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 Urbock
Round 1: This Märzen didn’t pour as nicely as past samples and and certainly not as well as the Urbock. Admittedly, the Urbock glass is much narrower which adds size and durability to its head. Still, it exhibits a gorgeous deep chestnut hue compared to the Urbocks’s darker mahogany. Edge to the Urbock.
Round 2: The Märzen’s nose is full of smoked ham, the Urbock has some smoked fish. I would say even though I prefer the Urbock. Very slight edge to the Urbock.
Round 3: The Urbock is fuller and has a nicer mouthfeel. Edge to the Urbock.
Round 4: The Märzen has a simpler palate but a good mix of smoke and hops throughout. The Urbock is hoppier but the ample malt balances things out. The smoke, while not less in degree, seems smoother in the Urbock. Edge to the Urbock.
Round 5: They both have clean semi-dry semi-bitter finishes but I find the Urbock’s dangerously moreish for 6.5%. I would have to give this to the Urbock, as well.
For those who have followed this series, the Urbock is perhaps unsurprisingly the winner. It’s my favorite of all the Schlenkerla beers. I often wish it were a bit less strong and you really do have to control yourself when drinking this marvelous Rauchbock.
I plan on drinking them head-to-head from the barrel next weekend to see if the Märzen fares better but at this juncture, I would have to deem the Urbock the clear winner.
No matter your choice, it’s hard to go wrong with Schlenkerla!
Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.