Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Bocks of Oshkosh

Fifty-Five years and six days ago the Oshkosh Northwestern ran a long, thirst-making article about the return of Bock beer being a sure sign that spring was near in Oshkosh. It’s doubtful the author’s enthusiasm  for strong beer would be welcome in the Northwestern these days and that’s too bad. But you can’t keep a good beer down! It’s starting to feel like spring and the Bocks are back so let’s see what’s pouring.

Blonde Doppelbock from Capital Brewery
On tap at Becket’s
Capital makes a couple of the best Bocks in the country right now. This one is my favorite. The beer pours so clear and golden that its appearance belies the deep malt flavor within. It’s a little sweet and slightly sticky, but with just enough lingering hop bitterness to keep it from becoming cloying. At almost 8% alcohol, this is a dangerously drinkable beer.

Autumnal Fire Doppelbock from Capital Brewery
On tap at Barley & Hops
This one has almost nothing in common with the Bocks that used to be made in Oshkosh, but it’s a brew not to be missed. Saying this brew is complex doesn’t begin to do it justice. It pours a hazy, copper and each sip seems to deliver a different spray of flavors. Apples, pears, cherries, figs, cinnamon... it just keeps coming at you. All of it wrapped in a caramel malt sweetness. Perfect for dessert. A session ending beer, if there ever was one.

Optimator Doppelbock
On tap at Oblio’s
Bock beer is sometimes described as bread in a bottle. A couple swigs of this one will make clear how they arrived at that characterization. A classic representation of the style, this is a full-bodied, chewy, brown lager. Sweet, rich and intensely malty with plenty of well-hidden alcohol warmth. I always seem to think of butterscotch when I have this. I can’t drink two of them, but that first one makes you so happy you don’t really need to.

1888 Bock
On tap at Barley & Hops and Peabody's Ale House
Here’s Leinenkugels’ homage to the Bocks all those German immigrants to Wisconsin loved to brew and schwill back in the day. I’m generally not a fan of Leinenkugels, but this one is pretty damned good. Amber in color, it has a nice, if slightly light, malt quality that finishes very clean. If you like malt, but don’t want all that breadiness that comes with bigger Bocks, this would be the beer to go to. And if you want to get a feel for the Bocks that People’s and Oshkosh Brewing were making in their heyday, this would be a good place to start.

Big Easy Lager
On tap at Barley & Hops
Here’s a Milwaukee entry in the full-bodied, blonde doppelbock division. The aroma is at first of sweet malt and then turns slightly floral. It’s a little syrupy and a little hot. You can tell this is coming in at over 7%. I’m not a lover of this beer, but I have a friend who swears by it and when I tried it again a couple weeks ago at Barley & Hops I found myself coming around. There’s a faint vanilla flavor in there that’s kind of nice. I’m still not won over, though. Maybe I need to go have another round.

Bocks are brews to keep you warm in Spring as you shed those big winter coats maybe a little sooner than you should. To hell with the coats! Bring on the Bocks!

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