Wednesday, February 25, 2004

How to pick the best of the bock


Sips: Beer

By Ed Westemeier
Enquirer contributor

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Bockfests traditionally celebrate bock beer, a hearty, malty Bavarian-style brew released in late winter. And plenty of bock will be flowing during this weekend's festival in Cincinnati. So to help narrow your choices, here are a few recommendations.

My first choice is always fresh draft beer, so look for bocks on tap. I tested an early sample of the BarrelHouse doppelbock, and it should be a crowd-pleaser.

With traditional bocks, you have a choice of dark or light colors. Unfortunately, traditional bocks have become extremely hard to find in Greater Cincinnati in recent years, as stronger doppelbocks have become more popular. German bock from the Einbecker brewery makes Ur-Bock, a traditional dark bock, and Mai-Ur-Bock, a paler version. I've often had bad luck with the Einbecker green bottles, as they sometimes suffer from light exposure, affecting their flavor. But if you can find it in good condition, this is a fine bock beer. The Wisconsin-brewed Huber Bock is also a good choice.

Bocks generally run $8 to $9 for a six-pack, but I can't give any of these bottled traditional bocks an unqualified recommendation.

Doppelbocks seem to be king here, under the "bigger must be better" rule. Among these, my top choice is the original doppelbock, Paulaner Salvator. Ayinger Celebrator and Samuel Adams Double Bock are nearly as good, and Spaten Optimator is harder to find, but worth searching out.

EKU 28 is an unusual pale doppelbock, and generally excellent, despite its price of $12 per six-pack. Schneider Aventinus is a weizen (wheat malt) doppelbock that really defines that style, for about $3 per pint.

In Kentucky, you might check out Newport's Hofbrauhaus. While the beers will not be available at Bockfest, the brewery has made an interesting doppelbock and terrific weizenbock.

Cincinnati's Bockfest begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Arnold's, 210 E. Eighth St., downtown, with a parade and celebration. The beer festival continues into the evening Friday and Saturday in Over-the-Rhine with tastings, sausage, historical tours and music. Information and schedule: www.barrelhouse.com or 421-2337.

Contact Ed Westemeier by e-mail: hopfen@malz.com.




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