Bamberg is blessed when it comes to breweries and when it comes to those that specialize in smoke beer, they are doubly so. There is little argument that if it weren’t for Schlenkerla, no one in the modern world would have ever heard of let alone attempted brewing a smoky beer. It just so happens that there’s another such brewery in town and for many, Spezial outshines its more famous rival. Let’s put a little perspective on things in case there is any question, these are not only world class breweries which date back to the middle ages, but they define an entire style of beer like few others. All other smoke beers are invariably compared to them and I’ve yet to hear anyone say one was better.
Schlenkerla & Spezial are indeed special
Comparing the assortment of smoke beers from Schlenkerla has been a fun and interesting exercise but I’ve shied away from comparing the two rival smoke beer breweries of Bamberg head-to-head. That was for good reason as there are not only many proponents on both sides but they also feel quite passionately about it. This again is meant to be a fun exercise so I want to qualify it right off the bat. Schlenkerla and Spezial are not only the two best breweries in brewery-rich Bamberg, they are the two greatest Rauchbier breweries in the world. They both uniquely smoke their own malt so they have no true competition and without them, there likely would not be a smoke beer brewed anywhere else. So, whoever comes in second when the puck drops will not have to hang their head when leaving the rink.
comparing Schlenkerla & Spezial smoke beers
The 1st Period compared the Schlenkerla and Spezial Märzens. In the 2nd Period, the Schlenkerla and Spezial Bocks face-off. These are two of my favorite Bamberg Bocks but I rarely drink them on the same visit as Schlenkerla Urbock comes out relatively early in the Bock calendar and by the time I have Spezial Bock, Schlenkerla has their Eiche Doppelbock out. So, it should be interesting.
Schlenkerla Urbock vs Spezial Bock
Samples: Schlenkerla Urbock 6.5% (expiration date May 2023) vs. Spezial Bock 6.7% (April 2023)
Compared on January 28, 2023.
1st Period: Spezial Bock poured more impressively than their Märzen in the 1st Period but still no competition visually to Schlenkerla’s stunning looking Urbock. Head retention was much better with the Schlenkerla too. The nose of Schlenkerla with its signature smoked ham is where it skates away. Spezial had a light smokiness to it. Edge: Schlenkerla
2nd Period: Spezial had a milder smoke flavor but it allowed its considerable malt to shine. Schlenkerla was more robust in the smoky palate department but it has some considerable malt in the mix too. Though not typical of Bocks, Schlenkerla has a fair amount of hops, making it drier. This is one tight period. Slight edge: Schlenkerla.
3rd Period: Both have clean finishes for Bocks with Schlenkerla’s slightly more bitter. Even.
Schlenkerla Urbock escapes with a win, as much on appearance as taste.
This was more of what I expected in the face-off of the two Märzens. To be honest, the Urbock is my favorite Schlenkerla beer but I have really enjoyed drinking Spezial Bock the last few December visits to town. I’ll often have three with lunch before leaving on a Sunday. I find it extremely moreish. It’s a more typical Bock with a maltier profile but in the end, I quite love the fish oil smokiness of the Urbock. It appears that Spezial is going to have to skate harder if they’re going to wrestle the puck from Schlenkerla in the 3rd Period.
If you’ve enjoyed the 2nd Period, please check out the 1st Period. Look for a continuation in this series. It’s not over until all beers have left the ice and the smoked lady sings.
If you’ve enjoyed the first two periods of the Schlenkerla vs Spezial Face-off, please consider buying me a Rauchbier 🍺
Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.
Guided walks around the breweries in Bamberg or hikes to countryside breweries: