My first review for y'all..
We're doing two bocks tonight. Granted, I'm cheating on this one because the second brew is a wheat Eisbock, but it's close enough. Also, I had a hard enough time finding a bock I hadn't had before, so eat a danish!
First up is the one I haven't had.. Stone Coast's Knuckleball. 5% abv.
I'm drinking it out of the silly Leute Bockbier glass. Aroma is straightforward malt, mostly caramel. No spiciness or complexity. Head is 1/2" or so and dies quickly to a thin film. Taste is a little thin, with fresh malts and a well-balanced finish. This can't be more than 20 or 25IBU, but it's refreshing and very drinkable, if a little bit on the watery side.
Sometimes a simple beer can be a good thing, and stone coast has done some good things in the past. The 840 IPA on draft is above average, and the black bear on cask was phenomenal. Their altbier is supposedly great, too. While this one might be sessionable and possibly better on draft, I'm gonna have to go with a
. Actually, screw that, let's go with a full
just because it's pretty easy to down and well-balanced.
Now onto the one I've had before, Schneider Aventinus Eisbock. 12% abv.
Now, this is the absolute opposite end of the spectrum from a regular bock. First off, it's chilled to the point of partial freezing, when some of the ice is skimmed off. Second, the beer that it is produced from, Schneider Aventinus, is a wheat doppelbock. As I said earlier, simplicity can go both ways in beers. The same is true for complexity. There are some profoundly complex beers that I just can't find the heart to enjoy. Orval is an example. The good thing about complex beers is that there's usually a lot to talk about.
The first thing that grabs your attention about the beer is the smell. It's sweeter smelling than any Quadrupel or Belgian Strong Dark Ale I can think of, with profuse aromas of plums, cherries, raisins and cinnamon. You can smell the alcohol a little bit, but it's actually quite pleasant. It isn't as cloying and obvious as an old ale in the vein of Thomas Hardy's, but you can smell the nuances behind the sugar more intensely. The beer lets the slightest bit of light in, as well. Head is bubbly but recedes in much the same pattern as the Knuckleball, with minimal lacing.
As is true with good Belgians (yes, I know this is neither Belgian nor an ale), the only way a beer can pull off the combo of having this much sugar and this much alcohol is through a good balance. The eisbock mostly succeeds. The front of the tongue is entirely saturated by a sticky sweetness, with maple/brown sugar, grape, cider and port wine flavors dominating. Very rich and sweet up front, which hides the alcohol pretty well, although you will notice it a little bit on the roof of your mouth after you've finished enough.
Unlike a nice dark Belgian, it would be pretty hard to down a 750ml or even a bomber of this concoction. It really needs to be sipped, and the finish, while good, just doesn't perfectly complement what's going on up front. It's impossible. Also, the sweetness will color your palate for a while.
I recommend splitting a glass of this with a friend or two. It scores points for its uniqueness and complexity, but the drinkability (and hangover) factor prevents it from scoring higher. The regular aventinus is a much more drinkable beer. Nevertheless, in small servings this is an amazing beer with a lot to offer.
Next up: Winter/Christmas Ales (Corsendonk Christmas Ale vs Pere Noel from De Ranke) and then Dark Lagers (provided I can find one I haven't had to go up against Sam Adams Black lager).