For a state obsessed with smoking the meat of anything with four legs, Texas is seriously lacking in smoked beers. I have marveled at our seeming lack of interest in these historic German beer styles, even with the strong German brewing heritage in our state. Obviously, there is no better beer-food pairing than barbecue and rauchbier.
To be honest, I have sampled more homebrewed smoked beers than commercial Texas examples. A bare handful of craft breweries to the south of us have even attempted the style, and other than brief versions Humperdinks and TwoRows toyed with back in the day, no North Texas brewers have even spoken about a rauchbier. Leave it to California-based Gordon Biersch to lead this current pack into the smoke.
The Gordon Biersch on Park Lane in Dallas just released a classic German rauchbier using the 2014 GABF gold-medal winning recipe from Jim Sobczak of the chain’s Annapolis, Maryland, location. Appearing in their brewpubs nationwide, this week’s release is part of a new move by Gordon Biersch to spotlight some of the award-winning beers made by their brewing staff. Park Lane brewer Abe Hernandez sampled this rauchbier with Sobczak at last year’s GABF, and has done his best to faithfully recreate the same beer for Dallas.
Smoked malts can be tricky as, much like cilantro, people’s sensitivity and tolerance for the residual phenols in this ingredient varies greatly. As for Park Lane’s version, the smoke flavors are very gentle and easily approachable for anyone unfamiliar with the style. The beer pours dark and lager-bodied like a schwarzbier with the beechwood smoke soft but evident in the aroma with a hint of dry, roasty malt. Flavors include black patent malt, very faint hops, some charcoal elements and a mild, cold-coffee sweetness.
The smoke flavors are subtle at first, merely a trace in the back of the throat. A smokey nature builds as you drink more, becoming more noticeable as it warms and increasing as you work toward the bottom of a glass. It is not a heavy or strong beer at all, only a moderate 5.9% ABV and downright tame compared to some European versions, but it is clean and very drinkable.
As for food pairings, Gordon Biersch has always worked to keep its menu current and seasonal but this is the first time dishes have been explicitly designed to be paired with the newly released rauchbier. A special menu insert features entrees like beer-braised sirloin tips, smoked chicken and mushroom pasta, seafood carbonara and a blackened cod sandwich. Look for this trend to continue as other award-winning recipes are brought into the spotlight.
Availability: Both the Dallas (Park Lane) and Plano locations have released the same beer, a draught-only brewpub offering also available as a growler fill for a limited time.