Friday, April 03, 2009

The Session No. 25: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!

Today being the first Friday of the month, it's time for The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

And for once, I'm on time.

The Session no. 25: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was begun by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

This month's topic was hosted by beer journalist Lew Bryson at his blog Seen through a Glass: The Session No. 25: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!
I'd like to invite everyone to join me out back of the barn, where we're going light up some smoked beers.

There may be more smoked beers than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio [what's CSI got to do with it? Oh ... Shakespeare.]; it's not just rauchbier lagers from Franconia. Within the last year, I've had a strange smoked wheat beer, light and tart, that local brewers insisted was a re-creation of a Polish grodziski beer; a lichtenhainer, another light smoked wheat beer; several smoked porters; the odd Schlenkerla unsmoked helles that tastes pretty damned smokey; and, yeah, several types of smoked lagers. You've got three weeks, is what I'm saying: go find a smoked beer.

Because I'm not going to tell you that you have to like them, how you have to drink them, or whether you can have an expensive one or where it has to be from. But I do insist that if you blog on this Session, that you drink a smoked beer that day.

Smoked lager beers are known as rauchbiers in Germany, as well as by lager emulators elsewhere. They are brewed with malted barley that has been cured with smoke. Of course, ales can be (and are) smoked beers as well.

I don't remember my first smoked beer, except that I definitely did not care for it.

I do remember my second: same result.

Third smoked beer? That, I liked.

I and a friend were talking with beer writer Jim Dorsch at the Brickskeller in Washington, DC, some point in the early 1990s. Have an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Jim said (pronouncing the name of that beer is a feat in and of itself.)

Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier

We demurred.

He asked again.

We relented.

Our first sips confirmed our worst fears: weird ashtray and cured bacon aromas. Similar tastes. But then we noticed a pleasant sweet malt character that softened the effect. And, by the second glass, we were willing to say that maybe it wasn't bad. By the third glass, it had become ... good.

Maybe a year later, I tasted a fresh, vibrant, and husky Rauchbock from Degroen's, a now-closed lager brewpub in Baltimore, Maryland. And I was hooked.

But I'm reminiscing.

This year I celebrated the New Year with a 7.8% alcohol by volume (abv) smoked dark lager.

Matt Brophy, vice president in charge of operations for Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland, brought a fresh sample of his brewery's Dog Schwarz straight out of the fermenter to a night-after-New Year's party. It combined the flavors of a strong dark lager (which, not strong, would be called a schwarzbier) with a restrained smokey character; it was dangerously drinkable.

And only recently, I celebrated the the vernal equinox with a Bavarian smoked beer: Fastenbier from brewery Heller and Trum. (Read more here.)

The brewery produces Fastenbier only for the Christian Lenten period. I found it a sweeter, draft version of the brewery's Aecht Schenkerla, yet still redolent of bacon (!), a characteristic of smoked-malt beers. Were I observing, it would have softened the Lenten fast.

UPDATE 2009.03.03:
Lew Bryson —our host for this month's The SessionBeer: Blogging Friday— stipulated that blogging participants actually taste their beer on Beer Blogging Friday. A demanding fellow.

So... here. I've returned for a second round of Fastenbier. And for Mr. Bryson, I've obtained proof of purchase.

Fastenbier was here

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