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Evening with Schlenkerla at Port Street


There’s no doubting that smoked beer has long been an acquired taste. It’s not exactly a “go-to” or necessity in a brewery’s line-up and there aren’t many on the market compared to many of the other styles. But I’m a huge fan. I was from the moment I first tried an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen as a 19-year old at the 2006 National Winter’s Ale Festival in Manchester.

“It smells and tastes like gammon,” I remarked. And who doesn’t love gammon?

It remains affectionately known throughout my group of friends as “Gammon Beer” and for years it was the first thing I searched for in a pub’s bottle fridge. With the arrival of the new wave bars and breweries, my fondness for rauchbier had started to move to one side. But when I saw that Port Street Beer House was hosting a Schlenkerla based evening, mine and my brother’s long standing obsession rose again.

It was a cracking evening, beginning from the moment we arrived at the bar, shortly before 5.30pm to be reminded that the pub is normally shut on a Monday. So it was opening especially for this event. That’s right, the bar was open exclusively for those rauchbier fans, a pure novelty for myself. Taking our seats, and being presented with an ordinary half of Flemsburger pils, we noticed a jar in front of us with what looked like bird food. Of course we knew what it was really and our table must have spent a good half hour just sticking our noses into a jar of smoked malts and sitting back, puffing out like a smoker having his first cigarette of the day. By the end of the night, most of the jar was masticated. “I want this as a breakfast cereal,” I said, losing my head for a moment.

The tasting came in the form of the famous Marzen, the Weizen and a special oak barrel of the Marzen that was tapped by Matthias, the 6th generation owner of the Schlenkerla brewery. In between, he provided us with an informative and entertaining speech on the brewery, history of the beer and the town of Bamberg and surrounding areas. The talk on the Franconian way of life especially captivated my group, confirming to me and my brother that we should certainly visit if not live in the area at some point soon.

The specially tapped beer was certainly the best tasting Schlenkerla I’ve tried so far and reminded me again of my love for this beer. I was quickly online ordering some and have since checked for it in every bar I’ve been in. I remember that Selfridges sold it for a while, randomly, when they had a food and drink section and I am disappointed that my access to it has become limited once more.

I should also mention how good the food was, with real bratwurst with brie and sauerkraut being served up. The taste of the bratwurst stayed with me for some days after, causing complaints from an elderly chap I work with who said to me on more than one occasion over the coming days, “You STINK of garlic!”

We threw in a few halves of Tiny Rebel Fubar to freshen our tastebuds and even had a couple of Stone Smoked Porters, that reminded us that the original smoked beer is still the best.

It was a really enjoyable evening so thank you to Port Street Beer House for hosting a wonderful event.

Another reason for my delight in rekindling my love for smoked beer is that I have recently been gathering smoked beers to have a tasting night with my brother. So far I’ve gathered 16 different smoked beers and my fear is, the longer we put it off, the more beers I’ll acquire. If I had the energy for such things, I’d push to make this a nationwide tasting night. But due to my brother’s lackadaisical approach to date-setting, this would prove difficult. #smokinmeout  


pdtnc said…
I see I do need to make a smoked marzen or weizen a homebrew sometime very soon :)
Mark Johnson said…
do it. do it now!

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