Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rauch Bock at Berwick Brewing Company

S and I were on our way over to Red Hill yesterday for a dinner party, and under the pretext of running an errand in Berwick managed to swing by the Berwick Brewing Company (formerly One Guy Brewing) to taste what was up and see the expanded digs.

S and I were impressed by the back room (annex?) with tables, one a very nice, very large communal table with benches. You know: For those times when intimacy is outamacy or when you and 15 of your friends want to throw down with some great beer and pizza. There's a wonderful map hanging on the back wall marking the location of each brewery in Germany's Franken region. Some 300-odd in an area the size of NEPA according to Guy. (Imagine for a minute what NEPA would look like with 300 breweries? A brewery in every town over 1000 maybe? I'm smiling right now.) Some beer garden style picnic tables, some pub tables, and a nice collection of beer bottles on thin shelves lining the walls completes the scene.

I really wanted to try the Rauch Bock which had just come on tap--maybe Friday? I had never tried this style before so I really didn't know what to expect, but I ordered up a Seidel anyway which came in the correct 0.5l clear glass handled mug. Hey: When in Berwick do as the Germans do!

The first thing that struck me as the seidel was drawn and put before me was the beautiful clarity with a color sitting somewhere between golden and amber, and a nice white 2-finger head. This is a lager after all! The next thing that struck me was the smokey aroma, which I could sense even from arm's length! Wow.

The first sip brought a not-too-subtle but not nuclear-explosive either taste of the smokiness brought out by the German smoked malts used in the recipe. I wondered aloud if for this style, the smokiness was originally a Glorious Accident of the malting process or planned a priori by the brewers and requested of the maltsters. Guy informed me that it was a byproduct of the old (ancient?) way of drying malted barley in the region: by lighting and burning a fire using wood fuel as the heat source, naturally, the smoke produced by burning wood would impart a smokey attribute to the malt not unlike how smoking on the BBQ adds taste to food.

There wasn't really that much hop aroma nor would I expect there to be much challenging the smokiness and malt flavors. From the middle, the smoke flavor started to descend with a buildup in maltiness and finally finishing with a very clean, very tasty pointedness with just the slightest hint of smoke. Actually, this beer, to me, is very refreshing and pretty light--While I don't think I have any German in me (could be wrong though), I could see myself enjoying it on a regular basis and not as just some ``specialty'' beer. I don't know what the ABV of it is, but I would say somewhere around 5%?

The taproom was quickly filling up about the time we finished our first round, but the beer was so darned good, I cajoled and fawned over S and was able to wrangle my way to one more seidel, after which we had to get going. Never underestimate the power of fawning.

Whilst I'm no Saint Michael, I do evangelize to get thee over and give this beer a try.

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