This beer celebrates the centuries old recipes of German bock beers. It has a very rich, malty flavor with aromas of toffee, dates and raisins. It’s deep amber / mahogany color is like eye-candy, and the hints of oak and vanilla from the 4-plus months of barrel aging is an added bonus. 28 IBU’s and 8.5% ABV.
Cricket Hill Brewing Company is one of the most tenured of NJ Craft Breweries, having opened their doors back in 2001 in Fairfield, NJ. They’ve got a nice sizeable taproom, their beer has been in shops throughout portions of North and Central New Jersey, at least in my area, for most of that time. I visited the brewery recently and when I realized they had not just a doppelbock (an underappreciated style), but a barrel-aged version, I knew what I was getting.
From the draught pour, the beer looks a little murkier than I’d expect a doppelbock to be, but that is likely from the barrel aging. The aroma is wonderful, the bourbon is potent, but not overpowering. It isn’t the only element I smell, which is nice. I’ve had my fair share of poorly crafted barrel-aged beers where the only smell was heavy bourbon.
The first sip test: smoothness and sweetness are what initially strike me. Dopplebocks tend to have a toffee element to their flavory profile and I get that in spades from this beer. Not sure I get raisins, but maybe dates as well? The barrel character rounds out the beer very well.
The finish of the beer is great. Again, some poorly crafted dopplebocks can have a sharp, unpleasant character to the finish. Not with this fine lager from Cricket Hill Brewing. The finish is pleasant and clean, making me want to go back immediately for another sip and taste. What I also appreciated about this beer was the ABV. Often barrel-aging a beer will leapfrog the alcohol level into the 10% range. Here, keeping the beer under 10% makes for a balanced beer that won’t knock off your barstool after one serving.
At 20 years in the NJ Craft Beer scene, this Barrel-Aged Dopplebock is proof that Cricket Hill is still offering some finely, elegantly crafted beers. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this beer based on a handful of other beers I’ve had from Cricket Hill Brewery, but I didn’t expect the beer to be quite this stellar.
This beer seems to be an annual offering from Cricket Hill and it is a beer worth seeking out.
Name: WinterBock Brewing Company: Gordon Biersch Brewing Company Location: (National Brewpub Chain), Beer consumed at Gordon Biersch New Orleans Style: Bock – Dopplebock ABV: 7.5%
“The well-established brewery/brewpub chain has crafted an immensely flavorful and pleasing doppelbock, a classic German style interpreted deliciously.”
Gordon Biersch says this about Winter Bock:
Our winter seasonal is a traditional doppelbock. A mohagony hued, full bodied lager with warming rich caramel and toffee maltiness.
Gordon Biersch has been brewing beer and selling well-crafted food to patrons for over 30 years. When the independent/craft beer movement was gaining momentum in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “brewpubs” were many people’s first exposure to flavorful, craft beer. Gordon Biersch began in 1988 and I know I’ve been to a couple over the past twenty years. A recent business trip to New Orleans afforded me the opportunity to visit a Gordon Biersch brewpub once again.
I was in New Orleans for a cybersecurity convention and hanging out with an old friend when we stumbled into Gordon Biersch, which I hadn’t realized was even there. A quick look at the beer list and my eyes immediately fell on this beer. I’ve remarked before how much I enjoy bocks, so there was no way I was going to pass on a freshly made doppelbock from a brewery this well-known.
The beer arrived in iconic Germanic dimpled beer mug, with the beer name and brewery emblazoned on the front. #ProperGlassware indeed. A thick light khaki head sat atop the brownish-caramel colored beer. Ultimately, I don’t think I could have imagined a more perfect visual example of a Dopplebock.
I didn’t really let the aroma sit in my nose for too long before taking a drink, so I suppose that indicates the aroma was pleasant and inviting. Delightful. That’s the immediate thought I have after my first taste of this beer. It is extremely smooth, with all the elements of the brewing process playing together seamlessly achieving a gestalt of flavor.
This beer tastes as if an abundance of flavor comes from the malts, which evoke caramel-like flavor along with some hints of toffee, too. What I appreciate even more, and this goes down to how well made the beer is, is the finish of the beer. Some dopplebocks (and bocks in general) can have a slight tang of bitterness or even spice on the end. That is nowhere near Gordon Biersch’s WinterBock. The finish is sweet, not cloyingly so, and very smooth. Again, I have to make the comparison to caramel flavors from the malts. It was a delicious beer that I enjoyed slowly, allowing the flavors to breath as the beer warmed to room temperature.
This was the first of a few beers I had during my long evening at the brewpub and it was the best. In fact, I’d easily rank as one of the better Dopplebocks I’ve had over the years. Of course, beer is an experience and the great food and friendly company may have potentially added to my enjoyment of the beer.
For Gordon Biersch as a whole, as one of the foundational brewpubs in the country, I’d definitely recommend visiting one should be near you or where you’re visiting. This is a beer to seek out (at one of Gordon Biersch’s 17 locations) if you want to get an idea of what a good German inspired doppelbock should taste like.
Name: The Herdsman Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing Location: Hackettstown, NJ Style: Bock – Single / Traditional ABV: 6.7%
“Czig Meister’s (Matt Czigler’s) German brewing skill and knowledge are on full display in this spot on take on the classic German Bock.”
I’ve made it no secret that I enjoy the beers coming out of Czig Meister in Hackettstown, NJ. I also have proclaimed my enjoyment of Bocks beers and desire to see more of the style available, in all their varieties. So, when Czig Meister announced their third anniversary party the first weekend in June (Happy Anniversary!) I was hoping they’d still have this traditional German beer still available because I knew I was going to attend. I was planning on featuring one of their beers this week as a nod to their anniversary and I’ve been wanting to feature a bock for a while. Obviously they did or else I wouldn’t be writing about it and those two things came together.
The Anniversary party was in full swing when I arrived, with Czig’s large outdoor Biergaten relatively packed and the line to get beer both inside and outside weren’t short, but they were moving. The atmosphere, on the whole, was super friendly and the weather was perfect. The party was a great showcase for what a great community the NJ Craft Brewing community is, I was chatting with a couple of folks from Twin Elephant and saw folks from Fort Nonsense. Granted, those two breweries are relatively close and Czig Meister is one of the largest in Northern New Jersey. But on to the beer…
The beer poured into the glass a brownish amber and looked just like I’d expect a Bock to look. I’d say it is a little darker than the traditional German Amber Lager (i.e. the Columbia Street Lager from Karl Strauss I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) and slightly less carbonated. I smell malt, sweetness, and maybe a little nuttiness. I like how this is shaping up for me.
The sweet malt presence is the first thing about the flavor I noticed. The traditional caramel-like flavor is very present, too, and it doesn’t go away. That is most definitely a feature for me for this beer. Some bocks have an aftertaste that is too bitter or too earthy for my tastes. That aftertaste is nowhere to be found with this beer. The caramel sweet-smooth flavor follows through to the end and picks up some nuttiness, giving the finish a nice rounded and appealing overall profile.
I had four total beers during my stay at the anniversary party, chatting with old friends and new alike. All four beers I had (three were 4oz tasters) were very good, but the delicious, sweet caramel aspect of the Herdsman lingered on my palate for quite a while after having the beer. Later in the evening when I was on my couch, I still caught hints of the caramel somewhere in my sense of taste. Again, this is a good thing.
A note on the label/can art. Czig Meister has developed a pretty consistent branding across all of their canned beers that makes their beer very identifiable, from a brand perspective, on the shelf. For The Herdsman, they went simple and to the point, featuring the iconic image of goat which has long been associated with Bock beer..
Czig Meister has a very solid reputation in the New Jersey brewing scene. Much of that reputation has been built on the vast number IPAs they brew, many which are part of their “Deep Sea Series.” The Herdsman is one of the rare Lagers they’ve brewed and have made available in cans. Sure they’ve done a pilsner and a few other lagers such as a special Dopplebock, but a “single” or traditional Bock shows the knowledge, skill, and confidence Matt and his crew have in their brewing abilities. As precise as a Pilsner can be, a Bock is just as complex a style to brew successfully and to keep dialed in with the appropriate flavor profile. That confidence is well-founded with this on-point interpretation of a Traditional Bock. I hope this beer continues to be part of Czig Meister’s portfolio.
One last Happy Anniversary to Czig Meister, a brewery that produces delicious beer and has some good people making that beer.
De Kleine Dood (formerly known as La Petite Mort) is a Belgian inspired Weizenbock brewed as a collaboration between Central Waters and The Local Option in Chicago, IL. This beer maintains the traditional characteristics of its Bavarian fore bearer, with the added complexity of Belgian ale yeast. La Petite Mort is dark amber in color; maintains a rich, full-bodied mouth-feel augmented by caramel; mild and dark fruit.
My feature on Bocks back in April should be an indicator that I enjoy the various styles of Bocks, with Weizenbock maybe my favorite of the Bocks. So when I stumbled across a Weizenbock I hadn’t tried, let alone knew about from a brewery that seems to have a solid reputation, I knew I had to give it a try.
Of the styles of Bock, the Weizenbock or Doppelbocks have the highest ABV (in the 7%-9% range) so imagine how big the beer would be if it aged in bourbon barrels. Well, Central Waters Brewing who has a solid Barrel Aging series as part of their brewing portfolio apparently were also curious how that would work. The result, in collaboration with Local Option Bierwerker out of Chicago, is this potent, rich, complex beer.
The beer pours a beautiful deep crimson/scarlet, a red bordering on brown. The photo doesn’t do the color of the beer justice. On color alone, this is one of the loveliest brews I’ve poured. The bourbon is extremely strong in the aroma, it really dominates although there is a slight hint of earthy/stone fruit in the undercurrent of the beer.
First sip…yep, that bourbon is omnipresent. Underneath it, the figgy/date/plum flavors evoked by the yeast are there, too. My first impression is that this is a long sipping dessert beer, but the flavors are muted a bit by the cold temperature. So, I just kept breathing in the beer every few minutes before each small sip so the beer could warm closer to room temperature.
Once it warms up, like most high ABV beers, especially those aged in barrels that previously held some kind of alcohol, the flavors can breathe. The beer comes into its full flavor profile and those stone fruit evocations from the yeast rise to the top. I managed to take about two hours to drink the full 22 oz, over that time, the bourbon settled down and the fruitiness evoked by the yeast became more prominent, even if the bourbon still dominated. I didn’t get much of the banana flavors that typically come from a weizenbock, but that wasn’t really a problem. At 12.2% even taking two hours to drink the beer still had a noticeable effect on me – about the only sensible thing to do after enjoying 22oz of a 12.2% beer is go to sleep.
The beer’s description does confuse me a little, I’ll be honest. A Weizenbock is one of the more Germanic styles of beer, yet the description says “Belgian inspired Weizenbock.” I suppose sine the fruit evocation is more of the stone fruit than a banana like flavor from true German brews the description does make sense. Either way, this is a really tasty beer and I would love to sample the base beer before it is aged in the bourbon barrel.
Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
Bock, it sounds cool. Also, “Bock” rhymes with the Rock and he’s cool. However, not many people gravitate to the style, in today’s IPA-centric beer world. Could it be the goat? You’ll often see a goat on the bottle, label, or associated with some bocks. The goat is associated with the style because the brewers who came up with the style in Einbeck, Bavaria had a thick accent. As such, citizens of Munich pronounced “Einbeck” as “ein Bock” (“a billy goat”), and thus the beer became known as “bock”. To this day, as a visual pun, a goat often appears on bock labels. (Wikipedia) But what *is* a bock beer?
The simple answer is: A lager, but more so. Like stouts or IPAs, styles of Ales which themselves have several varieties, a Bock is a style of Lager which has several varieties (general from lowest in alcohol to highest in alcohol): Bock, Helles Bock/Maibock, Dopplebock, Weizenbock, and Eisbock. I’ll give a little highlight/overview of each variation and some example beers, including some I’ve had as well as some I hope to have some day.
Bocks are a lagered style of beer that are heavier on malt than a standard Lager. A straightforward Bock will generally be sweeter than the standard lager, too. That malt and sweet profile often present in a caramel-like flavor that can also evoke nutty flavors. Perhaps the most widely known straight-up Bock is Shiner Bock the flagship lager from Spoetzl Brewery, one of the largest Texas breweries [distributed to 49 states] and the Lone Star State’s oldest. I’ve had it a few times and thought it was OK. Of the beers considered a standard Bock the one I’ve enjoyed the most is Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, which for me is always a highlight beer in their Winter/Holiday pack. The sweetness level is increased by aging the beer on cocoa nibs to produce a sweet, tasty beer that makes for a nice dessert beer. They also brewed a Cherry Chocolate Bock in the past, which I hope returns. Typical ABV for Bocks is in the 5% range
From the beers I’ve enjoyed, I don’t notice too much of a difference between a Bock and a Helles/Maibock, except for an increase in maltiness. Traditionally, a Maibock is a spring lager, but usually what differentiates the Helles or Maibock from the Bock is a slightly stronger hop presence. I called out the classic German Hofbräu Maibock in my Spring beer post, but perhaps the most widely know Maibock/Helles Bock from an American brewer is the iconic Dead Guy from Rogue Ales. Abita, Louisiana’s biggest craft brewery, celebrates Mardi Gras by producing Mardi Gras Bock every year. Summit Brewing, one of the larger breweries in Minnesota, produces a MaiBock, too. With a slightly stronger hop presence, the ABV can be a little higher. For example, Rogue’s Dead Guy ABV clocks in at 6.8%.
As the sound of the name may lead you to believe, a dopplebock is an amped up, or doubled, version of a standard Bock. Even maltier and sweeter than a Bock, the beer evokes more of a bready taste and flavor with the ABV up to 12% range. Of the varieties of Bocks being brewed, Dopplebocks seem to be the most prevalent/popular.
Some of the darker Dopplebocks may have hints of fruit or chocolate in the flavor profile or even use chocolate and/or fruit in the brewing process. Like the traditional association of goats with bocks, there is a tradition of adding the suffix “-ator” to Dopplebocks. This is because one of the first Dopplebocks was called “Salvator” (or Savior) and most breweries who brew a Dopplebock as part of their brewing portfolio use “-ator” in the name. One of the best in the world is Ayinger’s Celebrator, which I had once and need to have again. Unsurprisingly, Wehenstephaner’s Korbinian is an outstanding example of the style and New Jersey’s own Ramstein Winter Wheat is one of the most coveted American interpretations of the style (and probably one of the 10 best beers I ever had). I reviewed one of the more widely available (at least along the East Coast of America) Dopplebocks, Troegantor Doublebock.
Perhaps my favorite of the bock styles is the weizenbock, or as translated, “wheat bock.” The description, as untappd suggests, can be considered a “bigger and beefier version of a dunkelweizen.” When crafted well, a Weizenbock can evoke the best of two beers – the malt and stone fruits evoked by Dopplebocks coupled with the clove and banana evocations of a Dunkelweizen or Hefeweizen. Some say (actually, All About Beer, specifically) that a Weizenbock is a “perfect marriage of styles.”
Lastly, we have the mistake beer, if beer lore and legend are to be believed and perhaps the rarest style of beer. According to the legend, a young brewery worker fell asleep during a brew and part of the water froze leaving a much stronger Bock than the young brewer or his boss could ever imagine. The resulting Eisbock is one of the richest, most sumptuous beers brewed.
The “Eis” in the name is from partially freezing a dopple and extracting the H2O ice, which allows the alcohol to have a much more noticeable presence and a deeper brownish/reddish hue and an overall thicker beer. You could also say a Belgian Quadrupel is similar to an Eisbock, in some ways. Like a Quadrupel, an Eisbock possesses a much stronger stone fruit/plum and sugary taste. Some may potentially find it cloying if they aren’t expecting it, but the sole Eisbock I had from the great aforementioned Schneider Weisse, Aventinus, is also one of the 10 or so best beers I ever had. Ramstein brews one (as recently as January 2018 at 16.5%), they call Eis Storm Eisbock while Tank Bender is the occasional Eisbock (aged in bourbon barrels!) produced by Founders which I would absolutely love to try, but I think the most recent brewing of it was a brewery-only release. Another well regarded Eisbock from Germany is Kulmbacher Eisbock which I want yesterday. The style is also supposedly illegal in some ways…
freezing a beer and removing more than 0.5% of its volume is illegal without a license. There’s an email exchange between someone at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and a brewer, posted in a Reddit r/homebrewing discussion that makes this pretty clear.
So, making Eisbock by removing more than 0.5% water volume is basically illegal. But, it is also openly brewed by several craft breweries, and it seems the TTB knows about this craft beer level production, but has chosen not to act on said knowledge.
So there you have it, 5 varieties of one style – the Bock Beer. More popular (I assume) in Europe, especially Germany and its neighbors, but a style with a wealth of flavor profiles that illustrates how much can be done even with a less popular (not-quite-obscure) brewing style.
Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
Spring doesn’t exactly align with beer in the same way that Fall/Oktoberfest does, but there are two styles that signify spring in the beer world: Maibock (lager) and Saison/Farmhouse Ale. Spring officially began about a week or so ago, but with Easter this coming Sunday, I figured now would be a good time to assemble a Six Pack of Spring Beers. Seeing how this is one of my Six Pack posts, I’ll feature three beers of each style. I’ve only had half of the beers from today’s post so for the other three beers, I’m highlighting beers based on a combination of reputation and what appeals to me.
I’ll start with Saisons, one of the classic Belgian ales. I’ve only had a limited amount of saisons and that includes samples at breweries or beer festivals, so I am far from an expert on the style. However, one of my summer go-to beers is Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale. Basically, I’d like to sample more of this traditional style which was made for farmworkers to enjoy as a refreshment during their days toiling out in the farmlands. Only one of the three I’m listing have I had more than once (and I really enjoyed it), so I’ll start there.
How could I not include this beer from Two Roads? Especially considering head-brewer/owner Phil Markowski (as I may have mentioned in the past) literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales – Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. I’ve had this offering from Two Roads a few times and it is always a dependable Ale. Workers Comp is a year-round beer and should be available through Two Roads’ (growing) distribution footprint but it is especially timely right now. At 4.8% ABV this beer is a sessionable ale, which is what a Farmhouse Ale/Saison should be considering the roots of the style.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Belgian Saison considering the style was invented in Belgium. If I’m going to go with a Belgain Farmhouse Ale, then I have to include Saison Dupont, from Brasserie Dupont. This is essentially the Farmhouse Ale that started it all and touted in a few places as the best beer in the world. I think this one is available in both 750ml bottles and 4-packs.
I haven’t had this one yet, but with how much I’ve been enjoying not just Belgian-style ales, but beers from Belgium lately, I may have to try it this spring.
Trying to whittle down the enumerable saisons available in the market down to one last interpretation of the beer is a difficult task, to be sure. There are two breweries in the Northeast whose brewing portfolio is in a distinctly Belgian tradition, so I’ll go with one of those, specifically Allagash. I’ve had a couple beers from the Maine brewery so I’d really like to try this most Belgian of beers.
Allagash describes the beer quite nicely: Citrus and peppery spice are balanced by a pleasant malt character. Saison is full bodied with a rustic, dry finish. Made for enjoying, no matter which type of work you’re returning from. That description makes me want to grab a bottle right now.
Like Two Roads’ Saison, this beer is available year-round and with Allagash’s relatively large distribution footprint, this ale should be easy to find.
On to the Maibocks…
Bocks, specifically Maibocks, are one of the less common lager styles. I see more dopplebocks and weizenbocks than the lighter, spring variety so selecting three for this post proved more challenging than the saison half of my 2018 Spring Fling 6 pack. Granted, we are still in March as of the date of this post, but I’ve been seeing Maibocks (especially the first one) on shelves already.
Of course I would go with at least one German brewery, right? This is a beer style and brand filled to the mug with tradition: “By tradition, the first barrel of Maibock is tapped at the Hofbräuhaus in the last week of April, in time for the merry month of May. The success story of Munich’s oldest bock beer goes back as far as 1614.”
I had a six pack of this last spring and enjoyed it. There’s a really nice malty, caramel feel to the beer overlaying the crispness of the lager. This beer is a prime example of German brewing tradition.
Dead ‘N’ Dead is whiskey barrel-aged version of Rogue’s year-round flagship beer, Dead Guy Ale. I really like Dead Guy and if it is on a beer menu, I’ll usually order it to get the night going. I like most barrel-aged beers so if you take a beer I already like and throw it in a whiskey barrel for a while, chances are high that I’ll really like it.
I’ve seen this one in stores and shelves but haven’t yet tried it. Like many of Rogue’s special brews, this beer is available in 22oz bombers so I imagine you’d want to take your time with this beer given the potential complex tastes and the 8.2% ABV.
It has been quite a while since I had a bottle of this beer because unfortunately, I think it might be a brewery-only release now. Once part of Tröeg’s Hop Cycle, it was replaced last year in that cycle by First Cut. Cultivator, however, was a very good example of the style. Malty and bready, it was quite a bit like Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock.
This was a solid offering from the always dependable brewers at Tröegs so I’d love to see it again, maybe in one of their seasonal variety packs.
Six beers worth trying this spring if you can find them. What are some saisons, maibocks, or other spring seasonal beers that are worth checking out?
Monks had fasting figured out. No food? No problem. Just drink a Double Bock. Thick and chewy with intense notes of caramel, chocolate and dried stone fruit, ‘Nator (as we call him) serves as a tribute to this liquid bread style.
Tröegs is a foundational Independent American Craft brewer, not just in the Northeast (Pennsylvania specifically), but very likely in the United States. The Trogner brothers founded the brewery in 1996 and have been crafting delicious beers over the last twenty years. One of the highlights of their line-up is their famous Troegenator, a double-bock brewed in the Germanic tradition of malty, sweet beers. The naming convention also follows German tradition, which includes the suffix of –nator to denote a dopplebock (or double bock).
Bock is in the family of lagers, and therefore involves a longer brewing process compared to Ales, which may be one reason few breweries included bocks of any kind in their regular rotation of brews. The Troegenator has been part of Tröegs line up nearly since the brewery’s inception and has proven to be one of their most respected offerings, winning medals at beer festivals, garnering fans, and helping to put Tröegs on the Craft Beer map. Why is that?
Let’s start with opening the beer… When the beer pours from the 12 oz bottle into my fluted glass, the deep amber or brown color is the most noticeable element. Finishing off the pour leaves a thin foamy head that presents a very inviting beer. Aromas of caramel waft from the glass across to the palate.
The first sip for me this time ‘round (I’ve had this one a few times, my Dad tends to keep at least one six pack of Tröegs in his fridge and this is usually the one) was maltiness and sweetness. That’s exactly what a Dopplebock should deliver. The beer is relatively thick, the malt and sweet give rise to a caramel taste. Again, essential flavor components one should expect with a dopplebock. What gives this one a little more complexity are the spices that follow, giving the beer a more robust flavor profile than the standard Dopplebock. There may be some hints of chocolate in the beer, but that sweetness was given further complexity with a fruitiness as well.
The heaviness of the beer, complex sweetness and thick maltiness make this a beer you might want after dinner. I suspect it would also pair nicely with a rich hearty meat, too. Like many beers with higher ABV, Troegenator’s flavors release even more potently as the beer warms from fridge temperature to room temperature. I finished the beer off on a late August evening with cool air blowing in through the windows, which seemed perfect. This is a beer you’d probably enjoy more when the weather is slightly cooler, like late summer, early fall, or early spring. But, this really is an anytime beer because it is so damned good.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy a Troegantor, this is a must-try beer of the American Craft Beer landscape. If you have tried it, then chances are you’ve had it more than once.
Tröegs brews a barrel-aged variety of this Big Beer which I need to find and enjoy. I’m not sure how limited a release the beer is or if it is a brewery-only release, but somehow, some way I will be getting my hands on a bottle of it.
Lastly, Tröegs recently (2015, just ahead of their 20th Anniversary) revamped their label designs to go for more of a hand-drawn arty style, created by a local artist, rather than labels with a thicker line art.
Fortunately, for long-time fans of the beer and brewery, the horned head of the original Troegenator logo is still on the beer.