Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early Bocks and the Decline of Oshkosh Civilization

A couple weeks ago I made mention here that Hinterland’s Maple Bock had arrived in Oshkosh. It’s an excellent beer, but I failed to note that it is also a sign of the impending cultural apocalypse. Bocks, after all, are supposed to be Spring seasonal beers, but nobody seems to care about such things anymore. Why just the other day, I was sniffing around the beer isles and was accosted by two more insolent bock brews that successfully enlisted me in their degenerate plot to undermine the decorum of our once polite society.

All right, so that’s my obligatory, nonsensical rant. If you’re going to type up stuff about beer, you’ve gotta do that kind of thing from time to time. And bitching about bocks coming to market too early is an Oshkosh tradition, so I thought I ought to do my part to keep it alive. The oldest Oshkosh rant I’ve seen about the too-early bocks comes from an 1885 Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. They were complaining about it in May! It’s right next to a little article announcing that Krao the “missing link” would soon be on exhibit in our happy city. Enough, let’s get to the beer.

And Bock beer it is. Over at Festival Foods in Oshkosh the two recent bock arrivals that will pair well with your saliva are Capital’s Maibock and New Glarus’ Cabin Fever Honey Bock. They’re both excellent brews that’ll improve your weekend if you spend some time pressing them to your face.

The Maibock from Capital is a beautifully aromatic beer that reminds me of waking up to the smell of fresh bread. It’s a little towards the caramel-sweet side, just like a good bock should be, with a medium body that’s perfectly balanced by an earthy snort of noble hops that comes through in the finish.

The New Glarus Honey Bock is more in keeping with the sort of bocks that used to be brewed in Oshkosh in the mid-50s. It’s a pale-gold, malt-forward brew that’s ridiculously easy to drink. There’s nothing overt in the flavor profile, just a pleasing blend of warm, dry malt with a bit of sweetness and a sneaky bitterness that you’ll have to hunt to find.

Another bock that’s a good one to belly-up to is the Andygator from Abita Brewing that Dublin’s currently has on tap. This is another easy drinker that hides its 8% ABV maybe a little too well. It’s a smooth, fairly rich brew with an herbal hop ending that cleans the malt up, making for a surprisingly refreshing bock. You might want to keep an eye on Dublin’s in the coming weeks. They have some exciting beers on deck including New Belgium’s Vrienden, a funkified sour beer fermented with brettanomyces and lactobacillus. Should be interesting.

One last thing and completely unrelated to bock beer: Last night I was at O’Marro’s and watched as a good part of their tap line-up suddenly converted into beers that weren’t there when I walked in. Check out the updated Tap List and if you drop-in get at least one pint of the Honker’s Ale. It’s a classic ESB from Goose Island and the keg they’ve got on at O’Marro’s tastes fantastic. We should have more about O’Marro’s next week as Shawn is going to start bringing a round of beers that haven’t poured in Oshkosh before (if you like Belgians, you’re gonna love it). It’ll be posted here when it happens. Happy weekend!

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