Category Archives: winter bock

The Very Long Trail Of Beer Adventures

Editor’s note: The never ending search for good tasting beer goes way back. In my case, the quest to find flavorful beer goes all the way back to the second half of the 1970’s (at least legally) when domestic beer was essentially lager brewed with rice and/or corn, which in the case of Schlitz, the disastrous use of anti-foaming agents made Budweiser the king of American beers.
In those days, with the delightful exception of spring American bock, flavorful beer was found in imported beer, although obtaining fresh examples from Europe was dubious at best.

Carlsberg then and now

Carlsberg brewery which often gets pooh-poohed from the beer expert crowd. Is now doing collaborative with Brooklyn Brewery. Long before its recognition as a global futbol brand 1960s-advert-magazine-advertisement-dated-1968-advertising-carlsberg-f0ey8y Carlsberg had a special place in American beer history, with its introduction of beer_712Carlsberg Elephant malt liquor (as it was called, addressing taxation concerns) was an early example of strong beer, although by today’s standard of strength, would be considered somewhat mild. But in those days, most beer was weak and watery. The Elephant, as it was commonly referred to, was in a class by itself. It was a beer my lost friend TA said he would serve to Hunter S. Thompson.

Before It was called fresh hop IPA

sierra_nevada_celebration_ale Sierra Nevada beers were rare anywhere east of the Mississippi river. When Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale first appeared in the Midwest, there was no reference of it being an IPA. It was just an extraordinary tasting ale. This was before hops became marketing drudgery.

Great tasting beer existed before anyone had the idea of saying the word “craft”

augbockThe fabulous recipe from Huber Brewing in Monroe, Wisconsin was a prime example of the Augsburger brand and their commitment to the German bock tradition. Education was sparse, to say the least, concerning beer in those days, with many folks still believing that bock was created by cleaning out the vats. Augsburger countered this misinformation by printing up a bock marker explaining the Einbeck roots of the style, placed inside each six pack.

Imported, no Transported to Another World


I recall my friend Gary, who in those days was strictly a Bud man, preferring the can to the bottle. He had a nice deli sandwich he was about to eat and he poured the weissbier into a ceramic mug. He took a healthy quaff and developed a new found expression on his face. One I had never seen before: a moment of surprised delight. Can one beer experience change your reality? Well all I can say that Gary, the hard working Bud man, 10 years later was ordering for Christmas, a half barrel of August Schell Cherry Bock, their holiday Blizzard/Snow Storm recipe that year.



Sometimes the beer doctor has a problem with BeerSpeak. The term winter warmer for example, has come to be a rather loose description for holiday wassail, although a beer that is warming in winter does not have to (here I go with the beer geek speak) actually be a spice bomb, nor does it have to assume the boozy parameters of extreme beer. A good example of a great winter warmer is Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcomewinterale-copy  which does not rely on spices, but rather a subtle, nuanced body, achieved through a time-honored method where hops are employed to support a judicious blend of malted barley.
The same can be said of Smuttynose Winter Ale150.14Smuttynose-Winter a very tasty malt showcase that proves that a winter warmer can be more about body than booze.
But of course extreme beer has been in vogue the last few year (imperial this, imperial that) so there are numerous examples of what might be called wassails gone wild. A sterling example is Troegs The Mad Elf AleMad Elf Ale Logo an 11% production utilizing cherries and honey. Beers brewed to such strength assure that if you knock back a few of these, your holiday celebration will soon metamorphose into a sleepy silent night.
Strangely, one of the most festive and drinkable wassails, Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig AleSA-Old-Fezz seems to be made these days as only an after thought. Two decades ago, this delicious ale appeared in 25.4 oz bottles.
From there it went to 12 oz size, and then it only appeared as part of their winter variety packs. This year 3 bottles can be found in their winter variety pack, which is a shame, since it is not a novelty beer, but a recipe that deserves to stand alone.

This year, the Bend, Oregon brewer Deschutes has their famous Jubelale Deschutes-Jubelale-Festive-Winter-Ale-2014-e1408134484190-200x200 available throughout Ohio. A non-wassail that presents a very spicy palate through its expert use of malts and hops. And yes it is, in the traditional sense a festive winter ale.

Just what exactly is Holiday Beer? Well that depends on who you are asking. In the German tradition, bock and most importantly dopplebock, were a part of holiday tradition for centuries. This influence appears in Samuel Adams Winter lager, a wheat bock that departs from that tradition by being subtly spiced. For a more traditional winter bock approach, there is Penn Brewing Company’s St. Nicholas Bock BierPenn-St-Nickolaus-Bock-e1352663175303-200x200  a 6.5% masterpiece, or if you want to kick it up another notch in strength, there is the Brewers Reserve version at 9%.
And so I have heard: Xmas time is coming and Santa will soon be here.