Thursday, December 12, 2019

Doppeling Bock Down

Ah winter....I love it. Not for me sunshine, sand, and beaches. Give me darkness, cold, and the warming glow of a log fire, or a even a peat fire in a perfect world. It's also the time of year when I drink more of the bigger beers of the world, especially doppelbocks. My love of a good doppelbock, in common with many of my beer preferences, stirred in the Czech Republic and drinking Primátor Double, a 24° behemoth of a beer that made a great nightcap on long winter nights. Closer to home in both time and space, Trader Joe's does a lovely doppelbock called Winter Brew which makes regular appearances in the fridge at this time of year, which reminds me, I need to stock up.

With Christmas getting inexorably closer I thought it would be fun to attempt a mass doppelbock tasting akin to the one I did for Oktoberfest when that was the seasonal de jour. Alas, there are not nearly enough versions of the style available to make such a project worthwhile, there were though the following in my local Wegmans:
Given that I had a final bottle of Olde Mecklenburg Brewing's Bauern Bock sitting in the fridge ready for a mass tasting, I figured I'd get the quartet together and try then in a single sitting as the boys watched Krtek before bed. First we head north to Pennsylvania...

  • Sight - beautiful garnet, half inch of lingering tan head
  • Smell - slightly metallic, dried fruit, honey, touch of marzipan, grassy hops
  • Taste - mostly honeyed toast, some maple syrup, stollen
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Perhaps it is because I love their Sunshine Pils on the rare occasion I can get hold of some but I was surprisingly disappointed by this, especially how understated it was for an 8.2% abv beer. I just expected more heft from it, the body was on the light side. Not bad, just not the big, chewy, beer I expected.

Closer to home for beer number 2, and of course I worked for Starr Hill for several years when Mrs V and I first moved to central Virginia.

  • Sight - deep ruby red, thin, off-white head that dissipates quickly
  • Smell - very light grass/hay, some bread, not much else
  • Taste - toffee and bread to the fore, clean hop bite in the finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Another bit of a let down. Not a bad beer, just not as complex as I would expect for the style. I found the body to be a little on the cloying side, but it was a smooth drink without any noticeable alcohol character.

Let's head further south now, to Charlotte.

  • Sight - richer copper/light red, healthy half inch of rocky ivory head that lingers
  • Smell - toasted stollen, light lemongrass, toffee, floral hops
  • Taste - bready malt, dried fruit, some raisin and prune notes, cherries, slight nuttiness, and a hint of Dutch cocoa
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
This was more like it, a lovely, complex beer that was still approachable and displayed plenty of Maillard character from decoction mashing. Definitely not a bashing session beer, but one that could definitely form the basis of a lengthy evening's supping in the pub.

Now for a trip abroad.

  • Sight - deep red bordering on chestnut brown, long lasting tan head that lingers at about a quarter inch
  • Smell - black treacle, sublte umami thing like soy sauce, winter spices, prunes, floral hops
  • Taste - rich treacle, minus acrid burnt flavour though, fruit cake with lots of booze soaked stone fruits, raisins, cherries, dark honey
  • Sweet - 3.5/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
This is one complex beast of a beer, so much going on, each mouthful revealing more layers to the beer. While it is definitely sweet, and a touch syrupy, it isn't cloying as the clean lager fermentation ad hop bitterness snap everything back into line in the finish.

Four very different beers, but I found myself with a very definite order of preference:
  1. Bauern Bock - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  2. Celebrator - Brauerei Ayinger, Germany
  3. Troegenator - Tröegs Brewing, PA
  4. Snow Blind - Starr Hill Brewing, VA
Bauern Bock wins out largely because I can imagine myself being sat in the biergarten in Charlotte, under the lighted trees, enjoying several of these on draft with friends, but then finishing out the night with a Celebrator. Hopefully I will be able to persuade the in-laws to swing past the brewery on their way up for Christmas....

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