Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beer style of the week; Bockbier

Week 37

Back in May I covered Double Bock, a beer meant for cool spring evenings. This week, I bring you a slightly more gulpable beer that is nearly the perfect brew to accompany, or even added as an enriching ingredient to a fall stew on a chilly, damp night.

Bock is an old style German Lager, which probably found its way out into the public via German monasteries, where monks brewed big-bodied beers with substantial amounts of barley to get them through times of fasting. Full-bodied is normal, syrupy or cloying is completely wrong for the style (see Michelob Amber Bock below). The name “bock” may stem from beers from Einbeck, Germany (shortened to beck), or it may be rooted in pagan times where the Capricorn Goat (Bock) was seen as a sign of spring and the departure of winter. The Bock myth does make the ground hog myth look a little sad by comparison.

Today many Bocks are brewed year round. They come in many different shades and colors and varying strengths. Same goes for Double Bock.

Land of Origin

Mahr’s Christmas Bock – Bamberg, Germany – 6% ABV

This is my first and only Christmas Bock, thus far. What is it to be compared to?

It pours a deep amber with a thin off-white head and some trails of lace. An initial malty aroma fades rather quickly. A Euro-hop smell picks up where the malt fades. A distant, yet constant earthy smell remains throughout. At first swallow, the malt body seems a little thin for the winter-type style, but as it warms, more malty characteristics are revealed. A little sweet caramel and lots fresh baked bread favors begin to assert themselves. The hops possess a metallic bite and just a hint of limey bitterness. This brew sweetens and displays a lightly herbal character late in the glass. All in all a pretty good winter brew.

It can be compared to (distantly) Young's Winter Warmer…if Young’s was a lagered Bock instead of an ale.

Einbecker Ur-Bock – Einbeck, Germany – 6.5% ABV Initially this brew comes across as a tad unruly with alcohol the dominant presence, both in aroma and taste. By the second, third and fourth gulps the hops begin to assert themselves and take center stage. The amber/orange color stands alone in the beer world. I had to keep looking at it and holding it to different lights and upgrading my initial appearance rating. The taste is extremely complex, that too required a raise in points. The ample malt body never achieves a platform of its own. It instead plays a wonderful supporting role to the competing stars. The off white head’s performance is marvelous, though brief. Einbecker, by the way, is the inventor of the bock style. Because I was unsure of my ability to accurately rate this unusual style beer with one bottle, I found it necessary drink a second.

Scandinavia (It seems the Bock-style beers are popular in these northern climes)

Aass Bock – Aass Brewery – Drammen, Norway – 6.5% ABV

From notes: I received this from BA friend, francisweisen (now living in New Zealand). Thanks and skoal! I sampled this beer a looooong time ago, in the 70’s...before Michael Jackson began rating beer or started dangling babies from balconies, and it's just as I remembered it. Dark brown prune juice in color with a beige/tan head and slow-sliding lace. The aroma is particularly distinct with molasses, coffee, hops, and light alcohol fume. The molasses sweet malty body emits flavors of raisins and prunes and a hint of chocolate. The citrusy hops add just the right amount of bitterness for the style. Nice any season beer! Heh, heh…I want my Aass bock!

USA and New England Bocks

Michelob Amber Bock – Anheuser Busch – St. Louis, Missouri – 5.2% ABV

One of our duties as reviewers, other than enlightening our readers is to warn the unsuspecting, so here goes.

I sampled this horrible brew in 2003 at The Tiki Bar, an outdoor grill on the beach on Marco Island. Michelob was test-marketing Amber Bock in several states and it was my misfortune for having vacationed in Florida at this time. It was a sunny and balmy afternoon. Bikini clad beauties were bouncing around, showing off what they had developed over the winter (quite a distraction from my relaxed reading and quite the chore of appearing disinterested with my girlfriend's (now wife)harsh glare beating down upon the back of my neck). The smell of grilled shrimp and burgers wafted over me, exciting my remaining senses. I wandered over to the Tiki and noticed, with curious interest, Michelob Amber Bock on tap. Hmmm! How bad could it be? Well, despite my most excellent surroundings and laissez-faire attitude, the answer, to be kind is disgusting!

Flat dark tan in color and rapidly vanishing off-white head. Sweet sugary malt and soaked corncob aroma. The pasty-mealy, cloying malt is difficult to swallow. This bland, sweet tasting, lightly hopped beer is in keeping with the A-B tradition of marketing over quality brewing techniques. Again A-B had the opportunity to enter the craft brew market by brewing a really fine bock beer. They chose instead, the road of mass-produced-type swill and major advertising campaigns. Argh! In case you’re still interested, the rest of my vacation went very well despite A-B’s attempt to ruin it.

Samuel Adams Winter Lager – Boston Beer Company – Boston, Massachusetts – 5.6% ABV

Served in a standard pint glass.
It pours a dark ruby-hued amber color with a solid 2" beige head and plenty of web and trailing lacing.
The first smell is sweet wet malt and nut bread. A light whiff of mixed fruit cup with a hint of nutmeg and peppery spice follows.
If there was a liquid honey granola bar, this would be the recipe, less a mild taste of white rum and raisins.
A bit of of lime-like citrus taste pulls through in the aftertaste.
All in all, a solid Bock...not spectacular...but a solid brew.

Should Try

Goats Peak Bock – Paper City Brewery – Holyoke, Massachusetts – ABV Unknown

Cold weather is on the way. Don’t balk at Bock.

Quote: "No matter how rich you are, you can still only drink 17 to 18 liters of beer a day." - Anonymous German nobleman