is the latest in Lakefront's My Turn series which sees every employee of the brewery "design" their own beer. This is the third such brew and is named after Lakefront's head brewer Mark Paul whose nickname, it appears, is Luther. (You can read a profile of him at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The beer is a helles rauchbier lager, i.e. - a pale lager with some smoked malt in the grain bill. Rauchbiers don't get much love. I find it odd that so many craft beer drinkers will wait in line for hours to get a sour beer that tastes like my shoes smell or descend into fits of ecstasy as they worship their god Lupulus with 100IBU beer running down their chins yet they recoil in horror in the mere presence of a rauchbier, as if they had just been offered a chunk of uranium. For instance, both of Madison's most prominent beer reviewers, Robin Shepard at Isthmus and Chris Drosner at 77 Square, have professed a distaste for rauchbier. (Imagine one of them confessing that he didn't like C-hops...) Too bad. I guess Bamberg won't be seeing them as tourists. To each their own, I guess.
Well, onto Luther.
He pours a clear deep yellow (Which you, unfortunately, can't see in the photo.) and gives a nice frothy head. (Which is also unavailable in the picture.) There were a few stray bubbles making their way up. As for the aroma, I must warn you that I have the sniffles so my accuracy is not 100% here. My caveat aside, Luther smells very sweet - like corn - at first and then the scent of smoke - think smoked meat - wafts in.
Most of my experience with rauchbiers comes from drinking Schlenkerla's
brews. However, I've not had their Helles Schlenkerla Lager, although I have one in my cellar. Thusly I am used to smoked beers that have a fairly thick mouthfeel. Luther, on the other hand, is smooth and effervescent. I didn't get that "Ooh! I'm drinking the beer equivalent of motor oil." sensation at all. (Not that I dislike a viscous mouthfeel, mind you.)
The first thing I tasted was malt sweetness. Here it was was more like corn than bread. Then the smoke hits your tongue. The rauch in this rauchbier is prominent but not as much as in, say, a Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen. While there isn't a lot of hop flavor here, Luther put just enough in it to cut through the smoke and be a recognizable flavor which is especially noticeable in the finish which is nice'n'dry. Luther comes in bombers only and I drank this one alone. As the bier gets warmer, the sweetness really comes through. As with all rauchbiers, one's tongue becomes anesthetized to the smoke flavor and it takes a subsidiary role. Once it has warmed up a bit, Luther takes on a bock-like quality.
This is an excellent beer. The smoke is not overpowering so the malt and hops each get their turn. What begins with a heady rush of sweetness and smoke ends in a pas de trois led by a pleasant spicy-dry finish. It's a shame that Luther is a limited edition beer that is not slated to return. Ever. Hey Wisconsin brewers - how about more rauchbiers?
Junk food pairing: Enjoy handfuls of Vegetable Thins or similar vegetable crackers with your glass of Luther. I will also note that this beer went very well with grilled turkey, cheddar, and bacon sandwiches.
Labels: Beer, Helles, Lakefront Brewing, Rauchbier, Smoke Beer