Tuesday, June 27, 2017

50 Cent (ft. Trey Songz) – "Smoke" (2014)

You got this club on fire
And outside I bet
All they smell is smoke

Upper Franconia, which is part of the German state of Bavaria, has more breweries per capita than any other place in the world.  

(The population of Upper Franconia is just over a million people, but there are 200 breweries in the region.  The population of my home county – Montgomery County, Maryland – is almost exactly the same, but we have only a half-dozen breweries BECAUSE OUR GOVERNMENT IS STUPID!)

Upper Franconia
One of the principal cities of Upper Franconia is Bamberg, which is home to some 75,000 souls and nine breweries that are best known for their Rauchbiers – or “smoked beers.”

Several centuries ago, brewers routinely prepared malted barley for brewing by drying it over open fires, which gave a smoky flavor to their beers.  

Beginning in the 18th century, brewers started drying their malts in kilns – not over flames.  But the breweries in Bamberg never stopped burning beechwood logs to dry their malt.

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The most famous smoked beer in the world is brewed at the Schlenkerla brewery tavern in Bamberg.

The Schlenkerla tavern
A couple of years ago, I had a Schlenkerla smoked doppelbock at Of Love & Regret, a tavern/restaurant affiliated with Stillwater Artisanal Ales, which makes some of the most provocative beers in the United States.

Of Love & Regret usually has over a dozen Stillwater beers on tap, but also serves a number of other beers.  The night I happened by, one of its guest beers was the Schlenkerla doppelbock.  

There are no words that do justice to the strangeness of that Schlenkerla smoked beer.  I usually tell people that it tasted like liquid bacon.  

You may like bacon as much as the next guy but not be eager to try a bacon-like beer.  Trust me, the Schlenkerla was delicious.  Also odd – very, very odd.

One craft beer website has this to say about smoked beer:

Smoke-flavored beer can be very polarizing.  Some find the idea of a smoked beer completely unpalatable.  Others find it to be one of the most intriguing, complex and delicious combinations of flavors out there.

I fall in the latter group.  So when I found out that Of Love & Regret’s upstairs gift shop had a few bottles of Schlenkerla for sale at $7 a pop, I grabbed three.  (I gave one away, drank another last year, and am saving the third one for a special occasion.)

Schlenkerla's smoked doppelbock
I hadn’t seen the beer for sale since then until last week, when I stopped by the Döner Bistro in Frederick, Maryland, after taking a hike on the Carroll Creek trail there.

The Döner Bistro’s menu lists both German dishes (schnitzel and several wursts) and Turkish favorites like döners and falafel.  (The combination is not as odd as you might think – there are several million ethnic Turks in Germany.)

The restaurant’s beer list includes one token Turkish beer and a couple of dozen German beers, including the Schlenkerla doppelbock.  When I saw it was available, I couldn’t resist ordering one.

The Schlenkerla was just as odd and delicious as I remembered.  It’s too overpowering to be your everyday go-to beer, but it’s just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for a special treat.

A few American breweries have dipped their toes into the smoked-beer waters, but it’s doubtful your local bar has a smoked beer on tap.

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You probably expected today’s featured song to be Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” – the 1972 hit inspired by a fire that broke out during a Frank Zappa concert at the lakeside casino in Montreux, Switzerland.  (Deep Purple wrote and recorded the song just days after the fire.)

But 2 or 3 lines is nothing if not unpredictable.

I’ve gone a little heavy on classic rock and a little light on hip-hop the last few months.  So you’re getting “Smoke,” a 2014 hit for 50 Cent (which features Trey Songz), instead of the Deep Purple classic. 

“Smoke” wasn’t a big hit in the U.S., but did make it to #1 on Deutsche Black Charts, the most important black music chart in Germany.

I’m guessing the song was especially popular in Bamberg.

Here’s “Smoke”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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