drying of malt at Schlenkerla with open fire (and thus smoke)
A great many stories have grown up around the origins of Smokebeer. Some are quite imaginative, others are a bit strange. The majority can be considered fairy-tales and fables.
The Sumerians and Babylonians already knew of the art of brewing beer which was then later perfected by the German tribes in Roman times. The basic process in those days was similar to the one today - apart from the technical instruments. Green malt always had to be dried, “kilned” as brewers call it. In the past, besides the usage of sun rays, which was quite difficult in Middle and Northern Europe, there was only one way of kilning: Drying the grain over an open fire. Thus it was unavoidable that smoke penetrated the malt and gave it a smoky flavor.
Technical developments over the centuries made it possible to dry malt indirectly without open fire and thus without smoky taste. As this new technology was cheaper and usable for mass production, almost all of the old smoke kilns vanished. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier has preserved the old craft tradition of smoking the malt in Bamberg until today. Therefore you are, in effect, having a little piece of beer history with every swallow.
Preserving tradition means to keep the fire burning, not to conserve the ashes.