Pronunciation guide for
Steinbier means "stone beer" in
German. It got its name from a technique of boiling wort in the brew kettle
by dropping super-heated stones into the kettle. In the old
days, many brew kettles were made of wood and obviously could not be direct-fired.
The hot-stone method, therefore, was the only way the wort could be
brought to a boil. Beer boiled this way also tasted different from "normal"
beer, because the rocks, when dropped into the brew, scorched and caramelized
some of the malt sugars. The result was a smokey-tasting deposit that
literally sugar-coated the rocks.
Once the beer was strained
from the brew kettle into the fermenter and had cooled down, the coated
rocks were removed from the kettle, too, and dropped into the fermenting
beer. There, the yeast made short shrift of the sugar coating. The result
was a beer with a pleasantly smoky flavour and a slightly sweet, malt-candy-like
finish. Steinbiers are now very rare indeed, because few breweries bother
with this labor-intensive and dangerous method of beer-making. In the
old days, many Steinbiers were brewed as ales, but nowadays, they are
all lagers. Perhaps the best known of these is the Rauchenfelser Steinbier,
which is occasionally avilable in North America.