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. and then each seasonal to their renowned Märzen, surely the most famous Rauchbier in the world. While it’s been a fun exercise which started a few rounds before Schlenkerla came to dominate this series, I believe it’s time to retire this Heavyweight format but not without a Round 15: comparing the regular Märzen to a special edition unfiltered one I picked up last summer.
still gravity dispensed from wooden barrels at Schlenkerla
I was lucky enough to be in their pub on the weekend, the special edition unfiltered Märzen was featured from gravity dispensed barrel. The filtered version was not available from the barrel and we were getting ready to go to Annafest so it was best to just have a couple of these rare beers. I noted that from the barrel, the unfiltered version was smoother and perhaps a notch less smoky in both the nose and palate.
Schlenkerla Märzen special unfiltered edition
I picked up a couple of bottles so I could compare the two versions of the flagship Märzen (5.1%) when I got home.
filtered and unfiltered versions of Schlenkerla Märzen square off
Round 1: Both are great looking pours with the Märzen’s gorgeous deep chestnut hue and the unfiltered darker unfiltered deep chestnut. The heads are both impressive and equally long lasting. Even.
Round 2: The Märzen has a smokier nose and the ham is more pronounced than the unfiltered version. Edge to the flagship Märzen.
Round 3: The unfiltered version is smoother and has a nicer mouthfeel. The bottled regular Märzen tends to be a bit sharp. Edge to the unfiltered version.
Round 4: The Märzen has a smokier palate but a good mix of smoke and hops throughout. The unfiltered version is more balanced and the subdued smoke allows the malt to shine. Even.
Round 5: The finishes are similar, lingering, semi-dry semi-bitter. Even.
It’s very much a much a toss-up as you might expect when comparing the same beer. It’s nonetheless interesting to note the stronger smoke in both the nose and palate in the filtered version and the smoothness and better mouthfeel of the unfiltered version. In many ways, it might be closer to the barrel version at the brewery pub but I did have the unfiltered version there first and noted the subdued smokiness then too. If you find the everyday Märzen too smoky, the unfiltered one is a great option when available. If not, let’s just call this final round in the Heavyweight Championship of Beer a draw.
No matter your choice, it’s hard to go wrong with Schlenkerla!
If you’ve enjoyed the whole series, please consider buying me a Rauchbier 🍺
Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.