STEINBIER

Pronunciation guide for English-speakers:
"Shteyne-beer"


Definition:
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.

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