February 23rd, 2010

The First Sip: A Bock’s Ballad

In a new Loop Scoop feature, Brian Royo, the brewer out at No Label Brewing Company is going to select a beer style and then pick a few craft or micro brews that he’s been sampling, and discuss why he likes it. For the beer connoisseurs, it’ll be a great chance to hear a local brewer’s thoughts on what makes these beers great. He might even turn you on to a new beer to try. For the novices and aspiring beer knurds, he’ll walk you through what you should be looking for in a good beer and offer some suggestions on quality suds for you palette. Without further ado, I give you Brian’s first go at his First Sip.

I would like to thank The Loop Scoop for letting me write this article. Hopefully you will learn something about the different styles of beers and maybe try something different the next time you go to the bar or store. As a microbrewer, our goal is to educate people that beer is more than just Miller, Coors or Budweiser. There is nothing wrong with those mass consumed beers and I’ve been known to enjoy one if there is nothing else to drink, but there is another world full of great beers that many people just don’t know about.

As I talk about these beers and give my thoughts on them. I will try to detailed, yet to the point. The plan is to pick beers that you typically won’t find in your average bar but may find in a specialty bar or specialty liquor store.

According to the great state of Texas, Ales and Lagers are not Beers. The reason has to deal with the alcohol content of beer compared to ales and lagers. We will get into that some other time, but for the purpose of this article, the term “beer” will be used interchangeably with “Ales” and “Lagers.”

In tasting a beer, the rule of thumb is plain and simple: Do you like it? It isn’t necessary to know all the different malts, hops, yeasts or deconstruct it’s ingredients. You don’t need to know the IBU’s, specific gravity or if it has fruity esters or diacetyl. Do you like it? That’s all that matters. Later, if you want to learn more about the beers that you enjoy, you can venture into the technical aspects.

The outline that I will be using for this article is as follows: I will pick a style of beer; give a brief history of that style; pick two or three local, national, or international beers and give my opinion on those beers. After that, I’ll let you know the style we’ll be using for the next article. So, here we go.

Since Spring is just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to begin this article with Bock beers. Bocks originated in the town of Einbeck, Germany. The name is believed to have come from the town’s name, and over the years Einbeck somehow transformed into Bock. How that happened, I’m not sure. Maybe in the same way that Puff Daddy is now Diddy or Sean Combs… I don’t know. Bocks were traditionally brewed at the end of the winter season and marked the beginning of Spring. They were typically brewed at higher alcohol contents in order to last through the warm summer months. The German word bock translates to billy goat in English, which is why you will see many Bock beers with a pictures of billy goats on them.

Bocks are Lagers (bottom fermenting yeast). Generally, there are 4 variations of the Bock beer; Maibock/Helles Bock (pale bock), Traditional Bock ( like Shiner), Doppel Bock, and Eisbock. All Bocks will have significant malt flavor and little to no hop flavor. The color can range from light amber to a dark brown. Alcohol flavor will be present to significant. We will look at three different Bocks: Rahr & Sons Buckin Bock and Spaten Bock from Germany and finally, Houston’s own Spring Bock by Saint Arnold’s. I haven’t included Shiner Bock because…well, it’s Shiner, and most everyone has had a Shiner.

This weekend, my wife and I traveled to Dallas, TX. While there, we decided to have a few beers at the Ginger Man in Plano, TX. When I travel out of town, I always ask for the local brew. This time, the local brew happened to be Rahr & Sons Brewing Company (Fort Worth, TX) and they had just tapped their first Bucking Bock keg the night before. The bartender promptly poured me a Bucking Bock and I proceeded to enjoy my first Rahr & Sons beer.

Bucking Bock is a Maibock/Helles Bock. The aroma was slightly malty and sweet, with a slight hoppiness. The color was a very nice light amber. As I took the first sip, I found it sweet, malty and refreshing and the body of the beer (mouth feel) was light to medium. There was a little bite in the after taste, probably some spicy hops, but it wasn’t enough to really bother me. The first sip left me wanting more…in which I graciously drank more. I did find this beer to be a little sweet. I probably couldn’t drink more than a 2-3 before I change to another beer. Overall impression of the beer: very good. I would definitely order another the next time I see it. I have not seen this beer in Houston, so if any Loopsters find it, let me know.

While at the Ginger Man, I asked what other Bock beers they had on tap. Spaten Bock and Shiner Bock were my choices. I have had Shiner a thousand times, so I decided to try the Spaten. At first glance, the Spaten didn’t have the typical appearance of a Bock, but I was curious to taste it none the less. As I mentioned, Bocks are usually associated with an appearance that ranges from amber to dark brown. Spaten Bock (from Germany) is a Maibock/Helles Bock with a more golden color. The aroma was sweet and slightly hoppy, something that I would associate more with a pilsner. The first sip was sweet, malty (pilsner malts), buttery and nutty with some spicy hops. A definite European flavor. The body of the beer seemed medium to full. The more I drank, the more I noticed hints of apple cider. This beer stayed in my glass for a while. My overall impression was that this beer was good for a European beer. I prefer my Bocks to not have the European flavor. I would order it again, but not if I was in the mood for a Bock.

I really wanted to compare Bucking Bock against Saint Arnold’s Spring Bock but surprisingly, the Ginger Man did not have Spring Bock on tap or in a bottle. What a shame! I had to wait until I was back in Houston to review this one. Here it is… Monday night, my wife is watching the Bachelor, there wouldn’t be a more perfect time to taste my first sip of Saint Arnold’s newest release.

What first caught my attention after I poured my first glass was the clarity. Saint Arnolds Spring Bock was a fantastically clear amber color, very pleasing. The aroma was what you’d expect from an American malt with toasty and caramel tones, but it also presented noticeable hops. The first sip had the sweet maltiness of the other two, but it also had more of a bite. Though it had more hops than the other beers I tried, it was still very refreshing. The Spring Bock had a medium body with a definite alcohol finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this Bock; it was well balanced between the malt, sweetness and bitterness. Dallas is missing out not having this on tap.

Hopefully, the next time you are in a bar, you will try one of these beers. For the next article, we’ll be talking about Pale Ales. Send us your favorite pale ale and a reason it should be included in the next edition of The First Sip. The best submissions get a pass to the Cougar Cooker’s Tent at the Rodeo Cook-off. Till next time, cheers and don’t forget to support your local brewery!

- Brian Royo
No Label Brewing Co.

— Brian Royo


Eric S — Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:01 pm

‘Digg’ this article for sure. My mouth started watering as I was reading about the St. Arnolds Spring Bock. I can’t wait to try one.

Wes — Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:01 pm

Well one of my favorite pale ale’s or IPS is Avery Dugana, but if you want to stay local the Souther Star Pine Belt Pale Ale is really good!

Jeff Rocheleau — Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:13 pm

Actually, Shiner Bock isn’t a bock… It’s a dark lager. It was originally called “bock” because Texas beer laws mandated that it had to be because it was a dark beer, and not a yellow lager. The laws are a little more lax now, but the name remains for marketing and branding purposes. Shiner 100 is a much more accurate example of a traditional bock.

Spring Bock has always been one of my favorites.

Jeff Rocheleau — Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:15 pm

Oh, and my hands down favorite American Pale Ale is BJ’s Brewhouse Pirhanna Pale Ale.

Richard — Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:25 pm

I’ve always been a fan of Samuel Smith’s Pale Ale. No, that’s not local, but I don’t know any local brewers that make IPA’s. Looking forward to next week’s article where I can learn about some.

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