Rauchbier is neither cool nor easy to love. But in a world of fruited slushy sours and pastry stouts, the assertive smoked beer stands apart.
Steeped in history and tradition, yet challenging to appreciate, rauchbier (literally “smoked beer”) has, for much of the craft beer boom, resisted a revival. The style is brewed with malt or wheat that’s been smoked over beechwood or oak, resulting in a beer that’s decidedly not for everyone. But, despite its assertively smoky flavor—or perhaps because of it—rauchbier is having a moment.
The city of Bamberg, Germany, takes pride in claiming to be the birthplace of the style. One local legend tells of a cloister that caught fire and burned to the ground, sparing only the brewhouse and a reserve of malted grain which, having been exposed to smoke, subsequently gave the local beer its distinctive flavor. The tale is mostly hogwash, though; most beer made before the advent of modern malting technology likely expressed some level of smokiness from the kilning process. Nevertheless, Bamberg remains the cultural epicenter of rauchbier, though the style is gaining popularity in a number of brewing circles.
In many ways, rauchbier represents the polar opposite of the current craft beer zeitgeist, which has embraced the mass appeal of fruited slushy sours, soft and juicy New England IPAs and saccharine pastry stouts. The rising stock of rauchbier—whose flavor is divisive and anything but sweet—could be attributed, in part, to an inevitable backlash to the status quo. Paired with a certain underdog status and niche reputation, rauchbier ticks all the boxes of beer snob catnip.
Over the past going-on fifteen years of The Pour Fool, there is one thing that has never varied, never really waxed or waned at all, and that is people emailing me with complaints, insults, and "corrections" of things I've written. They email me because I refuse to allow nonsense like "You suck! You now NOTHING about beer (wine)(whiskey)(whatever)!!" onto the site and nothing goes on the site unless I approve it. Many people, improbably, have wailed about "censorship!!", as though The Pour Fool is a public utility or the airwaves.
It's not. Continue reading "The Pour Fool: A Brief History of Flaming"
A brewery owner pal of mine in Michigan messaged me this morning, with a link to the page where this message from Larry Bell, founder of Kalamazoo, Michiganâ€™s iconic Bellâ€™s Brewery. You see one of these things and you an feel it coming: Larry Bell is selling his breweryâ€¦which many readers of this website take as a definite signal that itâ€™s time to watch Steve Body go ballistic.
I was studying to get a cider endorsement and started laughing. 3am in the morning, unable to sleep. I was lucky I didnâ€™t wake my wife or she would have beaten me, as I so richly deserve so often. Yes, Iâ€™m kidding, but admit talking to myself probably can be damn annoying. She has solved that by talking to herself too.
Hey, isnâ€™t that marriage is about: going nuts together?
Anyway, as a former English major I started laughing at what has happened so often. Some of the words we commonly use in judging were under attack by word parsers. Continue reading “A Beer Judgeâ€™s Diary: Constantly Parsing for the Absurdly Perfect”
Scotland is a walkerâ€™s paradise of wild and dramatic landscapes. Long-distance trails hug the banks of deep lochs and rugged coastal shoreline. They traverse glens and windswept plains, and pass in the shadow of craggy peaks. You could lose yourself for weeks on end along Scotlandâ€™s walking paths and hiking trails, all the while striking that three-note chord â€œin which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned.â€
People ask me at least two, three dozen times a month, â€œWhatâ€™s your favorite beer?â€œ
Iâ€™ve been tasting â€“ as in sip half an ounce, swirl in mouth, linger, and spit. NOBODY can do this job and drink a full beer each tasting. Youâ€™d have a liver the size of a Kia Sportage within months â€“ somewhere around 1,500 beers a year for almost fifteen years, now. Thatâ€™s in addition to the several thousand I drank back before I got full-time serious about doing a beverage blog. How in Godâ€™s Name can I possibly choose ONE beer, out of something over 25K, as my â€œfavoriteâ€
I’m still trying to figure out if I made a mistake. I stepped away from a mini-BOS table because I had what I thought was a prejudice towards an entry. Some considered the entry a tad problematic. My view was different.
We were judging in the brewery at Star Spangled Brewery in Clarksville for The New South Brewoff. Always a grand time when I can do it, if not a grand time for those who do like Millie, my wife. BTW: apologies to those at NSBO: at least for a while I am getting away from individual reports on each competition. I think it more interesting to judges to bring up judging questions rather than what I judged, number of entries, etc.
When it comes to one entry, did I make a mistake? I can only give you my perspective; especially when takes on that entry were so different. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: A Hoppy Question”
STOP RELEASING PUMPKIN BEERS IN JULY, DAMMIT!
Ok so it wasn’t really all that eloquent, but I know a lot of people feel the same way, so I decided to finally share (for those who don’t know), why we see pumpkin beers hit the shelves earlier and earlier every year.
Psst! Check out our Halloween glass, Dead Men Drink No Ales.
Why are pumpkin beers released so early?
The short version is most people don’t buy a lot of pumpkin beers. The average consumer buys his or her first six pack or two, and then doesn’t purchase any more. That means competition is fierce, and it becomes a race to see who can get their beer on the shelf first. Over time this led to breweries releasing them earlier and earlier to beat others to the punch.
Augustiner is Munichâ€™s retro-hip brewery. That wasnâ€™t always the case. Until relatively recently, Augustiner-BrÃ¤u was considered a dusty old brewery. Thereâ€™s no denying its age: Founded by monks in 1328, Augustiner is Munichâ€™s oldest brewery. But conceptions of tradition change. Today, the breweryâ€™s use of wooden barrels, its retro bottles and labels, its rejection of mass advertising, and its engagement on behalf of Munichâ€™s architectural heritage has garnered the brewery a cult following thanks to its sense of tradition.