak on top. What makes this beer so wonderful, though, is that all of these flavors are balanced flawlessly. I know they probably sound bold and a little challenging, but I can’t begin to describe how easy this beer is to drink and how friendly the flavors are. It’s just awesome, really. The finish gets a little bigger, with an assertive smokiness taking over, but the linger is short-lived and the throat feels wiped clean for more.
Rauchbier, especially when it’s made by a Bamberg brewery, is one of the most uniquely flavored, in-your-pretty-face beer styles around. Yet somehow, it maintains a pleasant smoothness that tempers the flavors and makes it a very approachable beer. If you’ve never tried one, you might want to start with this one. It’s one of the finest examples of the style, and if you find yourself in front of a plate filled with sausage, smoked ham and schnitzel, it can make the perfect complementary beverage.