Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shiner - Smokehaus

So I have been reading a bit more about "smoke beers."  Their descriptions often correlate with unicorns: rare, magical, and if you should see one, you should drink its innards immediately.  OK, so maybe the comparison falls off a little toward the end.  In any case (not a beer pun), I happened to find one at my local Wine & Liquor store.  It was the last lonely soldier, long separated from his group, but I rescued him and gave him a home.  All kidding aside, I have never had a smoke beer before and was curious about the taste.  Would it be a dry, bitter experience like campfire smoke?  Would it be the sweet smell of BBQ?  Would it be like adding liquid smoke to a macrobrew?  It is indeed a curiosity and I was ready to experience it for myself.

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only

Aroma 6/12
Now I will be the first to admit, this rating may be somewhat to blame on a partially stuffy nose.  With that in the open, the first thing I noticed about this beer's aroma was the lack of it.  It took a lot of short, short sniffs but all I received for my efforts was a lingering of smoke and I was a bit disappointed.  I have used some liquid smoke in my cooking (chili and the like) and when you open that bottle, it is quite overwhelming.  While I was not expecting that smell (or to be drinking liquid smoke), I suppose I was expecting something a bit stronger than what I did.  The malt aroma is not entirely overpowered by the smoke and is detected as a light, bready smell.

Appearance 2/3
The Shiner pours a nice golden color and crystal clear.  The head was white, small and disappeared almost immediately.  I assume the carbonation cannot maintain that form due to something in the flavoring.  I accept any and all comments from any chemistry nerds on this one.  Where is Alton Brown when you need him?  The head texture was thin when it was present.  While being deducted a point for its head, the rest is spot on for the helles style, which this beer claims to be.  It ranks roughly a 22 EBC.
Picture is my own.

Flavor 16/20
Ah, the moment arrives!  Finally, so many questions will be answered.  The first sensation is sweet.  The pale malt shines through, but only for an moment.  Very soon after, the sweet smokey flavor hits the side of your tongue.  It is far from overwhelming and it is a very pleasant sensation.  Even, those not familiar with breaking down the flavors in a beer enjoy it, offering a smile and a "Wow!"  It is a neat thing to do to a beer!  The beer again finishes sweet, but the dialogue ends with the mesquite bitters in the back of your mouth.  True to style, this is a malty beer.  As with the aroma, I expected more smokiness, but what I received was not unpleasant by any means.

Mouthfeel 5/5
I'll reiterate, while adding a new flavor, this beer remains remarkably true to its style.  It is a light bodied, medium-high carbonation, beer with a sweet finish and not warmth or creaminess.  Nice.

Overall Impression 7/10
I went back and forth with this beer.  The majority of me wants this to be more of an "experience" in the extreme.  I want an extreme smokey flavor that separates this beer from any others.  I want it to be something I can tell friends about with excitement!  On the other hand, as this beer stands it is a great session beer.  I could easily take care of a sixer on a sunny summer day.  In fact, those that want a beer with high drinkability and do not wish to turn to macrobrews or a fruity taste will find this a very acceptable alternative to those traditional summer offerings.
     This bottle labels itself as "Shiner Smokehaus, Mesquite Smoked Beer, Helles Style.  The perfect sommer bier."  While I'm not sure its perfect, it certainly does not let down on its commitment to the helles style or the mesquite flavor.  I will agree with the bottom of the bottle whole-heartedly, "Its smokin' good."  You owe it to yourself to give this one a pour.

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