People often assume that "lager" is synonymous with "lawnmower beer." While lagers tend to be more clean, light-bodied, and less assertive than many ales, it's a mistake to assume that lagers have any less character. In fact, some lager styles, such as eisbock, boast high alcohol content, lush mouthfeel, and rich undertones of dark fruit and caramel. Today's featured beer is a smoky reminder that lagers can be complex and quenching in the same sip.
The story of rauchbier has its heart in Bamberg, Germany. Brewers in the Franconia region create lagers using malt that has been smoked over beechwood. The result is a beer swathed in smokiness. Similar brewing methods have been used in ale styles as well (smoked porter being a salient example). Of the traditional German rauchbiers, Schlenkerla is one of the most renowned breweries, and is easily available on stateside shelves.
While we adore the Schlenkerla lineup, the beers are not for the faint of heart. The smoky quality is so pervasive that some liken drinking the beer to hovering over a campfire. For those folks, Uinta's Tinder brew is a much more approachable introduction to the style. The 6.5 percent ABV lager is brewed with Bamberg beechwood-smoked malt, but uses a deft hand to ensure a smoky quality that complements the sweet qualities of the malt without overpowering the entire beer. Aromas of smoked meats meld with notes of caramel to yield a balanced beverage. And, if you're the type to play into food trends, it totally smells like bacon.
Unita Tinder Rauchbier is on shelves now at better craft bottle shops.