Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen - Brauerei Heller, Bamberg
My memories of Bamberg are too fond to allow me to write an unbiased review of one of the city's iconic beers. If the following paragraphs come off as too glowing or whimsically reminiscent, it's because Bamberg beers have cast a spell on me and I'll forever be smitten with them. I will say that, while Schlenkerla is probably the most well known Bamberg brewery outside of Germany, it's probably my least favorite. The tour groups that come through Schlenkerla each hour on their tour of the Altstadt really detract from the authenticity of the experience. That being said, Schlenkerla makes some great beers I'm always excited to drink.
Authentic German Rauchbier differs from the American Smoked Porters and Stouts you may have had before. Rauchbier is much more about having a nutty, bacon grease flavor in your beer. The levels of smokiness are more subdued in Rauchbier, but it can still be too much for some people. Rauchbier is one of the most divisive styles of beer I've had, you either love it or you hate it.
Schlenkerla's Weizen Rauchbier is particularly interesting because it's so different than the smoked beer brewed in this hemisphere. This beer is pretty much what you'd expect if you took a bacony Rauchbier and mixed it with a sour, yeasty Weizen. The combination doesn't sounds like it'd be palatable at all... as a sweet and sour beer that smells like liquid smoke? No thanks... But it really does work.
When you first take a sip of the Rauchbier Weizen you notice the sweet toasted malt up front with an almost olive oil flavor that morphs into the tangy zing you'd find in a good Hefeweizen. The rich smokiness stay with you the whole time but it is more of a compliment to the rest of the flavors rather than being a distraction. Each flavor is so different that you find yourself returning after every sip looking for more flavors. There's lemon from the Weizen, nuts and greasy bacon from the Rauchbier and sweet olive oil that came from who know's where...
This isn't a beer I could recommend to just anyone because I know the flavors in both Rauchbier and Weizens aren't universally delicious, even if I find them both to be absolutely amazing. If you're a fan of German styles, a little adventurous and open minded, then I'd say you should give this beer a try.