I love a beer with a story. Victory Brewing Company founders Ron and Bill first experienced smoked beers in 1987 when they visited Bamberg, Germany. The two have, for a long time, brewed their own smoked beer (rauchbier) called Scarlet Fire - which I love! Not long ago, Ron and Bill came up with an idea. What if they added the smoked malts of a rauchbier to a Belgian style dubbel? Smoky and sweet: wouldn’t that be an interesting flavor combination? And so the ale called Otto was born. It’s named after St. Otto of Bamberg – “father of the monks” and best remembered for his missionary work with the Pomeranians. The title of the beer has been somewhat controversial due to the fact that Otto’s is the name of another craft brewery in Pennsylvania. I don’t know if Victory will be forced to change the name, but I sure hope they don’t change the beer! Bottle-conditioned and made with German hops, Trappist yeast, Munich malts, Belgian caramel malts, and of course smoked malts, this “smoked dubbel” is one of my all-time favorite Victory ales. From a perspective of uniqueness, it’s pretty much unprecedented. More importantly, from a taste perspective the combination really works. Because of the rich, smoky flavor, this beer comes off more like a rauchbier than a dubbel. Yet it does combine elements of both. The nose is smoky, and so is the taste upon first contact. But the Belgian yeast and candied fruit sweetness really come through in the finish along with some nice balancing hops. I’d say if you’re the kind of person who dismisses plain old rauchbiers as “liquid bacon”, you might find this a more palatable smoked beer. The smokiness, while certainly the prevailing note, is far from overdone. As the beer warms, the dubbel-like qualities do rise from the background and make themselves known. All in all, Otto is wicked drinkable for its alcohol by volume (above eight percent!), and in my opinion it’s got one hell of a nice flavor. Then again, I’m nuts about bacon.