Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beer Club, Volume Six - Bocks!

I decided to go with Bocks for this installment of Beer Club in honor of Bockfest at Schell's Brewery in New Ulm. It ended up being doubly important this year because sadly my streak of seven years at Bockfest was broken this year. At least I had a good lineup of beer to help me feel better about it.

Rather than focus on one of the specific bocks like dunkler bocks or doppelbocks or heller bocks, I decided to throw a couple of each in there to give us an idea of the differences between them. Due to illness, vacation, forgetfulness and out of town visitors, we had the smallest group yet but the three of us made the most of it.

The first two beers we did were dunkler bocks, Sam Adams Chocolate Bock and Schell's Bock. I've been sitting on a couple bottles of the Chocolate Bock for awhile now and figured it was as good of a time as any to crack them. Schell's is the bock that always comes to mind for me because it's the one I've drank the most of in my life (even if 95% of it has come on seven specific days!)

The Sam Adams was unique, definitely chocolate chocolate and more chocolate. Not that it was overpowering, but it was definitely the main flavor in the beer. To me it tasted like a coco powder more than the chocolate I've tasted in other beers and I don't mean that in a bad way. I'm wondering if it was because they use coco nibs. I'm not even sure what they are but I know this is the first beer that I've had with them. Guess I'll find out when I finally try the Dogfish Head Theobroma. The Chocolate Bock was a decent beer but I'm not sure I'd run out to search for more of it at $10 a bomber.

The Schell's was as I always remember it, a perfect example of the style. Bocks to me are similar to brown ales and amber ales in that I can sit down with 5 different ones and notice that each one is different but have a hard time describing the exact differences. Another way to put it is that I know what bocks are supposed to taste like and this beer is the standard for me.

Next we moved to the two heller bocks - Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock and Dead Guy Ale from Rogue. I've never had a heller bock before so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Well, technically I had the Glissade at a Sierra Nevada tasting a couple weeks ago and thought it would be a cool change of pace to throw in the line up. It has a light golden color with a nice pillowy white head. Aroma is bready, malty as is the flavor which also has some spicy and hoppy notes. Nice clean finish with a small hops bite.

The Dead Guy was a bit of an anomaly to me. I knew that bocks fell into the lager category but Dead Guy is advertised as Dead Guy Ale, not Dead Guy Lager even though most resources I've seen call it a heller bock. After some research and a few messages back and forth with Rogue, I'm just going to go with it being a hybrid, heller bock style ale. This is one I'd like to drink isolated from Beer Club to get a better handle on what I think of it. I know I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. I'll update my thoughts on this beer in the comments section.

The last three beers on the list were doppelbocks. For a quick history lesson on these and to find out why so many of them end with -ator, click here.

First up was Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. This beer is rated as the number one doppelbock on Rate Beer and it's easy to see why. This is a fantastic beer. Deep brown pour with a big creamy tan head. Sweet & roasted malty aroma and flavor with a sweet caramel finish.

A random entry to the night was Boulevard's Seeyoulator. I stumbled across this beer a couple weekends ago and picked it up because of the cedar aging. It wasn't till I was home that I even realized it was a doppelbock and decided to use it for Beer Club.

It was fantastic. Caramel color, LOTS of lively head, fantastic lacing. I poured the first glass quickly and down the middle like I do for most small samples and got a ton of head. I tried pouring more slowly and off to the side on the next two and still got quite a bit of head. Not a ton of aroma, sweet and malty is what does come through. Flavor is sweet, fruity, malty with a chewy mouthfeel. The cedar does come through in the flavor as well. Very cool beer, pretty unique for a doppelbock.

The last doppelbock was the Sam Adams Imperial Double Bock. It's a nice big chewy beer with a bunch of intense good flavors in it. Very sweet and smooth considering how much is going on in it.

We wrapped up the night with attempt at poking our bocks. You heard me right. If you've never been to Bockfest in New Ulm, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Well, at Bockfest they have campfires set up to huddle around if you get too cold. They also keep hot pokers in these fires and if you ask, they'll "poke" your bock by sticking one right in the middle of your brew. This caramelizes the sugars in the beer and makes it sweeter and a bit smokey.

I procured a metal rod from Home Depot and we fired up the burner from my turkey fryer and gave it a try. It didn't come out exactly like it does at Bockfest but it was a pretty good attempt for our first try. I'd guess that there's a bit of "seasoning" on the pokers down at Schell's, something like a cast iron skillet acquires after many uses. It definitely had a reaction and gave everybody a good idea of how it works.

I think my favorite of the night would have to be the Celebrator. It's number one for a reason and I can't argue with it. The Seeyoulator was nipping at its heels for me though. I really liked the depth that the cedar seemed to give it.

Over the weekend I also tried some Paulaner Salvator and a bottle of Widmer Brothers' Reserve Cherry Oak Doppelbock. I found the Salvator to be a solid beer but if given the option, I'd go for the much more economical Schell's Bock and enjoy it just as much.

As for the Widmer, it was phenomenal. As I always say, give me any combo that involves imperial stout, bourbon, oak aged or cherry and I'm all in. This stuff was awesome. It bummed me out that I waited so long to try it because I figured it was all gone. I was lucky enough this week to track down a couple more bottles of it before it completely disappeared. I'm going to hold one or both bottles for awhile and see how they age.

I'm already looking forward to next month's Beer Club, I'm leaning towards doing Trappist Ales after discovering that Chimay makes cheese. If you have any advice on Trappists, please let me know. Until then - Cheers!

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