Smoke Me a Beer, I’ll Be Back for Breakfast (OR Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche)

Smoked beer is weird stuff. Very weird.

The first time I encountered it was in North Bar. A drunk man in a hat was talking to me. He tried to make me wear his hat. And I did. Through the whole hat-related conversation I remember thinking, ‘this man STINKS of smoke’. This being post-smoking ban I could not fathom how on earth a mere mortal could reek so much of smoke. And of bacon.

He was sipping a pint of pitch black beer. He offered, nay, insisted that I try it. Now, if a man who stinks of smoke and bacon, who insists on me wearing his hat tries to make me share a drink, I think of germs, and diseases and I say no. To appease him I agreed to order my own half of this beverage he was so keen for me to try.

Strangely, the smell of smoke (and bacon) got worse as I received my half pint. I was only when I raised the glass to my mouth and the aroma from the beer hit my nosed that I realised why. The bloody beer was smoked. And bacony.

The man may have been drunk, odd, and strangely interested in me wearing hats, but he stank of neither smoke, nor beer, Well, his breath did, but that was because he was drinking Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbeir. This beer is made by the Schlenkerla brewery who smoke their malts on beech as an age old way of drying them quickly.

It’s odd stuff. Thick enough to chew upon, a powerful nose that smells of (yes) smoky bacon crisps and then a lurking sweetness deep down that tries to battle off that wicked smoke, but never quite manages it.

It is good though. Very good. A half pint was more than enough for me, mind.

I thought this chapter in my life was over until a week before Christmas I headed up to North Bar again, this time for a Leeds Guide article called Bartender’s Choice, where a local bartender picks a favourite beverage and talks about it. And, of course, let’s the writer try it. It’s a hard knock life…

So, I met Jim. He had a big beard and held in his hand a bottle with a similar, but slightly different logo to the keg that once let forth my first taste of rauchbier.

This time, it was different. This was a Christmas special. It looked like this:

This was Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche. It was bloody gorgeous. It’s main difference from the rauchbier was that the malt was smoked on oak, rather than beech, and what a difference it made. The nose still packs a smoky punch, but underneath, there’s honey, vanilla and a warming kick (as you would expect from an 8% beer).

These notes are limited, because you should read the rest here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/bartenders-choice/jim-thackray-north-bar/17614

Unfortunately, since my blog went into hibernation over winter, North have probably sold out of this now, but ask ’em next time you’re in. Just in case. Just be aware that if you get chatting to someone while you drink it, they might start wondering why you smell like crisps.

APPENDIX

An explanation of the post title can be found here:

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Meanwood Pubs, an update for 2011

Sorry again for the paucity of updates on Reet Good. Christmas and that have kept me hectically happy in visiting friends and family, actually spending time at home relaxing. Plus, I’ve been reading endless books on evolution (it seems that I’m hungry, nay starving, for knowledge) and watching ‘The West Wing’, a brilliant but cruel mistress which eats up all your time with its expertly told tales of life inside the White House.

‘The West Wing’ is over now though, so it’s back to more reading, and a refreshed attempt at regular blogging for 2011.

So, blathering over with, time for some Meanwood pub updates, which seem to be attracting a huge amount of interest. We’re clearly a heavy drinking bunch in this lovely north Leeds suburb.

First up, I promised a link to my Leeds Guide review of East of Arcadia and never delivered. Look, though, it’s here now. Right here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/bar-review/east-of-arcadia/17526

Secondly, we have the new North Bar, to be opened just a few doors down from East of Arcadia. It shall be called Alfred (as a smart Hitchcock-ian nod to North By North West, what with the bar being North West of North Bar). It shall be open in about a fortnight, and it shall be pink.

It looks like this

Well, a bit like this. I assume there’ll be less scaffolding, and an actual bar and stuff when it opens. You can get updates on their Facebook here, and their Twitter here, and at http://www.northbar.com/meanwood.php

I’m awfully excited. I’ve hopefully got my own hook for a tankard there and everything.

 

While we’re on pubs, I also recently visited Leeds Brewery‘s great latest acquisition, The Garden Gate. Another Leeds Guide review can be found here. I can sum it up like this: it’s a proper lovely, old pub, and it sells Leeds Brewery’s decent four regular beers, but you should visit whether you like beer or not, because it’s properly stunning.

We Have Pub. Meanwood’s East of Arcadia

Residents of Meanwood rejoice. We have a pub. It’s nice. The staff are friendly and they sell good beer. Bloody good news indeed.

I’ve lived in Meanwood for around 14 months now, and while I love my street, my neighbours, the park, and having a rather swanky new Waitrose (complete with some awesome bottled beers – Worthington White Shield, Fullers Bengal Lancer? Yes please), there was always something missing.

A decent local.

If me and my wife fancied a pint, we’d take the long trek up to The Stables in Weetwood, or the uphill slog into Headingley for Arcadia. Beyond that, we were lost.

Soon, we’re going to be spoilt for choice. North Bar’s new bar (which I’m still convinced should be called North Ba’ North West [it won’t]) will be opening early in the new year, but already open in East of Arcadia.

I’ll be doing a full review of the pub over at Leeds Guide soon, and will post it up here too, but for now, I’ll give you a brief summary.

It’s owned by the excellent Market Town Taverns

 

MTT themselves may have underestimated just how much we wanted a good bar round these parts. The queues were huge, the punters thirsty and waiting times were quite long. It was a teething problem of sort, but a good one, really. I never knew there were so many people living nearby.

We’ll be back. Many, many times.

Wedding, Beer, Pie and Raves

So, I realised I hadn’t written a blog in almost two months and that ‘I’m getting married’/’I’m in Siciliy’/’I just got married excuse’ was wearing thin. So here I am, writing a blog.

First off, the wedding was flipping ace. If you’re pals with me on Facebook, you can see loads of photos there. They’re well good.

Since this is still, theoretically, a beer blog I should mention the wedding beer.

For starters, I made a summery beer, flavoured with lemongrass. I worked out OK, but I think my methods for stopping bits of malt and lemongrass getting in the final brew were flawed and it was a little (well very) cloudy – less chunky than Orangina, but only just.

Everyone liked the taste though, which was good, because a few bottles were a little (well very) lively, and ended up sprayed over guest’s suits, shoes and shirts.

Ah well.

 

homebrew

Homebrew - photo by Mark Tattersall http://www.mark-tattersall.co.uk

 

My excellent neighbour Alan also made us a wedding celebration brew, which was far better than mine, and didn’t need drinking through a sieve. His was elderflower-flavoured, rather than lemongrass, so again was perfect for the summer – and thankfully the weather held out.

The very good folks at Roosters were kind enough to sell us a 72 pint keg for just £90. We took the Good Cheer Beer because of the low abv and the American C-hops they use to flavour it. Not as toe-curling as the hoppy beers I love, but we needed something palatable for less refined pallets, y’know.

And of course, we needed lots of ale because we had this to eat.

 

 

I’m not going to say anymore about the wedding, because if you don’t know me, it’d probably be well boring (it was ace though).

LIGHT NIGHT

I did this on Friday night:

(I’m the on in grey in the middle of the photo, my wife is next to me in black).

This is Light Night, a well fun do that happens once a year in Leeds. The council are kind enough to give cash to local artists and enthusiasts and send them off around the city doing arty/cultural/fun stuff. Loads of it was good, but this was my favourite bit. Two lovely people firstly had a kids party on a rug outside Leeds Art Gallery. We played pass the parcel to ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ (sport), wore party hats and ate cake.

When that was over they said ‘stick around for 5 minutes and we’ll have a rave’.

They did. On the very same rug we were jumping around, conga-ing and waving glowsticks in the air to tunes of 2Unlimited and Prodigy. Marvellous.

More of the same next year please.

Meanwood Pub Updates

I have learnt some stuff about my soon-to-be new locals.

1) Market Town Tavern’s offering is being worked on right now, will be called East of Arcadia (hmm, not sure about that, I assume it’s a pun on East of Eden), and will be a bar and restaurant. Cool.

2) North Bar’s new bar will be opening at 8am most days (though will not serve booze until 11am – take heed Wetherspoons early morning boozing fans). It should (in my opinion) by called North Ba’ North West. I’ve suggested said name to one of the owners, whether he’ll go for it, I know not (I guess: no). I assume it will do breakfasts and good coffee and stuff. Which would be awesome.

Slightly off topic, I discovered The Stables pub at Weetwood Hall on Thursday night, I’d never been before (for some reason) but joined some neighbours for a birthday drink and was impressed. Comfy, laid back and serving an exceptional pint of Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin (their IPA weren’t half bad neither!). Plus they show the football (boy, was I glad to see that return on Saturday. Shame Leeds lost though) and have a massive courtyard. We were shown a great route back home via ginnels that takes a mere 15 minutes. Whether I can remember it or not next time is another matter.

USA! USA! North Bar’s American Beer Festival

Hey look. I’m writing a blog about beer and beers. There’s a novelty.

North Bar’s American beer fest ended yesterday. I wouldn’t be a proper beer enthusiast, or part time beer blogger, without going, or passing comment. So I went yesterday. And it was good.

Why was it good? Well, firstly I went with good, interesting friends, and we talked and chatted about all sorts. That was nice. Secondly, the beer was good.

American beer is, as any beer enthusiast will know, probably the most exciting kind of beer that there is. No, really. Get past all that crap mass-manufactured Budweiser crap and the Americans blow the socks off most of our beers. Their beers are just bigger, harder, faster, stronger, hoppier, mightier, weirder than ours. And that makes them exciting.

Most American double IPAs are designed to the point where, after one sip your taste buds are blasted and incapable of tasting anything but hop for at least three hours. Their stouts, porters and barley wines are big, strong, smokey and often around 10& abv. In short, their beers are interesting, experimental and often quite likely to surprise you.

Obviously I didn’t try anything like all the beers on sale at North Bar. If I did I’d be a) drunk and b) broke. See, American beers are generally a) quite strong and b) very expensive. They’re worth the abv and the £s though. And North Bar have been wise, The American stuff on tap was available in 1/3 pints. Perfect for a 9.6% £10 a pint beer. Let’s face it £3.30 is just about affordable, and if, you want to try something innovative, excititng and rare, well worth it.

So what did I have. Well, my I-am-socialising-so-therefore-won’t-make-tasting-notes-because-it-would-be-rude-anti-social-and-just-a-bit-weird rule meant I’m not entirely sure. I definitely have Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot barley wine. Just because I’ve never had it from keg before. Its very good on keg, smokey, not too sweet and treacley-thick. I also had a Hercules Double IPA, I’m not sure which brewery it’s from, but it was stunning IPA. Not strong enough to make your toes curl and face scrunch up, but balanced, beautifully drinkable and not tasting for a minute like it was over 10%.

I moved on to the fridges then. An Odell porter was surprisingly low in abv, and was a simple, no frills take on the style. Great, tasty and smokey, and not extreme at all, just balanced and tasty. Finally, I had Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale. Wow. It came in a can that made me look like an alcolohic tramp with special brew, but the flavour was stunning. The hops were prominent and dry, and the orange blossom gave it an amazing floral, citrus bitterness on top. A great way to finish the evening.

I’m afraid if you’re reading this now, you’ve missed North’s American beer festival, but it’s on at Further North RIGHT NOW. Go.