No Filter: Schlenkerla helles Lagerbier vs unfiltered helles Lagerbier

Though Schlenkerla is most noted and justifiably so as die historische Raubierbrauerei, they have branched out on occasion with non-smokey offerings. None is more renowned and perhaps misunderstood than their helles Lagerbier.  The perhaps likely defining aspect of Schlenkerla Rauchbier is that the brewery smokes its own malt, giving their beer a distinctive flavor often mimicked but never completely duplicated. While the helles Lagerbier does not utilize this malting process, the house yeast is not only used but is left unwashed. This imparts a light smoke to the beer which varies from batch to batch. I’d largely avoided the Lagerbier for the first 23 years of my Schlenkerla visits due to my mistaken view that it was brewed solely for the smoke beer unadventurous. I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was.

Schlenkerla: die historische Raucbierbrauerei

When sharing my revelation with a good friend Bamberg transplant, he remarked at how marvelous it is unfiltered and on tap. He’d had it at friends’ parties and said it occasionally popped up at the pub. Beer Envy 101: I had to have it. I was happy to finally nab a bottle in 2023 but unfortunately missed what has become an annual appearance on the Tages des Bieres (Day of the beers, April 23rd). I made sure to pick up a bottle of the filtered version to do a comparison. I’d recently done a similar comparison of their flagship Märzen with the unfiltered version so was perhaps naively expecting similar results.

comparing Schlenkerla Märzen & the unfiltered version

This match-up will compare the helles Lagerbier and the unfiltered helles Lagerbier. I actually did this last year (2023) but never got around to posting it so please note when looking at the dates of the samples.

Schlenkerla helles Lagerbier vs the special edition unfiltered version

Samples: helles Lagerbier 4.3% (August 23) vs Unfiltered helles Lagerbier 4.3% (Oct 23) drunk May 4, 2023

Round 1: Both poured gorgeously but the unfiltered version had a better head and head retention. Nose is grainy in both, unfiltered version more robust. Edge unfiltered.

Round 2: The unfiltered version seems more rounded despite being hoppier. The grain element is pushed back in the unfiltered version and just tastes cleaner. It is also fuller-bodied.  Edge unfiltered.

Round 3: The unfiltered version has the cleaner ending with the hops coming forward in the bitter finish. I’ve found the filtered version similar in the past but drinking them simultaneously, it’s seems less certain. Edge unfiltered.

Majority decision: The clear winner is the unfiltered version. It’s cleaner overall, more rounded and fuller in body and flavor. While I was unsurprised by the mouthfeel superiority and rounded quality of the unfiltered version, I was a bit caught off guard by its being cleaner and the hops being more upfront.

I’ve found the regular helles Lagerbier lacking in the last few samples I’ve had so perhaps going unfiltered as the staple is the answer. One thing is for sure, I’d love to see the unfiltered helles Lagerbier to be served from the wooden barrel when there is no seasonal on offer. My guess is it would be very popular with those not enamored by things smoky and for those looking for a more sessionable beer, its 4.3% alcohol content would be welcome. Until then, I am counting the day until the next Day of the Beers at Schlenkerla.

If you’ve enjoyed this hopefully fun comparison, please check out the others in the series.

If you’ve found this No Filters comparison of S chlenkerla helles Lagerbier and its unfiltered version useful, 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:

2 thoughts on “No Filter: Schlenkerla helles Lagerbier vs unfiltered helles Lagerbier

  1. One of my favorite beers, emerged as a rival to Pilsner Urquell for the perfect combination of flavor and drinkability. Usually buy it by the case when I see it available down here

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