Aug 31, 2011

Sam Adams Bonfire Rauchbier

When I first started this blog, I didn’t want it to be like most every beer blog I’ve read. Most Beer Blogs (and books for that matter) are made up mostly of beer reviews, which I don’t mind, and in fact, enjoy and read quite often. However, I wanted my beer blog to be more about beer in our everyday life, and especially how to get the most enjoyment out of beer. So, I figure, what better way to help everyone enjoy beer more, then to do at least the occasional review. I did decide to do reviews of mostly just rare or unique beers, beers I feel are exceptionally good, or beers that represent the best of a particular style. And, on occasion hopefully, beers that fit all of those criteria.

Look for it!
Well, last night, I found a beer that may do just that. I picked up a Sam Adams Harvest Classic’s 12 pack last night, mostly because I love the Harvest Pumpkin Ale. There are normally a few other solid offerings in the pack as well. This year, they have added a new one, Bonfire Rauchbier (pronounced row-ch-beer).

Now Rauchbiers have been around for quite some time, since the mid 1500’s in fact, and trace their origins to the town of Bamberg and the district of Franconia. This style is normally mid to dark brown to ruby red, looking much like a Marzan or Oktoberfest styles we are more use to. What sets these beers apart is that the raw (green) malts are dried over open fire pits of (normally) beech wood. This imparts a very unique “smokiness”, hence the name “Rauchbier” (rauch is German for smoke). This is the way all malts were roasted prior to the advent of kilns drying and roasting came into place.

Before last night, I have only heard of this style, and new very little about it. So, I was eager to give it a try, plus I thought it had a great label (as most of the Limited Run seasonal from Sam Adams offerings often do; such as. Old Fezziwig and Holiday Porter). So I poured the bottle into my favorite globe glass and took a look. Right away I noticed the lack of a thick head, and the beautiful ruby brown color. The smell was about what I expected as well, smoky, with a nice malty sweet balance. Nothing too exciting at this point. The taste however, was a new experience for me. This is going to be hard to explain, without sounding like I didn’t enjoy this beer, but it had the flavor of, well, a campfire. Sort of like the same smoky sweetness you get from letting your marshmallow catch fire when roasting it at the campfire (something I love to do!). There was the great smoke flavor, which was balanced out very nicely by a malty, caramel sweetness that worked really well together. The further into the beer I got, the more the smoke flavors became more and more prevalent, while the malt flavors quietly slipped slowly into the back ground.

Even though I was sitting in my living room, while it was still over 103 degrees at 9:30 at night, this beer still made me remember the many a times staring into the soft orange glow of a campfire, letting the dancing flames lull me into a state of near hypnosis. I am not sure I have ever had a beer that says autumn quite like this one does. If you like to try new, unique beers, by all means, get yourself a one of these verity packs.

A few tips I would offer you if/when you get your hands on one of these gems. First, don’t drink this one right out of the bottle; get a proper glass to drink it out of, in fact, an large bulb wine glass would work perfectly (I’ll be writing more about proper glassware at a later date). One of the most defining features of this beer is its aroma, and you won’t get to experience most of that drinking it right out of the glass. Second, open the bottle, pour it in the glass, and let it sit for a few minutes. This beer is at its best at about 50 degrees.

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