Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Bourbon Barrel Bock

New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, WI

Style: Doppelbock

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Summertime, and the drinkin’s easy …

Greetings, fellow sweaty Beer Dorks, Nigel here to provide a wee bit of cool during this wonderful stretch of hot summer weather. As we know by now, Nigel is a warm weather Brit, and I’m loving every minute of this (which is why I’m sitting in the air conditioning right now typing on the computer). Cookouts, golf, swimming, scantily clad hot chicks, and unlimited Prince Fielder home runs—it doesn’t get any better than this in Nigeland! I figured I’d celebrate summer this Friday evening with an appropriate beer, like a powerful Doppelbock. Wait … what? A Doppelbock in mid-June?

Based on the number of reviews on this fine website for New Glarus brews, it’s pretty clear that this Wisconsin brewery ranks near the top when it comes to Midwestern establishments. New Glarus’ year-round offerings range from fantastic (Hop Hearty Ale, Raspberry Tart, and Wisconsin Belgian Red) to merely so-so (Totally Naked and Spotted Cow), but their seasonals and limited editions typically fail to disappoint. Bourbon Barrel Bock is the third Unplugged series brew I’ve been fortunate enough to sample (the others being Belgian Quadruple and Cherry Stout), and I’ve been impressed with them all. Granted, they fail to reach that five-mug gold rating in my opinion, but they are nonetheless solid brews worthy of a sample by any true Beer Dork. I’m still dying to try the Imperial IPA and Imperial Stout (that would be a Russian Stout, comrades), but that day will come. Needless to say, when Dan Carey hits the experimental button on the ol’ beer machine (Nigel pictures all good craft breweries resembling the chocolate factory in Willy Wonka, or the Pawtucket Patriot brewery on Family Guy), good things usually happen.

As for the timing of this particular release: uh, let’s just say I don’t totally understand. Doppelbocks are typically released in late winter when thicker, heavier brews are needed to combat those dreary cold nights. So, yeah—June? Not sure what New Glarus was going for, although none of the powerful brews that are a trademark of the Unplugged line would seem appropriate for the warmer months. I’m pretty sure there is no “Imperial Wheat Ale” or “Imperial Pilsener”, but I think there are more suitable limited edition brews that would qualify for the summer months (hello, this is the same brewery that produces two of the finest fruit ales out there). My suggestion to any Beer Dork who stumbles across this brew is to store it until winter, when it will likely be, in the immortal words of Bill & Ted, “most excellent!”

BBB pours very flat, with only a slight head that disappears instantly, leaving virtually no trace in the glass. A deep reddish color in the glass, this is a bit lighter than you would expect for a Doppelbock. The official word from New Glarus is that this is a bock heavy on the toffee flavors, using both German and Wisconsin barley, along with unique hops from France, Germany, and Slovenia (everybody loves Slovenian hops, right?). The four month bourbon-barrel aging process is supposed to make this a very smooth brew, which is certainly noticeable. The aroma seems to support this official description, as it is very sweet, with strong hints of toffee and caramel, with a tinge of that wonderful hop flower. If Nigel had a Heath bar right now, he’d melt it in the microwave to see just how much it resembled the smell of BBB—but alas, Nigel doesn’t eat candy, so that experiment will have to wait.

The taste? It’s excellent, but not even close to what I was expecting. It’s not as heavy as you would expect from a Doppelbock, and much, much sweeter. The bourbon-barrel aging is certainly noticeable. As a matter of fact, I drank the first one at approximately 55-60°, and the bourbon oak-barrel taste was way too dominant—it was almost as if Jack Daniels had tampered with my beer. When drank slightly cooler, it’s still noticeable, but gives way to other flavors, particularly the sugary sweetness of caramel, toffee, and molasses. As a Doppelbock, the hops are appropriately a minor backdrop, but the bit that are detectable help balance this otherwise sugary brew. It’s one of those brews that sort of coats the tongue, leaving a strong, sweet aftertaste. It’s a tad bit lighter than a standard Doppelbock, but nonetheless is still on the heavier end of the medium-bodied scale. It’s quite smooth, and is clearly as powerful as most of the other brews in the Unplugged line. While I was unable to locate any official stats on this brew (it’s only been out for two weeks, so give me a break), I will say that I drank three out of a four-pack over a three hour period, and I was feeling no pain.

All in all, Bourbon Barrel Bock is a solid brew, but perhaps not appropriate for the season. While sweeter and a bit lighter than a typical Doppelbock, it still doesn’t strike Nigel as being a summer brew, so again—pick some up if you see it at your local good beer retailer, but try to hold off on sampling it until the weather turns cooler. It will undoubtedly give you a greater appreciation for another fine brew from the folks at New Glarus.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on June 21, 2007.
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