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Rauchbier means, literally, "smoked beer". Rauchbier is a valuable remnant of an old beer style. Malt must be dried to stop its germination at just the right point. Modern technology provides enclosed heat sources to dry the malt, but before this technology was available, malt had to be dried by sun, wind or above open fire. Drying the malt above open fire usually involved suspending it over the fire so that smoke as well as heat passed through and the smoke flavoured the malt.
The Heller Trum Brauerei in Bamberg produces smoked Märzen (Maerzen), Hefeweizen, Urbock and Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier, a smoked pale ale. Many online retailers list simply "Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier", failing to recognise the different variations. Roger Protz also mentions the Christian Merz Spezial Brauerei, also in Bamberg, producing a smoked "Lagerbier", and the Bürgerbrau Kaiserdom Brauerei with another smoked beer (though their website no longer mentions it, so it may be defunct). There is also a smoked porter available from the Alaskan Brewing Co. (USA) and a Japanese ale called Moku Moku smoked ale.
The first time I tried a rauchbier it reminded me of Lapsang Souchong tea (a smoked Chinese tea). I found it unpleasantly smoky at first, perhaps because it was an unfamiliar and surprising taste to encounter in a beer, but after the initial bewilderment the rich, silky smokiness became quite seductive. Rauchbier makes a great accompaniment to smoked foods such as smoked German and Austrian cheeses, barbecued foods, kippers, smoked hams, etc. and is well suited to Autumn or Winter.
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Last updated: 16th May 2002
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