Smoke beers, the absolute preserve of the beer wanker. A very challenging style of beer, not actually liked by many beer geeks let alone the lager swilling ute mustering crowd. As such this wasn’t the easiest category to find an Antipodean example in.
There are a few gimmicky smoked beers our there like Mad Brewer’s Scribby Gum and Bridge Road’s Dogs Breakfast, but these aren’t really true to the style. As always the brewery to turn to when you are looking for authentic European style is 3 Ravens. In this case their 3 Ravens Dark Smoke Ale.
So now that we have an Australian contender we are going to need a German. That’s where the world’s most famous smoke beer proponents come in. That’s right it’s everyone’s favourite 300 year old German brewpub brewery Aecht Schlenkerla. Every beer they produce contains smoked malted barley, the particular example we are trying today is the Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen.
Smell: Not surprisingly the German smells heavily of smoke. By now you might be wondering what a smoked beer is. Let me lay down some knowledge for you. What the brewers do is take the malted barley and then dry it out over an open flame, which obviously creates smoke, the smoke flavour infuses into the barley and bang there is your smoke beer. Interesting side bar, go back about 300 or 400 years and most beer would have been smoked as this was the standard way to dry malts (it’s now done in kilns) so if I was writing some parchment based newsletter back then it wouldn’t have been that big a deal.
The 3 Ravens by the way had a hint of smoke, but not the big bold smoke tones of the Schlenkerla.
Look: The colour of the two beers was similar, dark caramel colours. The 3 Ravens had a bunch of tiny bubbles clinging to the side of the glass which was a little weird, whereas the Schlenkerla had a denser foamier head.
Taste: The German is just bigger in every sense. There was this strong smoke flavour in it, in fact it reminded me a lot of Lapsang Souchong tea. The Schlenkerla also had a creamier mouthfeel, it was definitely fuller and more luxurious, almost buttery.
The 3 Ravens was more subdued, which prompted Jordan to claim that it was subtler like Gerard Butler, which of course lead to a rendition of the Gerard Butler song from TMZ. The beer was also a touch fizzier and had more hop character than the German.
Verdict: I can see what 3 Ravens have done here, they have made a more approachable version of what is a pretty hardcore traditional German style. They have taken the essence of the Schlenkerla but toned it down a bit to make a more sessionable drink. Still a great beer though, they both have to be Pints.
And the Winner is…… I’ve got to stick with tradition on this one (and I know I used the exact opposite argument to give it to Red Hill last week, but hey I’m fickle) and give to the Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen , which makes it 2-1 with the ANZACs leading.
Could the Germans tie it all up at 2-2, or will the New World reign supreme? Tune in next Wednesday for the battle of the Helles Lagers.
Random Oktoberfest Fact: The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxong-Hildurgausen, so basically Oktoberfest is a wedding reception that has been going for a couple of hundred years. I can only assume that there is a couple of drunk uncles on the dancefloor, Ludwig’s grandmother asleep in the corner and a one of Therese’s bridesmaids banging a groomsman under a table somewhere.
Long Bow You Tube Clip: Look it’s Gerard Butler….