Beer Review: Cricket Hill Brewery’s Barrel-Aged Dopplebock

Name: Barrel Aged Doppelbock
Brewing Company: Cricket Hill Brewing Company
Location: Cricket Hill Brewery
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 8.5%

“This beer proves that one of the veterans of the NJ Craft Beer scene continues to craft superb beer.”

CricketHill_BBADopplebock

From the untappd entry for the beer:

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.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Gordon Biersch’s WinterBock

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.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 11)

Once you’ve had just one, there’s no doubt you’ll be saying “I’ll be bock” for another.

 

Styles in Focus: Bock Beers

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?

Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

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.

Bock (List Bocks on Beer Advocate)

Image courtesy of Shiner

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

Maibock / Helles Bock (List of Maibocks / Helles Bocks on Beer Advocate)

From my most recent untappd check in of Dead Guy

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%.

Dopplebock (List of Dopplebocks on Beer Advocate)

Image courtesy of Ayinger

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.

Weizenbock (List of Weizenbocks on Beer Advocate)

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.”

It would probably be expected that German brewers excel in this style. The aforementioned Weihenstephaner brews a great one in Vitus (pictured above, borrowed from their website is probably my favorite) and Schneider Weisse (who brew mostly wheat beers) have a few excellent Weizenbocks in their portfolio, including Mein Aventinus (TAP 6), Marie’s Rendezvous (TAP X), and a collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery called Meine Hopfenweisse. Of the US breweries, Victory’s Moonglow Weizenbock is one of my annual fall favorites and Neshaminy Creek’s Neshaminator is also quite good.

Eisbock (List of Eisbocks on Beer Advocate)

From my untappd check-in, September 2015

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.

Image courtesy of Founders

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.

Beer Review: Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock

Name: Troegenator Double Bock
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: Dopplebock
ABV: 8.2%

From the beer’s description on Tröeg’s Web site:

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.

Previous, iconic label of the beer.

Fortunately, for long-time fans of the beer and brewery, the horned head of the original Troegenator logo is still on the beer.

New Logo, which still sports the horned character, who I assume is god Pan

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.