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. While I used the bottle method with the first three exercises, I was in Bamberg prior to getting any bottles of the Eiche this year, so I compared them first from the barrel. I picked up some bottles and compared them once again once back home. It made for a more complete comparison.
Schlenkerla Märzen vs Schlenkerla Eiche
I’ve recently compared their Fastenbier to the Märzen, Kräusen to the Märzen and Urbock to the Märzen but now I turn my attention to their Advent seasonal Eiche (8%) pitted against the flagship Märzen (5.1%).
Round 1: Both are great looking pours with the Märzen’s gorgeous deep chestnut hue and Eiche slightly lighter. The heads are both impressive and equally long lasting. Even.
Round 2: The Märzen has a smokier nose and the ham is more pronounced. The Eiche has the oak element. They are quite different: the Märzen more robust, the Eiche more complex. Even.
Round 3: The Eiche is fuller and yet softer in the bottle. The Märzen holds its own from the barrel but seems thinner in the bottle. Edge to the Eiche.
Round 4: The Märzen has a smokier palate but a good mix of smoke and hops throughout, ham is pronounced. The Eiche is more balanced and the subdued smoke allows the malt to shine. Hint of vanilla. Eiche is more complex. Edge to the Eiche.
Round 5: The finishes are both lingering but quite different. The Märzen has a drier finish. The Eiche more lingering and bittersweet. Even.
It’s not easy comparing a 5% beer and one clocking in at 8%. It’s nonetheless interesting to note the stronger smoke and ham element in both the nose and palate in the Märzen and the smoothness, oaky smoke and hint of vanilla in the Eiche. I’ve been drinking the Eiche since its inception and this is the best one yet. The Märzen is the better session beer, the Eiche the more subtle sipper. Pick your beer for its use but in this head to head, the heavyweight Eiche scores a TKO over the Märzen.
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.