As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've consulted the Beer Advocate website quite a bit since I discovered it. (And I "discovered" it just like Columbus did America, in that I found something that many thousands of other people had already known about and actually discovered many years before.) (And yes, I stole this joke from a Simpson's episode.) One of these exotic beer types I read about was rauchbier ("rauch" is German for "smoke"). This is a beer that is German in origin, and according to some sources has been made for about 500-600 years. It gets its name because it's made from malted barley which has been dried over an open, beechwood-fueled flame. The city of Bamburg in Bavaria, Germany is considered the home of smoke beer, and its many breweries often make a version. The Schlenkerla brewpub is the most lauded producer.
I was able to locate this champagne of smoke beers, and gave one a try. There are actually three subtypes--Urbock, Marzen, and Weizen. I bought the Marzen style, or using its full name, "Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier--Marzen." It was uniquely bizarre. The smoke odor is very intense--you almost think it will set off a smoke alarm, or be illegal to drink in public in California. The beer tastes like smoked meat and beer at the same time. Perhaps surprisingly, this marriage of two distinct tastes is very good. Kind of like my earlier Gjetost post, sometimes when people experiment with foods or beverages they end up with a new and original winner. I've gone back to it since, and am eager to sample the Urbock and Weizen types. I also look forward to trying other breweries' versions of this.
Mind you, I just had one in any particular evening, and I kind of suspect that it's the sort of beer that you probably don't want to be drinking all night. It's such an exotic, strong flavor that I think it might get a little overwhelming. But, for people who like smoked meats and beer, I would definitely recommend this.