Aecht Schlenkerla Märzen. It's a classic. One of those beers that you either love or hate. It leaves no room for ambiguity, or at least not for long. I love it. When I first tried it, about six years ago, I probably wasn't too sure, but after three bottles it won me over. I'm not sure what it is about this beer. Opening it is like opening a smoked ham or bacon. It's sweetly malty, in a crisp, clean way, with toffee, nuts, a touch of fruitiness. Hops bring up the rear, providing a fresh, grassy element to the finish, and perhaps a hint of mintiness. But it's the beechwood smoke that is the star of the show. When you try a Schlenkerla Märzen for the first time, it seems bloody strong, but when you get get acquainted properly, it's a comforting, fireside kind of flavour, simple and honest.
* for a few bottles of Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche Doppelbock, an 8% brew made with oak-smoked malt. On the nose, it's similar at heart to the Märzen, but somehow more salty. If anything, it's possibly more hammy, with almost meaty flavours, a touch of umami lurking in the background. As expected, a good full body and, thankfully, for a German Doppelbock, it's not sickly sweet or gooey in the slightest, just a slight creaminess. Honey, bubblegum. A light carbonic bite and a pear-drop fruitiness add a sharpness to the foreground, while an oily smokiness brings up the rear. It's not overpowering, but strikes a lovely balance between sweet and, dare I say it, savoury, if you can use such a word to describe a beer. It's not a quaffer, like it's older sibling, but demands a bit more attention. Lovely.
*Was very glad that Biershop Bamberg had some left!