Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock
By Brauereu Heller Bamberg, Germany
500mL (1 pt. 09 fl. oz.)
Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock is the intense sibling of the classic Maerzen Smokebeer. Exactly like the classic all its barley malts are smoked over beech wood logs. Its higher smokemalt concentration and longer maturation in the 700 year old cellars underneath Bamberg create a taste profile of the most intense smokiness beautifully balanced with deep malt sweetness.
I was recently reminded of this beer by Artie who had first tried it at Hamilton’s Tavern in Northpark. If you’ve never been, its definitely a place to check out. Beware though, its quite small and often crowded. Unfortunately, as of what I know, they don’t serve food in the actual bar but they do have a Hamilton’s Café on the side…which has pretty mediocre food considering its extremely appealing descriptions. Just in my opinion that is. Speaking of beer bars, taverns, and pubs, North Park has quite a selection out there. Toronado, which originated in San Francisco opened up not too long ago in 2008, offers great deals (especially their Monday Happy Hour all night with ALL DRAFT BEERS for $3–gonna have to double check on the price though). The Linkery, although I’ve never been, is well-known for its exotic hand-made cuisine. I’ve heard occasionally they serve a kind of lard ice cream with candied bacon bits…Mmmmm. Ritual Tavern which is right across the street from Toronado provides an “Old World” atmosphere with excellent fresh and seasonal ingredients in their foods. If North Park isn’t your thing for beer, you can also check out PB Taproom in Pacific Beach (best website for live beers list), Blind Lady Alehouse in Normal Heights, or Obrien’s on Convoy. Definitely check out their websites, most of them have updated lists of what beers they have on draft and in bottles.
Back to the beer, Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock, which is difficult spelling as well as pronouncing can be purchased at BevMo! and some Whole Foods for under $4. Or, Hamilton’s like Artie mentioned to me before. I actually had tried this beer twice before this review, once in San Jose where I had purchased it at the Cupertino Whole Foods and the other time for my BJCP class. Brauerei (Brewery) Heller Bamberg
Is famous for creating this original style, Rauchbier. Actually, the Classic Rauchbier is brewed with 20-100% beechwood-smoked Vienna malt with the remainder being German malts typically found in the Maerzen style. The beer up for review today is listed as an Urbock Rauchbier, so its remainder malts are probably the ones you would find in a Bock. This type of beer is a historical specialty in Bamberg, in the Franconian region of Bavaria in Germany (if that means anything to anyone who’s been there). I haven’t learned enough about this beer to really comment about its origins (other than the geographical) but its unique flavor is definitely worth mentioning. The aroma will be dominated by its malt (bready/toasty/malty) and its smoke (smoky/woody/bacon-like). When I first had this bottle in San Jose, Vince, Sam, and I all agree that this was basically BBQ in a bottle. It was teeming of bacon and BBQ smoke. So if you love bacon or the smell of smoke, this is the beer for you.
Forgetting that I was reviewing this beer I had poured this beer carefully as not to disturb the carbonation (45 degree angle). I forget if I had mentioned this before, but when aiming to fully taste a beer, its ideal to pour down the middle of the glass to break the CO2 out of solution so the aromas of the beer are released. This beer poured out dark amber-brown with multi-sized glass bubbles leaving a off-white head with low retention. I could be wrong, but judging but the bubbles, this beer is probably not bottle-conditioned (not refermented in the bottle). The aromas are reminiscent of hickory smoke barbeque. The smoky levels are moderately high but a sweet toasted malt aroma follows through in the background. Some hints of wood and bacon are also noticed. No hop aromas are perceived. This Rauchbier pretty much tastes how it smells with a high level of smokiness/woodiness. The hop flavors are unperceivable to my palate but there is a decent amount of bitterness that follows at the end to balance the sweet toasty malt profile. Very clean in flavor with no noticeable fruity esters or diacetyl (buttery popcorn flavor). Finishes quite dry, the smokiness may be enhancing this perception. A medium-bodied beer with moderate level of carbonation. Considering this is one of the original Rauchbier, its hard to give this an accurate scoring other than how it matches the descriptions of the BJCP guidelines. Seemingly it would be appropriate to score this a 50/50, I still feel there can always be improvements to made to aspects such as aroma and flavor (scores that I would probably never score 100%). As to enjoyment, I found this beer to one of my favorite styles considering I love smoked flavors and barbeque. The dryness of this finish is well supported by the smoke and I think would pair well with grilled foods and smoked gouda (a recent favorite cheese I bought from Bristol Farms).
Category 22A: Classic Rauchbier