Smoke beer finally finds itself escaping its specialty niche reputation and a becoming a style which can’t be written off as a novelty. That said, many will still relegate it to one to be sipped slowly but further investigation reveals there are many different flavors of smoke when it comes to these illusive brews. Schlenkerla, for example, has not only its flagship smoky Märzen and Rauchweizen but also four exceptional seasonal brews, all using their own smoke-infused malt. I’ve had fun comparing their seasonal beers in a recent series. Now, I turn my attention to comparing each of the seasonal beers to their Märzen, surely the most famous Rauchbier in the world.
still gravity dispensed from wooden barrels at Schlenkerla
Unlike my last exercise where you almost had to resort to using bottled samples, you could do this at their renowned pub as when a seasonal is “on,” it is from the barrel there just as the Märzen is every day. I rarely find myself doing this. I may drink their Märzen and finish with their Doppelbock strength Eiche in December but I’ve never gone back and forth between the two. With the other three seasonal beers, I always stick with them. I like them that much and I’m generally only there once a year for each one. So, I will use the bottle method once again.
Schlenkerla Märzen vs Schlenkerla Fastenbier
First up is their spring Fastenbier which comes out on Ash Wednesday and flows until Easter. It’s unfiltered and weighs in at 5.9% to the Märzen’s 5.1%. Here goes.
Round 1: Both are great looking pours with the Märzen’s gorgeous deep chestnut hue and the Fastenbier’s darker unfiltered mahogany. The heads are both impressive but the Fastenbier’s is denser and longer lasting. Slight edge to the Fastenbier.
Round 2: The Märzen has a smokier nose and the ham is more pronounced. The Fastenbier has a nice yeasty element but this takes some of the smoke away at the same time. Edge to the Märzen.
Round 3: The Fastenbier is much fuller and has a nicer mouthfeel. Edge to the Fastenbier.
Round 4: The Märzen has a simpler palate but a good mix of smoke and hops throughout. The Fastenbier has some yeast but a nice hop element which shines towards the end. Even.
Round 5: The Märzen has a cleaner finish with the hops putting a slightly more bitter spin on the finish. The lingering finish of the Fastenbier mixes some yeast with a slight hint of licorice in with the hops. It’s more even than the description. I’d say a draw.
This is a closer match-up than I’d imagined. The Märzen is a classic session beer while the Fastenbier is a dangerously drinkable 5.9%. The Fastenbier’s more complex but there’s something about the Märzen which is more approachable and easier to drink. If the Fastenbier’s the winner, it’s a TKO but it just might have to be a draw.
Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.