Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Month: July 2010

Smoke Beers

My interest in smoke beers came from my interest in Scotch. I’ve become quite fond of the smoky peaty whiskies of Isla, and I thought why don’t they make beer the same way? Both start with malted barley, but in whisky they stop the malting process by burning peat. It is the peat that imparts a lot of the flavor and character found in the finished whiskies. Peats from different parts of Scotland impart different flavors and characters. Of course there are different ways of imparting a smoky flavor to beer. We have smoked meats, smoked cheeses, so why not smoked beers? A word of warning. Smoked beers are an acquired taste, just as very hoppy beers are too.

On our recent trip to Geneva, I wanted to try some of the Swiss beers. I did but I also discovered Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, a German beer. I didn’t know what it was. I bought the bottle on a lark. I took it back to our room, chilled it, opened it, poured a glass. And was surprised by the flavor. I didn’t know it was a smoke beer and was pleasantly surprised. When I got back I decided I wanted to see if I could find it here and do a taste test comparing it with other smoke beers. I tried 4 different smoke beers and here is what I think of them. This won’t be a comprehensive review of each. More of a quick recommendation.

The beers: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock, Alaskan Smoked Porter, and Stone Smoked Porter

I started with the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock. It was nice but not as nice as the Märzen. Then I went on the Alaskan Smoked Porter. It would have been a good porter without the smoke but the smoke added that extra oomph. Nice and smokey. The Stone Smoked Porter was the least smokey of the bunch. It too was a nice porter with a hint of smoke. Finally I tried the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen again. It wasn’t quite as nice as I remembered. It didn’t quite have the mouth feel I remember. It seemed a bit more watery. It may have sat on the shelf too long or it may not have been cold enough. Still the best of the lot. It was a flavorful smooth smokey beer.

I’m not sure why American take on smoke beers involve Porters. Perhaps it’s because they use dark roasted grains and thought why not ad a bit of smoke. I’d prefer the porter flavors not compete with the smoke flavors and that’s why I liked the urbock and märzen better.

I’ll leave you with this great piece by the late Michael Jackson (the other Michael Jackson) on smoke beers if you want to know more.

Smoke ’em of you got ’em

And then I think

what do I want to say? I feel like I should write something here, but then I have to think about what I want to write then actually write it. Revise if necessary then post. And then what have I accomplished? Something about sound and fury, signifying nothing. Oh, and strutting about on the stage. Sigh. There now. I’m done for now.


Je voudrais, café renversé, s’il vous plait.

A café renversé (hat tip to @tobie for telling me about thi... on Twitpic

I love Twitter. It’s the wild west of social media. You can say almost anything, read almost anything. I’ve met a lot of great people through it. And best of all I got to meet some of those people in person. Some are local. Some are as far flung as California and Switzerland. And this last meeting was with a young programmer I found on Twitter who lived in Geneva. I wanted to follow people in Geneva that also shared my profession. Anyway, I found Tobie. We met at Parc de Bastions for a beer. He gave me some good insights on what to try. He told me the sad state of affairs with finding local beers in bars. The big Swiss companies gain exclusive access to lock out the better beers. He also made a recommendation on what coffee drinks to try.

He suggested a café renversé, it’s a Swiss or rather Genevan take on the café au lait (coffee with milk)—white coffee in the European parlance. It was very good. European portions are smaller than ours. I did go to a Starkbucks and had an American sized coffee that cost me nearly $7US, proportionally was on par with the Swiss coffee prices.

Why am I focusing on coffee of all the things I’ve done in Switzerland on this trip? It’s the little pleasures that can enhance such a journey and be shared more readily. We went on a magnificent train ride through the Alps and that was a large pleasure, but you cannot share a large pleasure the way you can share a small one. As for a café renversé you might persuade your local barista to make one for you or to figure it out yourself.

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