Smoked out

Posted by on Feb 24, 2016 in German Beer | 7 Comments


I’m not a Rick Stein fan, particularly, but he is certainly churning out the globe-trotting TV series these days, swinging around the world on a seemingly random arc wherever an interpreter and a backstreet kitchen await. His programmes are easy to watch, even if he is increasingly resembling Keith Floyd without the booze. Seen most recently in Shanghai, there was a sequence of things he sampled (notably ‘pigs intestine noodles’) where quite obviously he had to adopt a thousand-yard chew and turn to the camera to try to sum up this ghastly thing he was eating.

This is the lot of a TV chef, I guess. Gone are the days where a slow paced fifteen-minute piece to camera would be delivered with a glass of red in one hand and a lit cigarette just out of shot in the other, as a stoic Italian Nonna stirred a barrel-sized pot of pasta in the background. Modern cooking programmes have shorter segments, more extreme destinations, and shock-value meals produced in locations with questionable hygiene standards (or street food, to give it the proper term).

Having to pretend to like something when people are staring at you is something we’ve all had to do (I know because I’ve seen that look many times after cooking something). It can be tricky to pull off even if you aren’t in the loading dock of a fish market, surrounded by bemused local chefs tending to things bobbing greasily in pans of oil. So why do TV chefs put themselves through this? Maybe because to be enthusiastic about something somehow requires you to pretend to love absolutely every last example.

Which brings me on to smoked beer.

Yes, my annual attempt to see it for what it is (a truly historic throwback style, grittily produced by a dedicated – but growing – number of breweries) has again seen it for what is really is (unpleasant). I’m not one of the reviewers referred to by Mark Johnson in this excellent post – for one thing because I’m not reviewing it (Beer: Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. Flavour: hot dogs in a blender). Neither is it a tick on a spreadsheet, or an exercise in masochistic one-upmanship. I’m not drinking it because I don’t like it, I’m drinking it to confirm whether that opinion has changed.

And sadly it hasn’t. I love craft beer, real ale, Berliner Weisses, American turbo-IPA’s and even shandy (there, I said it). But I really don’t love smoked beers. Nobody is asking me to of course, but I would hope the least producers of rauchbiers and the like would ask is that every once in a while I revisit them, and make like Rick Stein plumping for a local delicacy whilst carefully forgetting what part of the pig it came from. Look to camera, realise the expectations have been confirmed, and start to form the words ”Well, it’s….certainly interesting…”

Should we feel the need to like every style, and continually test this? Or just let some go?


  1. The Beer Nut
    February 24, 2016

    I’ve said some pretty mean things about Rick Stein over the years but “Keith Floyd without the booze” has to be the lowest blow yet. Ow!

  2. Chris B
    February 24, 2016

    I agree with you, both about smoked beer, and the unnecessaryness of liking every style.

    I would rather have a Jever, Tuborg or a Moretti, than a Schenkerla, which puts me off side most modern beer connoisseurship, but there you are. Also the fact that I don’t like something does not negate your enjoyment of it. I doubt there are many people who like a Czech Pilsner as much as I do. Does that make them wrong and me right? Yes, for me, but not for them!

  3. Eric Ludlow
    February 24, 2016

    Not wishing to sound poncy, but you should try it on draught before making up your mind . In bottles, smoky bacon crisps. On draught, refreshing and moreish.

  4. Richard
    February 24, 2016

    Eric – Been there, done that! More balanced but still not for me

  5. Stig Bateman
    February 24, 2016

    Have you tried the Schlenkerla Helles? While traditionally not a Rauchbier, a gentle smoke note is passed along into the brew during lagering process.

  6. Tom
    February 24, 2016

    Good post. I don’t like Orval.

  7. Beermunster
    February 25, 2016

    Nobody should worry about not liking a particular style of beer. I really don’t like sours. No idea why, but I have tried dozens and they really aren’t to my liking. I really don’t worry about that – the amazing thing about modern beer is there are so many other styles, which easy to find when you want to drink them.

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