Session 121: Bock – Unloved And Sorta Local

Jon Abernathy of The Brew Site (the great-grandfather of beer blogging to my great-uncle of beer blogging role) is hosting this month’s version of The Session and he askes about bock. As M. Noix Biereois d’Irelande pointed out excellently today, bock-style beers aren’t as common on the shelves as they were seven or eight years ago. As true in northeastern North America as it is in Ireland. Bock does not demand respect and it no longer attracts many of the inquisitive. Yet, I asked in 2009 whether Mahr’s Weisse Bock was the greatest smelling beer of all time. I must have once had an interest. A year later I tweeted my admiration for Koningshoeven Bock. Indeed, as recently as just three years ago, I posted about two Canadian craft takes on bock that I had received as samples.

Yet I do not hunt them out. Well, I hunt out fewer and fewer beers as enough good beer to satisfy anyone short of a case of dipsomania comes to me care of (i) the new wave of local small scale brewers and (ii) the slump of the Canadian dollar to US dollar exchange rate. Who in their right mind would? It’s fun actually, given that reality, to watch the last gasps of globalism inspiring the junketeers to still – just in this one week – witness them trundling up to the groaning buffet spreads of Asheville, New Zealand and even Peru! Oh, how I do need that report on the craft replicants of Peru. Please hurry.

Bock, however, is not that at all. Not a flog is being offered for bock. It is fusty. Maybe even owly. Bock, however, has a venerable North American heritage. It is a traditional local beer if we are talking about the Great Lakes watershed and environs. As Craig posted on Facebook, it stood amongst the greats – if the Free Press of Waverly, New York from 1886 is to be believed. In the New York Herald of 30 April 1860 there is something of a primer on the nature of bock in a column from “Our Berlin Correspondent” which might indicate that bock came here to our shores after that date, much later than lager in the 1840s or that earlier shadowy thing, cream beer. Bock is described by OBC in slightly harrowing terms:

The stronger more heady sort is termed bock beer, from the German word bock, which means a billy goat, the person who drinks it being excited to such a pitch of exhilaration that he capers like a goat… the above mentioned bock as hitherto kept up its reputation. Recently, however, a company has been formed on shares with a handsome capital, for the avowed purpose of opposing it…. They have built a large brewery, with extensive cellars, saloons and other accommodations, on the same hill, and propose to brew a lighter and milder beer than bock., selling it at a lower price, and the mania for imbibing vast quantities of the cerevisian fluid being still on the increase, they are very likely to succeed… 

Terrifying stuff. If I can find me some on the way home I might buy a bottle if I can find one in these times of IPA driven hegemony and homogeneity. So I can, you know, imbibe a vast quantity… and caper like a goat.

‘Tis The Time Of The Canadian Goat

image193Is it just me or does the expression on Beau’s Hogan’s Goat bear a slight resemblance to the brewery’s co-founder Tim Beauchesne? A sample arrived a few days ago and, while I am pretty sure I have had the beer before, “spiced” beer of any sort is not something I hunt out. Same with weizenbocks like the sample of Burly Goat sent by British Columbia’s Granville Island Brewing. Yet, given how often I am wrong, I really should check in on my prejudices. Besides, Tim-Goat is giving me a mean death stare from that label. Better do something.

Hogan’s Goat pours a bright caramel under a slightly orange cream head. The almond malty aroma leans slightly to gingersnap. A very pleasant first foamy gulp: rich nutty malt with a late showing of herbal hops. Sweet with nods in the malt to apple, raisin and even old fashioned brandy butter sauce. What spicing there is gets neatly placed. The overall effect is a bit barley candy, a bit herbal lozenge and more than that in beer. You particularly notice the orange peel when you burp. At 6.9%, strong but not over the top. BAers have the love.

Burly Goat is a beer in the style of Aventinus and a respectable homage. It has that spiced weizen yeast in common with its mentor and displays how wheat, when stronger, starts to move from simply grassiness to something itself rustic and spiced in the way that rye is. It has that beefy gravel hue that would be a turn off in any other sort of beer. Green grass, marigold, pumpernickel, a bit of almond in a drying brew. Herbal leathery aromas. You could soak a pork shoulder in this very nicely. Just one rating by a happy BAer.

What did I learn? I was reminded that I like beers like this and that domestic craft can make them with verve. Or is it panache?

A Week With Softer Side Of German Brews


It was time to clear out a few obscure brews that have been hogging stash shelf space and I grabbed nothing but the Germans. I thought it was going to turn out to be about sharp hops of one sort or another, the sort of thing I ran into over two years ago. I was absolutely stunned when top after top was popped to expose another soft deep dark brown earthy complex beer of one sort or another. These beers were not particularly to a style or a region that I know of. I bought them at different times and different places without a plan and really without really looking. But it didn’t strike me as a fluke.

I’ve had simple German dunkels before and while I liked them I was not blown away. Too little a step up from black lagers. I was looking for more oomph. But I’ve had hints that the sorts of beers were within reach, liken when I had a Korbinian from Weihenstephaner. But this week was proof – everyone one a keeper. Here is, to quote Joe, my “vaguely pornographic list of bottles opened“:

  • Der Weisse Bock: by Mahr’s. Is this the greatest smelling beer of all time? Black cherry so thick it verges on licorice. All over a mat of pumpernickel. In the mouth, it is bright and sweet with the aroma flavours enhanced by a citric acidic zip as well as a decent level of grain texture. At 8.5%, heavy but not hot. The goat on the label is actually licking the foaming head off the glass. I would too if I had enough of these. So nice I don’t even feel shelted. Great BAer respect.
  • Moosbacher Kellerbier: By Private Landbrauerei Scheuerer. Appled barley candy, a little smokiness in the bitter. Not unlike low carbonation Scots ale like Caledonian 80/ but with a little zag of steel to the hops. Six months past the best before date. Bought at the Galeville Grocery some time ago for $3.69 a 5.2% half litre swing top. I am a big fan of the style this being my fourth. Solid BAer respect.
  • Bavarian Dunkler Weizenbock: by Brauere Michael Plank: Fabulous looking lively carbonated chestnut ale with a well hidden 7.5%. Very light on the usual weizen banana and clove but plenty of flavour date and thompson raisin under wheat grain and grass that adds up to a sort of black cherry effect when you look at it that way. Fresh and moreish even at this strength. Far less spicy than its style mate Adventus. BAers take this one another notch higher.
  • Schwelmer Alt: by Brauerei Schwelm. I got this for 1.90 USD somewhere. It pours a lovely bright chestnut under mocha froth and foam. On the nose, as big and malty rich as concentrated as opening a can of malt extract. Lighter in body that the nose would leave you expecting. A slight smoke note, a little metallic tinge, fresh water and tastes of dry fruit and apple butter. Massively moreish. Oodles of BAer respect.
  • Jubelfestbier: by Mahr’s. How many ways can I say deep chestnut ale with a mocha rim and foam. Another soft water malty gem. Scents of earthy dark dry fruit and cocoa. In the mouth, again, it is lighter than the smell might have suggested. Nutty brown malts, a nod to steel hops sitting very much below the profile. Chalky cream yeast. Again moreish. Extremely moreish. Just 4.9%. You could drink buckets of this beer. Huge BAer respect.

I had no idea. Easy drinking yet complex yet comforting beers. These are the sorts of beers you imagine good English milds and browns would turn out to be but those are really are lighter, more guzzlable. These beers are slower, reminding me of the Scots malty beers I got to try on the old tartaned family trips – though different again. Why aren’t these sorts of beers being made in North America? And if they are… where can I find them?